MOSES LAKE — It’s been a few years since Moses Lake has had to climb the Columbia Basin Big Nine standings.
Last season ended a streak of three consecutive trips to the Class 4A state tournament. A 3-7 campaign in 2018 was marred by an inability to establish a quality rushing attack and a defense that struggled to stop play-makers within the league.
An improved offensive line — six quality players vying for five spots, according to head coach Todd Griffith — and a talented defensive backfield should help the Chiefs close the gap on their competition.
“We have a smaller group of kids this year than what we’ve had, but those kids — I think we’ve had 45 kids that are really, I think, went after it pretty good through the summer time and are ready to go. I’m excited about that group of guys,” Griffith said. “We’ve got more kids seeing both sides of the ball than we’ve had in the past, so as long as we can stay healthy I’m feeling pretty good about where we’ll be at.”
Griffith highlighted Lerenz Thomas, Tristen Queen and Carter Visker as players that will see ample time on offense and defense. Queen and Thomas played primarily in the defensive backfield last season, with Thomas seeing some touches on offense.
Griffith said that number is sure to go up. The younger brother of former Chief Isaiah Thomas, Lerenz was a blur on special teams and provided a few highlights from his safety position. Junior year is when Isaiah Thomas began to exert himself on offense, leading into an Offensive Player of the Year nod his senior year; Lerenz is on a similar trajectory, and could perhaps be more of a factor than Isaiah was at this point in his high school career.
“We’re putting him in the backfield,” Griffith said. “We can play him left or right, we can motion him, we just want to see what guys are trying to do against us and then we’ll take care of that part of it. But it gives us an opportunity to give him more touches than we did with Isaiah. Isaiah didn’t have enough touches, which is OK I guess, but he should have touched the ball 20 times a game and we’re going to get that to Lerenz and Queen.”
Queen will play slot receiver, a lift for a position that graduated top pass-catcher Dalenh Anderson.
Reigning CBBN champion Eastmont returns a bevy of players and is the favorite to repeat with West Valley, Sunnyside and Wenatchee lurking. Moses Lake only has four home games this season; fortunately three of those are against the Panthers, Rams and Grizzles. The Wildcats in Week 9 are the toughest road game on the schedule.
“We’ve just got to take care of the ball, I think, and just stay calm under chaotic situations,” senior quarterback Logan Sperline said. “Every team we play in the league is a good team so we’ve got to bring it every week.”
Queen added that a short memory will be crucial for the Chiefs to close the gap on the rest of the league.
“Defense needs to just stay together and not lose anything,” he said. “If they score, we need to just forget about that and focus on the next drive.”
The nice thing about last year is that it is in the past.
Now, the opportunity for ascension is days away.
“I think this team is geared up, ready to go,” Griffith said. “We’ve been really talking about playing together and being a group that does things together and takes care of one another and all those things... If we can solidify that and play better together — last year that wasn’t our strength — I think that we’ll be fine. I really do.”