Experience and leadership will be keys to Tigers’ football success this sea

Photo by Terry MillsThe 2009 Tonasket Tigers football team is, in no order: Andrew Grillo, Damon Sprague, Lucio Maldonado, Blake Long, Felipe Gaytan, Wade Detillian, Shalen Williams, Tom Peery, Chas Jones, Terrell Cross, Brandon Hudson, Riley Buzzard, Zac

Photo by Terry MillsThe 2009 Tonasket Tigers football team is, in no order: Andrew Grillo, Damon Sprague, Lucio Maldonado, Blake Long, Felipe Gaytan, Wade Detillian, Shalen Williams, Tom Peery, Chas Jones, Terrell Cross, Brandon Hudson, Riley Buzzard, Zac

TONASKET – A more experienced team with more leaders this season will be the keys to the Tigers’ football success this season.

“I think for the most part, we’re an experienced team with quite a few players back from last year,” head coach Jay Hawkins, in his ninth year, said. “Experience and leadership are our two strong points, plus the team’s got a really fun personality. They practice hard and enjoy playing the game.”

This year’s team started with 59 athletes, but they’ve lost one but the team, now at 58, is still the largest Hawkins has seen in his time with the Tigers. He said there are 10 returning seniors: Damon Sprague, Shalen Williams, Lucio Maldonado, Tom Peery, Wade Detillian, Andrew Grillo, Blake Long, Terrell Cross, Felipe Gaytan and Chas Jones.

“Of the guys who are back, Grillo, Jones and Maldonado, were second team all-leaguers,” Hawkins said. “With Keegan McCormick and Detillian, those five are our top five from last year.”

He said young team members Dustin Silverthorn, Jorge Ornelas, Tyler Laurie and Stphen Hulse are all playing really well for the team right now, too.

As for how the team will do this season, Hawkins said it’s always time will tell.

“You’ve got to stay healthy but we’ve got a lot of experience and good leaders,” he said. “This season is going to a really tough football league, though. Going into the season, we’ve got a few guys in our secondary who are new starters there, so we’ve got to get in some game experience and strengthen that area.”

Hawkins, assisted by Jim Swanson, Ryan Pilkington, Shawn Raider, Casey Silverthorn and Clint Duchow, said the one thing he wants to have happen in the Tonasket football program is to teach the love of the game.

“We’ve kind of locked in to who we’re doing in offense and defense but we’re going to be more aggressive on defense this year,” he added.

He said the highlight of last season was watching the team stick together despite injuries and losses to improve each game and have their best game end the season in a victory against Kettle Falls.

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