WINLOCK — The Winlock football team’s transition period into 8-man is just about over, and the Cardinals know it because they’re solidly in a whole new transition period.
“We’re being led by freshmen and sophomores, and we’ll go where they take us,” coach Ernie Samples said. “It’s the green movement, that’s going to be our identity.”
Last year the Cardinals might have had to replace key weapons, but they had an experienced line and an obvious quarterback in waiting.
Now that line is graduated, as is Payton Sickles under center, as are Chase Scofield and Jay Crow, who both started in the backfield before slotting in at quarterback when Sickles — along with each other — dealt with serious injuries. Just one junior on last year’s team — Michael Magallon — comes back to suit up as a senior, leaving a whole lot of underclassmen in to fill just about every spot.
That “green movement” has forced Samples and his staff to take a few steps back and a few slower steps forward early in training camp. But it’s also spawned excitement as the Cardinals move into a new generation.
“Honestly, it has been fun, because of the dynamic of the team,” Samples said.
Samples isn’t entirely sure who his quarterback is going to be, but he knows they’ll be young. So far, it’s been freshman Landen Cline, who already has high school varsity experience on the basketball court, handling most of the snaps.
“He started as a point guard last year for the varsity basketball team, so he’s already got that leadership built in,” Samples said.
If it’s not Cline, it’ll be sophomore Carter Svenson, who otherwise will line up at tailback and flanker for the Cardinals, alongside fellow sophomore James Cusson.
Up front, the Cardinals have gotten a whole lot younger, but a whole lot larger at the same time. Lincoln Ruiz, the lone returning starter, is back at tight end. Along the line, Winlock will introduce junior Christian Uhri, sophomore Kaiden McCay, and freshman Fortune Solonio to the 1B world all at once as a unit.
The Cardinals will get to give their new starters plenty of experience in a friendly environment, following up a home jamboree next Saturday with three straight home games to open the season, against Darrington, Concrete, and Chief Leschi.
Samples hopes that once Winlock gets into the heart of league play, its new pieces will be a whole lot more gelled together and comfortable in the system, setting the Cardinals up not just for this year but a few more to come as a core.
“Bonding together, and just being healthy,” he said, when asked about the key to this season. “I think we’ll be okay.”