Huskies looking to go deep into the 2A state playoffs

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OTHELLO — The Othello Huskies knocked on the door at the Washington 2A state football tournament last season, losing to Steilacoom in a heartbreaker in the Round of 16. The eye on the prize is always to win the last game in the Tacoma Dome and the Central Washington Athletic Conference North champions are preparing to go deep into the playoffs again in 2018. “The goal is always to bring home a district title. Last year, we played our butts off and came up a couple of points short. This year, our kids are really hungry to move on to the quarterfinals and go deep into the playoffs,” long-time assistant Kevin Hensley said. “We have a special blend of kids. We have team chemistry and we’re ready to make that run.” They return CWAC defensive player of the year Isaiah Perez (6-3, 240 jr.) at defensive end and cornerbacks Efrain Palomares (5-8, 160, jr.) and Liddell Giles (5-8, 165, jr.) on the back end to lead an experienced defensive squad. Throw in free safety Alex Gonzalez, linebacker Eric Gomez (5-8, 160, jr.) and defensive end Elijah Roylance (6-1, 240, jr.) and Hensley likes what he sees with his defensive unit. “With Perez, we can rush him from the edge. We can rush him with his hand on the ground. He can rush from linebacker. We’d like to rush Isaiah in every way humanly possible,” the defensive coordinator said. “We’re looking at ways we can be less predictable on defense. Isaiah has increased muscle mass, he’s been working real hard in the weight room and he’s one a bunch of guys we’re super excited about.” They did lose all-CWAC linebackers Sam Azevedo and Trevor Hilmes to graduation. Junior cornerback Patrick Azevedo, another all-CWAC first-team selection, decided to focus on his golf career, but the Huskies also return second team all-CWAC linebacker Anthony Veliz (5-8, 165, sr.) in the linebacking corps. On the offensive side of the ball, they moved Perez around a little bit last year, moving him from tight end to running back. They were most effective dialing up the running game with Perez as the featured back, then springing Hilmes and quarterback Kyler Villarreal off the edge with that quick burst. Both Hilmes and Villarreal are gone, but they still have that quickness in Isaac Barragan (5-9, 160, jr.) and Estevan Ochoa (5-7, 165, jr.). Othello has had the luxury of DJ Guzman as a three-year starter at quarterback over the past several years. Last year the switched to Villerreal three games into the season when Guzman went down. But now they move into uncharted waters a little bit this year with both Guzman and Villerreal having moved on. Senior Gage Pruneda and sophomore Logan Hollenbeck are working under center. “As long as Roger Hoell is the head coach, Othello will always be physical and running the football,” Hensley said. “But both our quarterbacks have a variety of athletic talent. Logan brings a lot of leadership. He’s pretty unshakable. He has character and the kids respond well to him. “Gage is pretty quick, a good athlete. He’s played a lot of football for us in different positions. So we have a number of different ways we can go.” Othello opens the season on the road Friday with a non-league game against 1A Connell. They host three-time 1A state champion Royal in what’s turned into a pretty good Columbia Basin rivalry over the years in the home opener Sept. 7.

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