On the outside looking in, it would appear the Rochester football team is losing a lot.
Talon Betts, an all-league and all-area pick last year who racked up all-purpose yards like they were nothing and was a standout at safety, is playing in Cheney for Eastern Washington this fall. Landon Hawes, an all-league standout at quarterback, has also graduated.
But despite some unproven offensive production, the Warriors return a lot of leaders and playmakers from a strong year last season.
Four seniors will get action in the backfield for the Warriors this season, and they return over half of their defensive starters. Though Betts and Hawes’ production will be hard to replace with two players, the Warriors have a group of players that can fill in those roles in different ways.
In coach AJ Easley’s third year at the helm, this is exactly what he envisioned his team would look like.
“It just builds on itself, the more success you have, the more people want to come out,” Easley said. “When you are successful and do things right, people want to be a part of it. Our middle school numbers are through the roof and our youth programs are through the roof. We’ve gotten more people on board because we’re doing things the right way and building our culture.”
Tate Quarnstrom and Brady Baird return and will feature heavily in the backfield, with Baird, in particular, earning high praise for his leadership from Easley.
On the line, Owen Gillespie and Jaden Nichols will anchor a line that is more experienced than its been in recent memory. Palmer Watt will continue to feature at the fullback spot for the Warriors.
Returning from injury and fresh off a stellar baseball season, Braden Hartley will also return to the gridiron at wide receiver, giving the Warriors an intriguing outside threat.
No matter the personnel, however, Easley is content with the culture that’s already been built in just three years, and how it could grow this year and beyond.
“We’re not trying to do anything special, we’re just trying to stick with what we’ve always had,” Easley said.