Prep football: With new coach in place, Cruisers prepare for season

Eatonville coach Rex Norris instructs his team during Saturay's jamboree in Orting.

Eatonville coach Rex Norris instructs his team during Saturay's jamboree in Orting.
Alyssa Kosirog

Approaching the 2023 high school football season, the Eatonville Cruiser football team is gearing up for another successful year. With a fresh head coach at the helm, the Cruisers aim to capitalize on their achievements from the previous season and continue their streak of six consecutive trips to the state playoffs.

Taking charge after Gavin Kralik's departure, Rex Norris assumes the role of head coach. Norris, who served as the team's defensive coordinator the last few seasons, is no stranger to leading a team. He previously guided the Kentwood Conquerors football team from 2004 to 2015, amassing an 87-30 record, including five league titles.

Norris is fully aware of the responsibility he's inheriting from Kralik and the rich legacy of Cruiser football.

“Eatonville football has thrived under the remarkable leadership of Gavin Kralik for several seasons. His efforts not only cultivated a strong team culture but also reinstated Eatonville as a force in the state,” he said. “Despite changes in coaching staff and the departure of key players to college, we are committed to upholding that legacy. While we're demanding a lot from our coaches and players, the groundwork is in place for the tradition to endure. We eagerly anticipate the upcoming season."

Eatonville is not the sole team in the league introducing new leadership. Elma's Ron Clark stepped down, and the role will now be shared by Casey Doyle and Larry Raynes, who were last year's offensive and defensive coordinators. 

Similarly, in Tenino, turmoil within the high school administration, school district, and school board prompted Cary Nagel and his entire team to resign, despite their successful transformation of the program into a perennial state contender. Former Capital HS head coach Darren Tinnerstet has taken over from Nagel.

After sharing the league title with Tenino and Montesano last season, the Cruisers are determined to claim the top spot in the standings this year. The team boasts 13 returning starters from last year's roster, with six on offense and seven on defense. 

The most significant gaps to address are in the offensive and defensive lines, as well as the quarterback position.

Senior Hunter Klumpar will assume the role of quarterback. After serving as a backup for the past few seasons, Klumpar is stepping up as the starter and aims to lead the Cruisers back to the playoffs. Klumpar will have the support of a couple of All-League returning players. Junior Ky Nation, who led the team in receiving with 403 yards, will continue as a wide receiver. Senior Dylan Norman, who achieved over 1,100 rushing yards last season, is set to lead Eatonville's running game once again.

Key players: Dylan Norman (RB), Ky Nation (WR/DB), Riley Hill (WR), Memphis Barney (OL), Aaron Tozier (OL) Nick Shipman (OL), Payton Hanly (LB/RB), Max Henley (LB), Evan Wimbles (DL), Riley Storm (DB)

Again this year, the Cruisers will play a pretty tough non-league schedule with three of those being against teams that made it to the state tournament.

“We have a very young team,” said Coach Norris. “So the early experience of playing playoff caliber teams will help us gain the understanding of what it means to play at that level. Our league has constantly had top ten teams and you have to be ready for that if you want to make it to the playoffs. Every year we want to prepare our players to complete at a high level and this schedule will force the issue.”

The Cruisers will open the season on the road as they travel to Ingersoll Stadium in Bremerton to take on the Olympic Trojans for the second year in a row.

2023 schedule

Sept. 1: at Olympic, 6 p.m. (Integrity Roofing Stadium, Bremerton)
Sept. 7: vs Centralia, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16: at Cascade Christian, 7 p.m. (Sunset Stadium, Sumner HS)
Sept. 23: at Bellevue Christian, 2 p.m. (Sammamish HS Stadium, Bellevue)
Sept. 30: vs Tenino, 1 p.m.
Oct. 6: at Montesano, 7 p.m. (Rottle Field, Montesano HS)
Oct. 13: vs Orting, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19: vs Elma, 7 p.m.
Oct. 27: at Hoquiam, 7 p.m. (Olympic Stadium, Hoquiam)


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