WINLOCK — Less than 24-hours after their 11-man brethren hit the field, the local 1B's got in on the jamboree fun, with Naselle, Mossyrock, and Northwest Christian all converging on Winlock. For a couple hours Saturday morning, the teams took turns ironing out some issues from fall camp and finding new wrinkles to work on in the next week before the season begins in earnest on Sept. 3.
“That was nice, it felt good,” Winlock coach Ernie Samples said afterward.
Coming into the season, the closest race at the top of the District 4 1B race on paper will be the jostling between Winlock and Mossyrock for second place behind Naselle, fresh off an undefeated winter season and still the reigning state runners-up from 2019.
The Cardinals and Vikings — sans Vikings’ all-league wideout Gunner Mulligan — didn’t get to square off against each other, but Winlock definitely had the better sets against the Comets, giving up just one touchdown to Naselle’s high-powered offense in the final set of the day compared to the three Mossyrock allowed in the second.
“I think they gained a lot of confidence,” Samples said. “I don’t know if we’re beating (Naselle) today, but our confidence level went up, and I think that’s a big part of it.”
Then again, no titles — or even games — were ever going to be won Saturday. Unlike the cross-classification jamborees at Kelso and Ridgefield on Friday, all four teams that were in Egg Town are set to face each other for real in the coming months. Naselle and Winlock will face each other on Sept. 17, while Mossyrock will see the Comets on Oct. 1 and then the Cardinals the very next week.
With that in mind, all four coaches kept everything close to the vest, running the most vanilla offense they could muster.
“Didn’t show any play-action stuff,” Samples said. “I just wanted us to get work with our mesh in, with our veer.”
But for the Comets and Cardinals, even that much was good to see out of stars coming back from injuries.
Naselle’s Kolten Lindstrom played just one half in his first varsity game in the winter, before a nasty ankle injury ended his season then and there. Saturday, he went for 36 yards and a touchdown on four carries, adding 22 receiving yards on a pair of catches and looking like he was back up to full-speed doing it.
“I’m sure in the back of his mind, he was still wondering how that ankle is,” said first-year Naselle coach Kevin McNulty. “He’s got it through practice, and maybe every once in awhile has a scare with some scar tissue. But to get out here, he’s an intense kid.”
On the Winlock side of the things, the story was Nolan Swofford returning after a season-ending injury of his own. The burly tailback ran over Northwest Christian for 81 yards and three touchdowns on five carries, then ground out 12 more yards against the Comets.
“He’s running pretty hard,” Samples said. “My main goal for him is running north and south, putting his foot in the ground when he needs to.”
Despite missing a few of its new pieces, the Naselle machine already looked fully re-tooled, and led by a familiar number. At the end of the winter season when the coaches collected everybody’s uniforms, there was one missing: senior Jimmy Strange’s No. 44. Saturday, that jersey made its return, worn by Jimmy’s younger brother, junior Joey Strange.
“I asked him about it today, and he said it was at home on the wall, so he got to wear it.,” McNulty said. “He got something to honor his brother, and he’s also a special ballplayer himself.”
With Lindstrom back in at tailback, Joey strange moved back to quarterback and ran for 55 yards against the Mossyrock defense.
“I think Joey can do most anything we ask in our offense,” McNulty said. “He’s obviously a runner. We have a couple sets and a couple things we do that we haven’t done in the past where we’re going to get him out on the edge. He can run some option stuff, but he’s also able to get out on the edge with his speed and his quicks in open field. He’s dangerous.”
The Comets also worked in Kolten Lindstrom’s younger brother Jacob under center to throw the ball; the sophomore went 4-for-4 for 49 yards on the day.
For Winlock, Neal Patching completed one of his three passes to Collin Regalado. Payton Sickles added 38 yards on the ground, while Patching scampered for 34 and hauled in an interception on defense against Northwest Christian.
Mossyrock saw two short drives against Naselle end in turnovers in the first set of the day, one coming on a bad snap on fourth down and the other coming on a fumble downfield after a long run. The Vikings had little trouble scoring at will against the Wolverines, punching it in five times in the 10-play set.
After scheduling change, Winlock is now set to open its season at 7 p.m. Friday against Toutle Lake, which will drop down to 8-man football for the day. Mossyrock is making the long drive to Lummi in Whatcom County for a 5 p.m. matchup on Friday.