TUALATIN — The Tualatin High School football team is ready.
The Timberwolves are ready to battle.
They're ready to fight.
And they're taking high hopes into the 2017 season.
"It's been extremely positive," first-year Tualatin head coach Dan Lever said. "This is a hungry group of kids, and it's a really fun group to coach. They're ready to go."
Lever takes over a Tualatin squad that finished in sixth place in the final Three Rivers League standings a year ago, at 2-5, while going 2-8 on the season, which saw the Wolves qualify for the Class 6A state playoffs.
This year, the Tualatin team has already put in plenty of hard work, and has been battling, to get prepared for the upcoming campaign.
"It's been good," Lever said. "Throughout the summer, I've been pleased with our progress. We've got quite a few positions battles going on. Competition is good."
While there may be some things that the Wolves are sure about — with a new coach as well as a new system — they are sure who will be leading the offense from the quarterback spot this season.
Junior Kyle Dernedde (5-foot-10, 190 pounds) returns as Tualatin's signal-caller this year.
Last year, as a sophomore, he took over the starting spot near midseason, and he ran with it. For the season, he completed 21 of 38 pass attempts for 383 yards and six touchdowns. He also ran for 62 yards.
"You can teach someone like that to do anything," Lever said of Dernedde, who has already committed to Oregon State University for baseball. "He has all of the tools athletically, and mentally, to be a great multi-sport athlete. He's also a great person."
Dernedde will also serve as the Wolves' punter and place-kicker. Last year, he was a second-team All-Three Rivers League selection at kicker.
Tualatin looks to be deep at the running back spot this year.
"We have a stable of backs," Lever said.
That stable is led by senior Lucas Noland (6-0, 190). Last year, Noland rushed for 644 yards and six touchdowns on 100 carries, earning second-team all-league honors.
Other running backs for the Wolves include, among others, junior Kyle Kamp (5-11, 190), senior Nathan Marx (6-0, 200) and junior Jake Anderson (5-7, 160). Last year, Anderson rushed for 190 yards, Kamp ran for 169 and Marx had 124.
At the slot running back spot, junior Jett Searle (5-11, 195) and junior Deontray Hinton (5-7, 145) are among those battling for playing time.
At receiver, the Wolves have senior Nick Savage (6-1, 195), senior Chris Freese (6-3, 195), senior Colby Jackson (5-11, 185) and senior Jackson Willig (6-1, 185). Last year, Willig had 10 catches for 123 yards.
"They all can split defenses," Lever said.
At tight end, Tualatin has sophomore John Miller (6-1, 205), senior Adam Stubbs (6-2, 190) and junior Jalen Hale (6-4, 182).
"They all do something well," Lever said.
The offensive line, where Tualatin returns four starters, looks to be a strength of the team.
"We've got a lot of depth there," Lever said.
Junior Dane Norlin (6-1, 230) and senior Duncan McDonald (5-11, 220) with both see action at center.
Senior Gerald Saina (6-3, 330) will be at right guard and senior Ryan Mitton (6-0, 255) will be at left guard. Mitton was an honorable-mention all-league pick last year.
Senior Jarius Jackson (6-2, 235), another honorable-mention pick, will be at left tackle and junior Quinn McCarthy (6-5, 250) will be at right tackle.
Senior T.J. Myerson (6-5, 230) will see action at tackle. Senior Dakota Villanueva (6-0, 235) and junior Gavin Moore (6-1, 240) will play at guard.
"We're looking to run a spread multiple offense, with a run-pass option," Lever said. "We want to keep our offense up-tempo."
The Wolves look to have both power and speed on defense.
"We're going to be physical up front and we also return some good defensive backs," Lever said. "(Tualatin assistant coach) Erik Moen is doing an outstanding job with the defense. I have have to worry about it at all."
In the defensive front, the Wolves will have Mitton (who was an honorable-mention all-league pick last year), Jackson and Saina.
Garrett Boespflug (6-2, 180) will be at a linebacker spot and Miller will be at an inside linebacker position.
The Wolves' impressive secondary will include Noland at safety, Hinton at cornerback and Freese at a cornerback spot.
"He's so coachable, and he's a solid player," Lever said of Freese, who was an honorable-mention all-l pick last year.