MATTAWA — The Wahluke Warriors have their sights set on a bounce-back season, having gone 3-7 on the gridiron last year. It was the first time in the past three years the team had missed the postseason under the direction coach Mike Foristiere.
“We were a very young team last year,” said Foristiere, now in his fourth year at the helm of the program. “I think we’ve matured enough this year to be more competitive — heck we may even surprise some people.”
The Warriors do have the core of their roster returning, which should bode well for Wahluke. The offense will be led by a strong rush game as all three backs turned in solid performances behind an offensive line anchored by Juan Morales, Brian Smith, Alfredo Prudente and Oscar Aguilar, and four year player Danial Tapia at tight end.
“We had three 1,000 yard rushers in Juan Silva, Rock Foristiere and Danial Ayala. “Our QB was only a freshman — so he experienced a lot last year,” Foristiere said. But he’s not a lock for the position — he’s being pushed by Tony Avalos and Jose Celeya.”
The Warriors have some seasoned players on the defensive side of the ball as well in junior free safety Jesus Ciserneros who had six interceptions, and Alex Riverais returning at corner. Shoring up the D line are returning bookends Danial Ayalya and Gerado Ledezma.
But the strength of the defense, Foristiere said is his linebacking corps.
“They are a real key for us. At inside backer are Eli Barajas and Rock Foristiere. Our outside LBs are Tony Avalos and Juan Silva — but there are others really fighting for a job at these positions.”
The obvious strength of the team Foristiere said — is the returning players — the weakness of the squad? — “It what lies between our ears. We need to believe we can compete.”
As is most years, the stiffest competitor in the SCAC Conference will come from two-time defending state champion Royal.
“Connell (2016 state runner-up) and Zillah will be tough too,” Foristiere said. “I am not disrespecting the other teams — we are in a very competitive league — but these three are in the top five or 10 in the state. We try very hard to raise our level to theirs.”
Foristiere will find out just how far the team has progressed when the Warriors hit the road to Zillah to battle it out with the Leopards to open the season Friday night. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.