Last year, the Othello Huskies bounced back from an opening loss to Connell to win seven straight CWAC conference games. The Pack Attack then suffered league losses to Prosser and Ellensburg to finish tied with Selah and Prosser for third place in league play. A loss to West Valley of Spokane in a cross-over game ended Othello’s season one win shy of a berth into the 2A state tournament.
In 2017, the Huskies are aiming to return to their customary state play-off spot. Othello had been to the big dance 17 years straight from 1997 to 2013, but has not been back since.
Seven starters return to guide the Huskies ground and pound attack. While most teams run some sort of spread attack, Othello is old school.
“We are the rarity,” Huskie coach Roger Hoell said. “We are an I (formation) team. We want to pound the ball and sustain drives to keep the defense fresh.”
Senior quarterback DJ Guzman returns for his third year of directing the Huskies offensive attack. Two year starting fullback Trevor Hilmes will be moved to tailback and sophomore Isaiah Perez will take over at fullback. The offensive line returns right tackle BJ Martinez, right guard Anthony Pastor, center Adriel Gutierrez and left tackle Roberto Valdez. Guzman’s favorite receiver and the Huskies’ deep threat, Kyler Villarreal, also returns.
Othello is big. Martinez is 285, Pastor is 215, Gutierrez is 235, Valdez is 275 and their back-ups Cameron Bane (260) and Steven Aubrey (320) are also big. Hilmes was listed at 185 last year and Perez is 6’2” and 220. The Huskie offensive game plan is simple.
Othello believes their size and time spent in the weight room will translate into a squad that is simply bigger and stronger and can run over their smaller and weaker opponents.
“Size makes a difference at our level,” Hoell said. “With our big line and the good sized running backs, that is a load and it wears on the defense after a while.”
On the defensive side of the ball, coach Kevin Hensley welcomes back three solid linebackers in Hilmes, Perez and Sammy Azevedo.
“Those three guys are the heart and soul of the physical side of the defense,” Hensley said. “Replacing the secondary is going to be a chore for us but we will rotate some guys through until we find the right group for the back four.”
Hensley likes the depth and the competition it provides for starting spots.
“Across the board, there is a lot of competition at every position, even in spots where guys are coming back,” Hensley said.
Six different linemen will rotate thru.
“Edgar Gonzales has good length and is a good pass rush guy,” Hensley said. “Michael Gutierrez brings us a lot of strength and speed. Expect to see him at defensive end opposite Perez.”
Three different players bring different skill sets to nose tackle.
“Josh Valdez can bring some pass rush and some feistiness. Robert Sanchez is a real big kid,” Hensley said. “Elijah Roylance is a good technician at nose and that is a rare thing to have from a sophomore.”
Six players are still in the mix for a starting linebacker spot.
“Hilmes is the leader,” Hensley said. “BJ Garza is looking comfortable at weak-side backer but we have some athletic sophomores like Stephen Ochoa who likes to hit. Eric Gomez is also physical and such a hitter.”
A solid secondary is vital in the pass happy CWAC and the Huskies do not return any experience at corner back or safety.
“Levi Garza and Patrick Azvedo are working to earn a spot at corner,” Hensley said. “Alex Gonzalez has real range and speed as a sophomore and has all the tools for free safety.”
The teams you have to beat to win the league-the Prosser Mustangs and the Ellensburg Bulldogs-both approach the game of football with a different philosophy than the Huskies ground and pound attack.
“A lot of teams have the athletes to take you out in space,” Hoell said. “There are fewer guys out there than there is in the box.”
To be the top dog in the CWAC North, Othello is going to have to beat Ellensburg, which has not lost a league game in four years. And to beat the Bulldogs, the Huskies are going to have to make plays in space where the Bulldogs are betting their speed will outrun the defense.