It’s no secret who Toppenish and new quarterback Isaac Perez will be trying to throw the ball to as much as possible this season.
No one’s going to overlook Manuel Felan after he broke the school record with 601 yards receiving last season to earn first team all-CWAC South honors. He’s set his sights on surpassing that mark, and coach Jason Smith said the Wildcats’ career record of 1,247 yards sits just 457 yards away.
“He’ll be the guy that we look to on the offensive side, when the ball’s in the air or sometimes we’ll hand it off to him in an option situation,” coach Jason Smith said. “He’s pretty shifty, so the team’s going to have to really gang tackle him and then get a couple guys on him.”
The 5-foot-8, 158-pound senior doesn’t mind being a little undersized. It’s something he’s dealt with since he was a five-pound baby who fit in a shoebox, earning him the nickname “Peanut.”
He proudly wears that moniker today and never backs down from facing bigger wide receivers, including Washington commit Sawyer Racanelli in last year’s season opener against Hockinson. Felan’s sure tackling ability and closing speed helped him become a first-team all-CWAC South cornerback.
“I really just come with the mindset that nobody’s going to catch it on my side,” Felan said. “It’s either going to get intercepted or defended.”
Time spent in the offseason improving his footwork could turn him into even more of an asset on both sides of the ball. But Smith also knows they need to keep Felan fresh, so coaches will be counting his plays to keep him from tiring or taking too many hits.
It might take some extra creativity to free a player who should be the focus of opposing defenses most weeks. Smith wants to spread the ball around, utilizing his team’s speed and quickness.
Felan’s optimistic Perez will adapt quickly in his return to the familiar position of quarterback after playing wide receiver last season. Both excelled in basketball a year ago, and Smith hopes some of that chemistry translates to the football field.
Toppenish plans to run a little more this season behind a young but talented offensive line, which features four all-league players from a year ago. That won’t stop the Wildcats from giving the ball to Felan and letting him display the talent he hopes will earn him a shot from some college coaches that have already shown interest.