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October 23, 2017

9/6/2017 1:12:00 PM
New-look Braves stay with what's worked in past
Bill Reynolds

What’s new is old, and what’s old is new.
That pretty sums up the pre-season identity of the La Conner High football team as it prepares for what should be a more balanced NW2B title chase.
The Braves, who have made six straight post-season appearances, dominated league play a year ago while compiling a 10-2 overall mark, losing only to the two top-ranked teams in the state, both by close margins.
But now the La Conner program must reshuffle its roster to offset key departures. Most notable is All-State running back Budda Luna, the Skagit area’s Player of the Year in 2016, and All-League lineman Cooper Baize – they will reunite on the college level with the Everett Red Raiders – and seasoned quarterback James Hulbert.
While the names change, the approach remains the same, vows La Conner head coach Peter Voorhees, now entering his second campaign at the Braves’ helm.
La Conner will retain its up-tempo attack, employing the no-huddle offense that legendary Braves head coach Landy James implemented here nearly a half-century ago.
“We’d love to be in the 60-70 range for snaps every game,” Voorhees told the Weekly News last week, “but that’s not a primary goal.”
Defensive coordinator Alan Williams will bring back a 4-3 base look, the versatile format that allows La Conner to roll up a strong safety to play linebacker against run-oriented clubs.
Voorhees and his staff feel sticking with familiar schemes not only fits the skill set of this year’s team, but will also help those assuming new roles.
“We’re having to replace those guys who graduated,” Voorhees explained, “but the good thing is we’ve had some guys really step up.”
Among those is frosh quarterback prospect Bradey Wyles, who will rely heavily on returnees Kaden Murdock and Arjuna Adams in the backfield, and wideout Jeffrey Johnson.
“Offensively,” said Voorhees, who will share play-calling duties with assistant Tyler Dubuque, “we’ve got Kaden and Jeffrey coming back, and Arjuna should get the ball quite a bit. They’ll be a big part of what we do.”
Harley Hulbert will be counted upon to anchor the offensive and defensive lines. Both need revamping, again due to graduation.
Free safety Trey Casey will be a player to watch in the defensive secondary, Voorhees said.
Voorhees noted La Conner is fortunate to have players who are versatile and athletic enough to fill different spots, thus providing necessary depth as the season progresses.
Two-a-day workouts last week focused on conditioning as the team gears up to play at its trademark fast pace.
With temperatures reaching into the 80s, La Conner coaches stressed hydration, making water available on sidelines throughout the 90-minute sessions. As they took water, Braves players gazed into the distance toward snowy Mount Baker, perhaps mindful of the long climb they face this fall, one they hope will again stretch deep into the playoffs.
“Our league should be very competitive this year,” Voorhees said. “We’re hearing that numbers (of players) are up in Darrington, and Friday Harbor and Concrete should be very good.”
The Braves will get an extra week to prepare as a non-conference date with a British Columbia academy has been scrapped. La Conner now opens September 8 at 1A Coupeville. The Braves entertain Darrington September 15 at Whittaker Field in their NW2B debut.
Voorhees said he expects three or four eighth graders to make his 30-plus player roster. This is possible because of a ruling by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. The proposal was adopted earlier this year by NW2B officials and the La Conner School Board.

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