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Football preview: Wolves intent on improving this year
Sept. 2 At Vancouver College
Sept. 9 Tahoma
Sept. 16 at Olympia
Sept. 23 Shelton
Sept. 30 at Gig Harbor
Oct. 7 Bellarmine Prep
Oct. 14 Mount Tahoma
Oct. 21 at Stadium
Oct. 28 Central Kitsap
• All games except Vancouver College (3 p.m.) are at 7 p.m.
Coach: D.J. Sigurdson, 15th season (101-45).
2010 record: 3-7 overall, 2-5 in Class 4A Narrows League.
Key returners: RB/DB Dominic Boddie, 6-1, 184, sr.; RB/DL Chas Bauman, 6-2, 207, sr.; FB/DB Bryce Broome, 5-10, 167, jr.; RB/DB Adam Gascoyne, 5-10, 167, jr.; OL/DL Phil Holt, 5-10, 258, sr.; OL/DL Austin Kanouse, 6-4, 275, jr.; WR/DB/K/P Aaron La Deaux, 6-3, 183, sr.; QB Eddie Meisner, 6-1, 210, sr.
Key newcomers: OL/DL Damien Medeiros, 6-0, 263, jr.; WR Devon Newquist, 6-0, 176, jr.; OL/DL Blaine Pervinich, 6-1, 202, jr.; TE/LB Illya Tsveytkov, 6-0, 186, jr.
Key departures: OL/DL Riki Blas, graduated; OL/DL Shomari Burton, graduated; TE/DL Austin L. Cook, graduated; WR/DB/KR Isaiah Davis, graduated; KR/RB Chris Hutcherson, graduated; DL/OL Charlie Murray, graduated; RB/LB Michael Neiner, graduated; QB Tanner Romo, graduated; OL/LB Cody Tester, graduated.
His anticipation is palpable.
Throughout the summer, senior fullback/linebacker Kaleb Nelson traveled myriad South Kitsap neighborhoods selling Gold Cards to fundraise for the Wolves’ football program. The questions never started with price, but about the status of the team.
“People were asking if we’re going to do better than last year,” Nelson said. “It’s kind of a burden on your shoulders a little bit. I’m just anxious for everybody ... to prove everyone wrong.”
Enter Sept. 2. That is when South plays its season opener at Vancouver College High School in British Columbia. It also is when Nelson hopes to end the questions.
“I know we’re not going to have the same result,” he said.
The Wolves’ 3-7 record last season was their worst since 1977. After winning the opener against Vancouver College, South lost five consecutive games.
“Our motto is ‘Fight for every inch,’ ” South senior quarterback Eddie Meisner said. “As a team, we just have to go forward, not worry about injuries and fight for everything. Nothing is going to be given to us.”
While South might be able to improve its record simply by performing better in close games — the Wolves were 0-4 in games decided by 10 points or less in 2010 – returning to the playoffs could be a challenge.
South, which averaged a Class 4A Narrows-worst 18.1 points per game last year, must replace starters at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end and three members of the offensive line.
Defensively, the Wolves graduated arguably their two biggest playmakers — defensive end Austin Cook and cornerback Isaiah Davis — off a unit that ranked fifth among eight 4A Narrows teams in points allowed per game (21.4).
“We’re not going to be where we need to be right away,” Sigurdson said. “It’s going to take awhile.”
But South will not have much time for adjustments. After Vancouver College, the Wolves play their home opener Sept. 9 against Tahoma. They begin league play the following week at Olympia, which along with Bellarmine Prep could be ranked among the state’s top 10 teams in 4A to enter the season.
“It’s a good league,” Sigurdson said. “We’ve proven that with teams in the (state) quarterfinals and semifinals.”
One prospect that might buoy South’s playoff hopes — the top four teams in the league qualify for the state play-in game — is its schedule. The Wolves play two teams, Mount Tahoma and Central Kitsap, that could vie for those final playoff spots at Joe Knowles Field.
But Sigurdson does not want to look that far ahead. He wants team’s focus on Vancouver College. He feels that if his team remains focused and avoids injuries it could compete for a postseason berth.
QuarterbacksTwo years ago, the Wolves elevated Gordy Anderson to full-time starter after he split time in 2008 with Bryan Dorsey. Anderson, who now is a walk-on tight end at Washington State University, responded by completing 103 of 180 passes for 1,859 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions to help South to the Class 4A state playoffs.
The coaching staff is hopeful that Meisner can make the same progress after he was one of four signal-callers to take snaps in 2010. Tanner Romo, who took the majority of the snaps last season, graduated.
“He definitely can have a year like that,” South coach D.J. Sigurdson said. “But there are a lot of other things at play. If everything materializes, Eddie’s definitely capable of making plays.”
One significant difference is Meisner’s supporting cast. Anderson threw to a couple of future collegiate wide receivers — Isaiah Davis (Eastern Washington) and Leon La Deaux (Central Washington) — while running back Robert Issa finished with 1,321 yards and nine touchdowns on 213 carries.
Another contrast between Anderson and Meisner is the former was the clear-cut starter in the weeks preceding the season opener. While Sigurdson said Meisner is the No. 1 quarterback, junior Kevin Whatley, who attempted only one pass last season, could push for playing time. Sigurdson said he likes Whatley’s mechanics and speed, but Meisner’s experience has put him ahead in the competition to start.
“I’m really comfortable with both of those guys,” Sigurdson said. “Right now it’s (Meisner), but it could change.”
Meisner relishes the challenge — one that he feels will be prevalent throughout the team.
“There’s a lot of depth and everyone is going to be fighting for their jobs,” he said. “It’s going to make us better as a team.”
Running backThe Wolves could have a breakout performer in senior Dominic Boddie, who was hampered last year with various leg injuries. Despite that, Boddie still led the team with 748 yards and seven touchdowns on 104 carries. He is the son of Tony Boddie, a former Bremerton standout who later played at Montana State and in the NFL.
“I think everyone saw what he’s capable of doing,” said Sigurdson, adding that Boddie suffered a hip flexor early in camp.
Regardless of Boddie’s health, Sigurdson again will apply a committee approach this season at running back. He said that is because of the team’s depth and the need for Boddie, senior Chas Bauman and junior Adam Gascoyne to start on defense.
“Gascoyne is a really exciting, aggressive runner back there,” Sigurdson said.
Senior Anthony Williams, who rushed for 128 yards last season, also returns and figures into the rotation. Wide receiverSouth’s projected starters against Vancouver College — senior Aaron La Deaux and junior Devon Newquist — combined for five receptions last year. Despite that, Sigurdson is excited about their potential.
“I trust all of our receivers,” Sigurdson said. “They’re doing a nice job.”
Both of the Wolves’ starters from last season, Davis and Michael Powell, graduated. Davis led the team in receptions (22), receiving yards (430) and touchdowns, while Powell caught 11 passes for 172 yards. Meisner, who played just about everywhere for South last year except for the offensive line, added 11 receptions for 128 yards and a couple of touchdowns.
While Sigurdson does not expect anyone to be a facsimile of Davis, he feels senior Eric Burk can be a playmaker. Burk, who did not have a reception last season, ran the 40 in 4.61 seconds.
“It’s just him being comfortable on every play and us getting him the ball,” Sigurdson said. “I trust him.”
Junior Illya Tsveytkov is slated to start at tight end. Sigurdson noted that Tsveytkov ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, which is much faster than a typical high school tight end. Offensive lineWhen Sigurdson reflects on where the Wolves’ struggles began a year ago, it often begins with the offensive line. Both tackles, Shomari Burton and Riki Blas, missed several games with injuries. Even before those injuries, depth along the line was not a strong point as Austin Kanouse became a rare sophomore starter. Kanouse, a left guard, and senior center Philip Holt are the only returning starters.
Juniors Damien Medeiros (left tackle) and Blaine Pervinich (right guard) and senior Brian Grimsley (right tackle) round out the starers.
“They’re smart,” Sigurdson said. “They’re just inexperienced. We’ve got to work them through that.”
Depth again is a concern this season. Sigurdson said about 40 sophomores turned out, including 14 linemen, and he said a couple might have to play varsity out of necessity.
“We have some linemen in there,” he said. “We just need to develop them.” Defensive lineAfter producing 10 tackles-for-loss and six sacks in 2009, Austin Cook’s numbers dramatically decreased as he constantly faced double teams. Cook now is at Pacific Lutheran, which means the trio of Bauman, Medeiros and senior Chase Lopez will be counted on as pass rushers at the end.
With Blas and Burton missing significant time with injuries, Holt and Kanouse saw considerable playing time at tackle. Both will be starters this season.
LinebackerNelson returns as a starter on the strong side. The senior co-captain had 27 tackles last season and tied for second on the team with two sacks.
Senior Anthony Lombardi inherits the starting position from graduated Cody Tester, who led the team with 46 tackles, while Tsveytkov runs with the first team on the weak side.
“We saw a lot of playing time last year,” Nelson said. “I think everyone is going to know how it is.”
South’s linebacker corps is not tall — they range from 5 foot 7 to 6 feet — but Sigurdson noted the starters and reserves Michael Beard, a junior, and Williams all ran the 40 in 4.9 seconds or better.
Defensive backsBoddie and Gascoyne are the projected starters at safety. Boddie is a returning starter, while Gascoyne, who had 41 tackles and a team-high seven tackles-for-loss, moves from linebacker.
“Everything will be in front of him and he can get to everything,” said Sigurdson, explaining why he moved Gascoyne.
Cornerback is another position that features change with the graduations of Davis and D’Aundray Van Slyke. La Deaux will start on one side, while senior Bryce Broome moves from linebacker to serve as his counterpart.
Special teamsPerhaps no area of the team has fewer questions than specialist as La Deaux returns to handle kicking and punting duties again. Sigurdson said La Deaux’s leg strength makes long field goals and touchbacks feasible.
The return teams feature less certainty as Davis and Chris Hutcherson both graduated. Sigurdson said Boddie and Gascoyne will serve as the kick returners, while Newquist and Broome will take punts.
“We should be able to make some plays in our return game because of our speed,” he said.
Sigurdson said the coverage units also should benefit for greater team speed.