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Wolves have a tough act to follow
Ten-win seasons once were a regularity for South Kitsap.
The Wolves had at least that many victories during every season from 1993-97. But last year’s 10-1 record was the first time in a decade that they reached that barrier.
As South approaches its Sept. 3 season opener against British Columbia’s Vancouver College, the question remains of whether it can become a consistent contender in the Narrows League again.
Or will it fall back into the program that advanced to the state playoffs just once in the previous six seasons?
“That’s goal,” D.J. Sigurdson, who enters his 14th season as the school’s coach, said of returning to state. “It’s going to take everything we have.”
Two-year starter Gordy Anderson graduated after completing 103 of 180 passes for 1,859 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions last season. He now is a walk-on at Washington State University and three candidates are vying to replace him.
Sigurdson said junior Aaron La Deaux holds a slight lead over senior Tanner Romo, who served as Anderson’s backup in 2009 and started in a win against Central Kitsap, and classmate Eddie Meisner.
“They’re competing,” Sigurdson said, “and it’s far from settled.”
He also would not rule out the possibility of a job share. Sigurdson has rotated quarterbacks multiple times during his career, most recently in 2008 when Anderson and Bryan Dorsey held the position.
No matter how the position is sorted, Sigurdson feels he has three capable signal-callers.
“We’re in kind of a unique situation,” he said. “I believe that we have five quarterbacks, including the sophomores, who know the system well.”
Under Sigurdson, South seemingly has been able to plug in a new running back almost every year and maintain success. The Wolves will have to do that again as Robert Issa graduated and now is at Waldorf College in Iowa. Despite his 5-foot-7 ½-inch frame and 40-yard dash time that registered about a half-second slower than ideal, Issa rushed for 1,321 yards and nine touchdowns on 213 carries last year.
“He’s not the fastest, flashiest kid,” Sigurdson said. “He hung onto the ball, ran hard and usually didn’t get tackled by the first defender.”
Junior Dominic Boddie has emerged as the No. 1 running back, but Sigurdson said senior Michael Neiner remains in contention for that role.
The former is the son of former Denver Broncos running back Tony Boddie and his older sisters, Chantal (volleyball), and Christina (soccer), both starred at South.
Sigurdson said Boddie reminds him of Roger Cooper, who was a standout for the Wolves in the late 1990s.
“He’s very smooth and has very good top-end speed,” he said. “He’s a big, athletic guy.”
Neiner backed up Issa last year, but tore his left hamstring during wrestling season.
“He’s kind of slowly but surely getting back into shape,” said Sigurdson, adding that Neiner improved his 40 time despite the injury.
Seniors Aaron Chester and D’Aundray Van Slyke also are expected to see playing time.
Another senior, Jens Johnson, likely will inherit the fullback position from Chris Nenninger. Johnson played sparingly a year ago behind Nenninger and Bo Ottak, who also graduated.
Perhaps the deepest position on the roster was hurt by graduations. Leon La Deaux, who now is at Central Washington, had 792 yards and 12 touchdowns on 46 receptions in 2009. The team’s No. 3 receiver, Mike Alonzo, also graduated after catching 10 passes for 98 yards last year.
But South returns arguably its most explosive player in Isaiah Davis, who had 669 yards and five touchdowns on 26 receptions in ’09. Sigurdson praised his leadership skills, and said the dynamic receiver will be a focal point in the offense.
“We are going to try and get him the ball in different ways,” he said.
Even though this is his first year playing football, Michael Powell could end up as the other starting receiver. The 6-2 Powell has a 37-inch vertical leap.
“He’s really athletic,” Sigurdson said. “He’s a big, strong kid.”
Seniors Brian Chester and Doug Yamamoto also factor into the rotation. Neither saw much playing time because of the team’s depth at the position last year, but Sigurdson feels both can provide quality production.
“I think what we have ... is smart kids who aren’t going to make a lot of mistakes,” he said.
Senior Austin Levi Cook returns at tight end and will be backed up by junior Chase Lopez.
This position could be one of the team’s strengths this year with three returning starters. Both tackles, seniors Riki Blas and Shomari Burton, return. Blas began ’09 as a starter, but Burton replaced him following an ankle injury. Blas will line up on the left side, while Burton replaces the graduated Keith Grey on the other side.
Despite only being 5-9, Murray became the starter at right guard when Blas and Grey were out with injuries and performed well enough to remain in the lineup. His counterpart likely will be similarly undersized as seniors Joe Beverage (5-10) and Brennen Fernie (5-9) are competing to replace Nick Boss, who joined Issa at Waldorf College, at left guard. Fernie is more experienced, but he is coming off a torn bicep muscle.
Senior Cody Tester returns for his second year at center.
“I’m excited about the offensive line,” Sigurdson said. “It’s intact and they know what they’re doing.”
It all begins with Cook, who anchors what might be the Wolves’ strongest position. En route to earning first-team, all-Narrows League honors a year ago, Cook paced South with 10 tackles for loss and six sacks. He also led all of the team’s defensive linemen with 37 tackles.
“He’s really athletic and has a good motor,” Sigurdson said. “He went to some (college) camps and impressed some people.”
Blas and Murray return to give the team three starters on the line. Burton replaces Boss at one tackle position.
If the names sound familiar, it is because the Wolves have about 65 players this season and Sigurdson said several players need to play both offense and defense.
Traditionally a strong position for South, linebacker could be a strength again if Neiner is healthy. If not, Tester will be the only returning starter in the middle.
“I’m excited for Tester,” Sigurdson said. “He’s a hard worker and is going to be a nice linebacker.”
Neiner is the projected starter on the weak side, while junior Kaleb Nelson replaces Issa on the strong side.
Sigurdson said while the unit features some inexperience, he likes the aggressiveness of its players and their “good football sense.”
Davis, who was second on the team with 52 tackles and had three interceptions, shifts back from safety to replace Leon La Deaux, while Van Slyke returns to give the Wolves two veteran cornerbacks.
For a second consecutive year, South must replace both safeties. Sigurdson said Boddie and Meisner both are projected as starters, but Romo still is competing against them.
Regardless of how the quarterback battle turns out, Sigurdson said La Deaux will serve as the kicker and Romo will be his holder. La Deaux also will be the team’s punter.
Davis will serve as the team’s primary kickoff and punt returner. He averaged 22.1 yards on kick and 13.7 yards on punt returns last season.