KITTITAS — They don’t expect to change the culture overnight. But the Kittitas/Thorp High School football team does expect to roll up its shirt sleeves and get back to basics and see if they can’t set things straight in 2019.

Only way to work your way off a 1-7 season is through hard work and determination. Coyotes head coach Dusty Hutchinson is a Kittitas guy. He’s seen the success, he’s seen the downside. He knows hard work is the only way out of the hole.

He took over a team already in progress last year, so 2019 will be his first full season as the head coach. The rebuild starts during spring ball, in the locker room and on the practice field. It’s about walking tall and standing together, he says.

“We’ve been talking a lot about being a family, working together and obviously improving on last year,” Hutchinson said. “My biggest thing is to stand together. I’m trying to create a culture where the guys are bonded and committed to being the next man up to make the necessary changes.

“I’m not a school teacher, so I’m not in the building during the day. So I give a lot of credit to our weight training manager Frank Wood. He’s been doing a lot of good work getting the guys stronger and that’s going to really help.”

The Coyotes return 15 players from a year ago, including second-team Eastern Washington Athletic Conference cornerback Wyatt Stickney, who will also play a little wide receiver, running back Isaiah Clyde and lineman Bo Roghair. They also have four guys from the three-time 2B state championship basketball team, Beau Bryant, Blake Catlin, Dawson Byers and Cody Vandorn, who bring a little of that championship mindset to the football field.

“Coach has really been pushing the brotherhood, the family part of teamwork so far this year and I think that means something. I’m a Kittitas guy, too, so it means something knowing he went here and played here,” said Stickney. “We’re making some changes on the way we do things on defense with a 3-5-3 base.

“I really like loading the box with all those linebackers and I trust all the guys on the back end with my life. We’re not just out there in an island in the passing game. We have each other’s backs. I would say we have each other’s backs off the field, too.”

The brotherhood is going to start on defense. They have up big chunks and big scores last season. But the idea with the eight-man front is to stop the run first and put pressure on the opposition at the point of impact.

“We’re going to have to fly to the ball. I really love this defense,” Hutchinson said. “There’s eight in the box, but we have our outside backers dropping off to the flats in Cover 3. They’re basically a glorified end that can cover.

“We’ll play a some Cover 2. I really like our size up front. I’d say we’re six-foot or better across the front, so hopefully we can get some pass rush pressure on quarterbacks.”

On the offensive side, they’ll operate a run-first, Pro I-formation style with a fullback and tailback. Last year’s quarterback Cody Fields transferred to Ellensburg, so the Coyotes will go with first-year starter, sophomore Blake Catlin running the show. Like a lot of young guys under center, his responsibility is to take care of the football.

“Being the quarterback, there’s a big responsibility in leadership. You have to earn the team’s respect, but I think the team’s really been behind me so far,” the 6-foot, 150-pound sophomore said. “There’s a lot to learn. I got handed a big play book on the first day of practice and I’ve been studying ever since. Going over things with coaches, staying after practice for extra work.”

The good news is that Kittitas/Thorp plays five of eight games at home this season. On the other side, the Coyotes open Sept. 13 against defending EWAC champion Tri-Cities Prep at Chiawana Field in Pasco. The Jaguars were 11-1 and 7-0 in conference in 2018.

The Coyotes’ home season opener is Sept. 20 against Columbia (Burbank).

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