The Washington Hatchets will open the final season of Big 8 conference football with a pair of familiar foes — the eight teams returning on the Hatchets’ regular season schedule, and the annual fight to compete with a dearth of players on the high school roster.
When the Hatchets begin play on Friday with a trip to Boonville, Coach Jake Durnil’s squad will suit up just 25 players against the Class 4A Pioneers. Though that number will increase to 35 for week two’s game at Evansville Bosse after players who have come out for the team after the start of school participate in the required 10 practices before seeing game action, the lack of numbers has already hurt the Hatchets.
“Competition inside of practice is where it really comes into play. If you talk to a Jasper coach or a Gibson Southern coach and they’re talking about their ones going against their (the other teams) ones in practice. Well our ones on offense are also our ones on defense. So when we’re running an offense in practice were going normally against freshmen and sophomores on defense,” said Durnil. “Nothing against those kids, but they’re kids, and our juniors and seniors have experience. They’re more physically mature, they’ve been through the grind house a few times.”
Despite the low numbers, Washington does return experience from last season’s 1-9 team. Returning to lead the Hatchets’ offense will be 6-5, 200 lb. junior quarterback Trey Reed, one of the best athletes on the team whose strong right arm has made him a Division I baseball prospect as a pitcher. Tailback in Washington’s I formation will see a pair of runners handle duties in 6-0, 200 lb. senior Dalton Irvin and 5-11, 205 lb. junior Seth Holtsclaw. Fischer Owens, a 6-2, 216 lb. senior, will be the fullback.
“We’re looking to run the ball down hill a lot more this year, we lost a little bit of perimeter speed over the year, so we’re looking to run the ball downhill more this year,” said Durnil. “We have Trey Reed at quarterback, he’s 6-5, a great athlete, a great arm, so we will throw the ball. But we will look to establish the run first and make that a priority this year.
“Dalton Irvin is returning for a fourth year, he will be the workhorse running the ball. But we also have Seth Holtsclaw, who in the past had been a lineman, but he’s gotten in really good shape; he’s a really good athlete. He’s come in this year and really proven that he deserves to run the ball,” said Durnil.
Washington’s offensive line will be one of the strongest and most experienced lines in years for the Hatchets, featuring junior Johnny Lagle (5-10, 284 lbs.) at center, junior Louk Gray (6-2, 256 lbs.) at left guard and junior Brock Thurman (6-3, 242 lbs.) at right guard. Ian Hill, a 5-10, 245 lb. junior, will handle duties at left tackle while a pair of seniors, 6-6, 270 lb. Anthony Gonterman and 5-10, 235 lb. Colten Godfrey, will rotate at right tackle. Getting snaps at tight end will be 6-1, 190 lb. junior Reece Durnil and 6-2, 215 lb. junior Jack Fry.
“We’re looking to run the ball downhill and we’ve got pretty good linemen, the ones that I called puppies last year being sophomores are now juniors and seniors,” said Durnil. “They’re mentally more mature, they’re physically more mature, so were going to look the run the ball behind them.”
The Hatchets wideouts will be juniors Gage Memering (5-8, 133 lbs.) and Jacob Carrico (6-0, 193 lbs.) and senior Brooke Robinson (5-10, 160 lbs.).
Many of the names in Washington’s 4-3 defense will be the same as on offense with many Hatchets playing both ways. Fry and Owens will be the defensive ends with Lagle, Thurman and Gray rotating at the tackle spots. Durnil, Hill, Holtsclaw and Irvin will rotate at the three linebacker positions, while Carrico and Memering will be the cornerbacks. The safeties will be senior Jacob Mason (5-6, 148 lbs.) and sophomore Logan Hill (6-1, 150 lbs.). Mason will also see time at wide receiver on offense.
Mt. Carmel’s departure from the Big 8 that precipitated the league’s demise left a hole on the WHS schedule that will be filled when Indianapolis Attucks visits Washington on Sept. 27. Other schedule highlights include a Sept. 13 trip to North Daviess when the Hatchets look to defend possession of the Times Herald Highway 57 Helmet and a homecoming contest at Hatchet Hollow on Sept. 20 against Mt. Vernon.
Big 8 Conference play will conclude for WHS on Oct. 11 with a trip to Jasper. Durnil, who competed in the conference as a player for the Hatchets in the 1990s and is now in his fifth season as Washington head coach, reflected on his time in the Big 8 and looked ahead to the Hatchets’ participation in the Pocket Athletic Conference beginning in 2020.
“The Big 8 has been a really good conference for a number of years. When I played in the Big 8 it was rough and tumble,” said Durnil. “It’s bittersweet to see it end, but at the same time it’s an opportunity to play some new schools and we’re excited to join the PAC. I’m sure the future is bright for the new conference starting next season.”
Princeton, Mt. Vernon and Boonville will move to the PAC with the Hatchets next season, while Jasper and Vincennes will move to the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference.
Coach: Jake Durnil, 13-29 in 5th year at school
DATE OPPONENT EASTERN TIME
Aug. 23 at Boonville 4A 8 p.m.
Aug. 30 at Evansville Bosse 3A 8 p.m.
Sep. 6 Princeton 3A 8 p.m.
Sep. 13 at North Daviess 1A 8 p.m.
Sep. 20 Mount Vernon (Posey) 3A 8 p.m.
Sep. 27 Indianapolis Attucks 4A 8 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Vincennes Lincoln 3A 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 Jasper 4A 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 18 at North Knox 2A 7 p.m.