EPHRATA — Ephrata was one win away from the Class 2A state tournament in 2018.
Injuries and a formidable road game against West Valley of Spokane kept the Tigers from their ultimate goal of reaching the final 16. This year, the goal remains the same, despite a Central Washington Athletic Conference North division that features a hungry Othello team, traditional power Ellensburg, dark-horse East Valley of Yakima and rival Quincy.
“Quincy’s on the rise,” said head coach Jay Mills. “New school, I think that will give them some new energy, and a new field. I can see them being a little more competitive than they’ve been in the past.”
Some all-league players were lost to graduation, sure, but the orange and black still has some talent to contend with the top of the CWAC. It starts with standout wrestler and two-way football player Mac Laird. Laird was a state runner-up at 195 pounds in wrestling, so he should be a joy for the opposition to tackle and be tackled by.
“Mac Laird, both sides of the ball, can be a first team all-league player for us on both sides and he’s our leader for us on defense,” Mills. “He’s a pounding running back. We expect big things from him this year.”
Mills was also eager to see his defensive secondary and linemen.
“Carter Cox at receiver and defensive back. He’s probably the best DB in the league. He can cover anybody and does a nice job, a good physical corner. “Carter Mills on the offensive line and defensive line is a returning starter. Very solid player in spite of his parents,” Jay Mills, Carter’s father, said with a chuckle. “Gabe See on the offensive line is a returning starter who could have a real nice year, so we’ve got some good key guys back. Tony O’Neel on defense started the last half of the season at safety and will start at safety and has a chance possibly on offense to do some big things.”
Jay Mills also noted the transfer of Conrad Ziemer from Lind-Ritzville/Sprague should help bolster the defensive backfield.
Ephrata’s expectations are to win the North and simplify its path to the state playoffs. Win and get in.
The North was messy last year with Ephrata, Ellensburg and Othello vying for two postseason spots. The Bulldogs and Tigers squeezed out the Huskies. Ellensburg advanced all the way to the state quarterfinals while Ephrata’s postseason ended in the crossover, something Jay Mills and his team hopes to avoid this season.
“Our expectations are we want to win our division in the league and then see where things go and be able to control things ourselves,” he said. “When you get into that crossover you’re not in control of you’re own destiny. You win and you move on, but where you play is not up to you so we’d like to have a home game in the postseason. That’s something that will help us.
“Hopefully we’re a little more healthy towards the end of the year. We were banged up going into that game (against West Valley) and that affected us.”