Plenty of Local Flavor in Saturday’s Earl Barden Classic
ALL-STATE: Napavine Trio, Plus Coach, Heading Up West Squad in 23rd Annual All-State Football Game
By Aaron VanTuyl
YAKIMA — There’ll be plenty of Lewis County flavor on the field and sidelines Saturday in the 23rd Earl Barden Classic, the annual all-state football game for players from schools in classifications from 1B to 2A.
The West team will be coached by Napavine’s Josh Fay, who led the Tigers to the State 2B championship back in December. It’s his first time as a head coach in the annual game, though he’s been on the staff before.
“It’s a pretty humbling experience for me. I probably don’t belong over here,” Fay added. “But these kids are awesome, and the guys that put it on do a great job.”
He’ll have a handful of SWW 2B League players at his disposal, including three of his own in quarterback Wyatt Stanley, receiver Mac Fagerness and linebacker Austin Filley. Napavine assistant coach Tyson Wilson is on the West staff with North Kitsap’s Jeff Weible and Klahowya’s Dan Ericson.
“It’s a blast. We’re having a heck of a time over here,” Fay said. “The kids aren’t only great athletes, they’re great kids. They’re a fun, respectful group of kids, and they get an opportunity to showcase their stuff.”
Also suiting up for the West squad is Toledo quarterback/linebacker Dalton Yoder and lineman Seth Nichols, Pe Ell-Willapa Valley running back Kaelin Jurek, and Onalaska linebacker Zach Huffman.
“We’ve got a pretty good idea of who’s going to do what,” Fay said. “We’re excited with the Jurek kid here. He looks pretty good. He’ll probably get the bulk of our carries.”
Starting at quarterback for the West squad will Stanley or State 2A champion Archbishop Murphy’s Connor Johnson.
“Either way, though, they’ll share that time,” Fay said.
The teams met up for their first practice on Wednesday, and will have three days of practice before Saturday’s big game.
“It’s a little bit like two-a-days, as far as implementation,” Fay said. “You’ve got to put your playbook in, but the comprehension of what’s happening is just about 50 times faster than in the fall.
“We’re not working on blocking and tackling anymore,” he joked. “I think we can do that.”
W.F. West’s Tyler Pallas, a 6-0, 230-pound offensive lineman, will play for the East team, under coach Jay Hawkins from Tonasket. Selah’s Scott Ditter, Liberty’s Mike Dewey and Tonasket’s Shawn Rader round out the staff.
Black Hills’ Austen Daisa, Tumwater’s Andrew May and Aberdeen’s Braden Castleberry-Taylor are also playing for the East team.
“I know they’re going to run Selah’s offense, so it’s pretty similar to the type of things we like doing at Napavine,” Fay said of the East squad. “So expect to see the ball in the air a little bit.”
The game will be played at East Valley High School’s Earl Barden Stadium in Yakima, and will kick off at 1 p.m. on Saturday.