Names change, Irish game remains same

Working with his linemen, DeSales football coach Mike Speiss eyes the details of movements on specific plays during an afternoon preseason practice Friday, August 24, 2012.

Working with his linemen, DeSales football coach Mike Speiss eyes the details of movements on specific plays during an afternoon preseason practice Friday, August 24, 2012. Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.

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DeSales’ 2012 schedule

Aug. 31 — at La Salle, 7 p.m.

Sept. 7 — Weston-McEwen, 7 p.m.

Sept. 14 — Mabton, 7 p.m.

Sept. 21 — at Dayton, 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 — at Waitsburg-Prescott, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 — Tekoa-Oakesdale-Rosalia, 7 p.m.

Oct. 19 — at Tri-Cities Prep, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26 — Asotin, 7 p.m.

WALLA WALLA — A familiar figure will pace the DeSales 2012 football sidelines — but sporting a different hat again this year.

Mike Spiess moves from his assistant coaching spot to his third stint as Irish head coach.

Spiess has been connected with the Irish program since 1986 in whatever capacity the Irish have needed. His most recent head coaching duties from 2006-08 resulted in the last DeSales Class 2B state championship. Spiess guided his 2007 Irish to a 30-7 win over Toutle Lake to claim the 2007 title.

This year, 28 Irish hopefuls greeted Spiess in his return to the helm.

“I watched all the film, not just my (previous) position responsibilities this summer,” Spiess said of the switch in roles. “I identified leadership, team-first attitude, and effort as areas I wanted to hit hard right away.”

The Irish lost six seniors to graduation as Nick Wales, Arturo Martinez, Dan Soloman, Mat Zimmerman, Anthony Brown and Jesus Lara all graduated from the 2011 Irish team that reached the second round of the state 2B playoffs.

“All those guys played important roles,” Spiess said as the Irish prepare to fill those shoes. “We went to (summer) camp and we had some challenges, but we learned some good things. The work ethic over the summer has been spotty. But, our work ethic and leadership have been very good since the first time we got the whole team together (for fall practice). I’ve been really pleased with their responses.”

The Irish return nine seniors to form the foundation for the 2012 campaign.

Three key pieces to the Irish offense will come from returning seniors.

Jeremiah Cox (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), who returns to handle the controls at quarterback, will throw to fellow senior Ryan Baumgart (5-11, 165), and hand the ball to senior Luke Fazzari (5-10, 170).

“Personnel-wise, our offensive strength is at our quarterback, wide receiver and running back positions,” Spiess said. “Jeremiah returns at quarterback, Luke was extremely consistent and was a very good running back by the end of the year. We’re expecting a lot out of him.

Ryan and (senior) Joe Duehn (5-6, 140) were very good receivers,” he said. “Of course, the way it goes with our program, if you’re playing on offense and you’re a good athlete, you’re playing on defense. You flip these guys (offense to defense) and our (defensive) secondary is going to be solid.”

Adding depth to that receiving corps will be Kyler Pommerening (5-8, 135) and Riley Roach (6-0, 160).

Paul Elmenhurst (5-11, 185) will step in to support Fazzari at running back.

The Irish appear to have offensive weapons at the skill positions to challenge in the Southeast 2B conference race.

“Our program has always found ways to score touchdowns,” Spiess said. “I’m confident that will continue.”

The Irish challenge comes in the trenches on both sides of the ball, as DeSales’ appears size challenged.

Seniors Tim Caudill (6-2, 195) and Cody Josifek (5-11, 190) will be counted on to anchor both the offensive and defensive fronts.

Three juniors make up the Irish junior class, and all three will have to step into key lineman roles.

Luis Contreras (5-8, 210) and Matt Jubb (6-1, 210) provide DeSales with its only 200-plus-pound linemen.

Junior Braden Kimball (5-9, 160) will play an important role along the offensive front.

“Our challenge is going to be in the offensive and defensive lines,” Spiess said. “We only have two (Caudill and Josifek) returning players. Those two guys are standouts in leadership and work ethic. Depth, experience and size are all issues for us.”

Eight sophomores will provide depth to the 2012 battles for DeSales.

Sophomore Andrew Elmenhurst (6-3, 195) returns as the most experienced sophomore.

Connor Richard (6-4, 205) and Isaiah Scheel (5-10, 165) are sophomores the Irish will look to for immediate depth.

“Andrew played some tight end for us last year,” Spiess said. “He’s going to have to help us on offense and defense. Connor is going to be able to help us in a lot of ways. Isaiah was very good on special teams last year and will be a big part on offense and defense.”

Eight freshmen round out the 2012 Irish squad, as DeSales begins final preparation for its season opener at La Salle in Yakima Friday.

As the preparation continues, the Irish defense will look to replace Wales at middle linebacker and take advantage of an experienced secondary.

“Nick (Wales) was a big part of our defense,” Spiess said. “Luke (Fazzari) will step in and play that spot. Our secondary (Baumgart, Cox, Duehn, Paul Elmenhurst, Pommerening and Roach) will be pretty solid. We’re going to work hard on having a tougher mentality.”

On offense, the Irish will look much the same with weapons at the skill positions.

“We’ll continue to be a one-back offense and try to spread the field and take advantage of match ups,” Spiess said. “We may be a little more conservative to help our defense. How well we can pass protect will determine how varied we can be in the passing game.”

The Irish expect to be in the playoff hunt in a competitive SE2B League.

“Our conference is as tough or tougher than any in the state,” Spiess said. “Waitsburg-Prescott is the defending state champion. Tri-City Prep has everybody back. Tekoa-Oakesdale-Rosalia gave us a hard time last year. We were able to outscore them, but we couldn’t stop them. Dayton had a great season last year and that winning attitude makes a big difference.

“(But), we’ll be in the thick of it.”

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