190906-sportslocal-wenatcheefb 01.jpg

Wenatchee High School’s Nathan Blauman runs past a defender during football practice on Aug. 27 in the Apple Bowl.

WENATCHEE — Last season Wenatchee came close to grabbling a share of the Big 9 title but a 14-13 loss to Eastmont ended those hopes and their season. In 2019, Wenatchee returns seven players on offense and five on defense.

Panther Head Coach Scott Devereaux, in his 16th season, said they played a lot of sophomores last year, so they are back stronger and more prepared. The team goal is to win the Big 9, then take it week to week after that.

To get better in 2019, he said they need to finish off games.

“We lost two league games by five points and had a chance to win them both multiple times. We just didn’t finish teams off. On offense and defense, we had chance to win those games,” Devereaux said. “That’s important. Our goal on offense is to improve. We would get in the red zone and not score. We’ve worked extra hard on that.”

Being good teammates is important, he said, and strengthening their brotherhood throughout the season. Leading the way for the Panthers this season is junior quarterback Camden Sirmon (6-0, 185).

Devereaux is expecting Sirmon to have a great year.

“We have multiple receivers that can run good routes and catch. He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason, probably harder that anybody around here that has played the position. He’s going to have a great season,” he said.

Senior tight end Riley Kunz (6-3, 235), the Harvard signee, is back and healthy. Kunz started last season with a stress fracture, so he missed the first few games.

“He’s in good shape. He looks ready to roll. He’s going to play some defense this year,” he said of Kunz. “We didn’t do that with him last year because we were worried about the stress fracture. He played just one way last year. This year, he’s going to be playing some defensive end. He looks good there.”

Senior running back Nate Blauman returns. He also missed the first couple games with a sprained ankle, but returned to rush for 1,200 yards in eight games.

“He is 6-foot, 210. He’s stronger than he’s ever been. He looks like a really good high school running back,” Devereaux said of Blauman.

190906-sportslocal-wenatcheefb 02.jpg

Wenatchee coach Scott Devereaux runs football practice on Aug. 27.

Most of the offensive line is returning. The only newcomer is the center, sophomore Trey Jagla (5-10, 220). Devereaux call him a “football junkie.” Pound for pound, he’s the strongest on the team. The Panthers are pretty solid up front. On defense, senior defensive end Chase Loidhammer (6-6, 220) returns. He’s a three year starter who Devereaux calls the best defensive end in the league.

“I think he’ll have an outstanding year, especially with Riley on the other side,” he said of Loidhammer.

Senior Jax Tucker (6-0, 220) returns at strong side linebacker. At 220 pounds, he runs well. Devereaux expects him to have an outstanding season.

“The only returner in the secondary is Sebastian Esquivel, a senior. Quick as lightning and also plays receiver. We have some new faces back there. Younger guys as far as varsity but they’ve played a lot of football,” he said. “The first game is going to be a challenge. They throw the ball often with a Division 1 quarterback. They are going to best tested week one.”

Senior Cesar Gonzalez looks to have won the kicking job. There are a couple guys who may do the punting, including Camden Sirmon. Devereaux said they don’t have any future NFL punters but they should be fine.

In the Big 9, Devereaux thinks they are right up there with the best.

“We have experience coming back. We should be competing with Eastmont. I’ve heard good things about West Valley over the summer,” he said. “You can’t throw Sunnyside out. They come to our team camp every year and we scrimmage them. They are always tough and fast. They don’t have some of the weapons they’ve had the past couple years, but those kids play really hard.”

Moses Lake has great numbers and has come a ways from last season, he said.

“As far as who is going to win the league, you have to say the same couple teams that we’re on top last year have the best chance,” Devereaux said. “Until someone beats Eastmont, they should be number one. They won it last year.”

Like last season, Wenatchee starts the season playing Mount Si. Last year, they lost 52-0 at Mount Si. Tonight, the Panthers play Mount Si at home. Devereaux said it will be a great challenge. He said they want to play good teams in the preseason, which helps them improve.

“Last year, we started nine sophomores against them,” he said. “They were a semifinal team and we were nowhere close. They took it to us. This year, we should be able to compete with them. If we can control their passing game and keep their offense off the field, then we have a fighting chance.”

Ian Dunn: 664-7157