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Wolves ready to prove this year will be different | Football preview
New South Kitsap coach Eric Canton has changed terminology and schemes on both sides of the ball, which means personnel also will be used differently. Here is a breakdown on each position.
With the exception of Gordy Anderson in 2008-09, the Wolves have not featured a signal-caller who started in consecutive seasons during the last five years. That trend will continue again this year when another senior, Kevin Whatley, becomes a first-time starter tonight.
“He knows the offense and he’s a competitor,” Canton said.
He likened Whatley’s stature and skillset to Bryan Dorsey, who was appointed the starter in 2008 before surgery on his right knee curtailed his senior season.
Logan Knowles and Cooper Canton were vying for the backup position headed into the season opener. Canton said they were “basically even” entering the week.
South again will use a committee approach at tailback with Kelikuewa Kalima, who did not play a down on varsity last season, getting the bulk of work. Senior Adam Gascoyne also will see plenty of playing time.
“Right now, Kelikuewa is seeing things a little bit better,” Canton said. “He and Adam pretty much are the same type of back. They’re powerful and fast.”
Canton said hopes both can reach 1,000 rushing yards, “but that’s probably greedy.” Or heady considering the Wolves have not had anyone reach that milestone since Robert Issa had 1,321 yards and nine touchdowns on 213 carries in 2009.
Sophomore Marshaun DeWalt, the nephew of former Olympic High School standout Malachi DeWalt, also is expected to compete for playing time.
South features experienced depth at fullback with seniors Bryce Broome and Illya Tsvyetkov, who moves from tight end this year, and D’Shaun Booker.
“All of those guys are getting quite a bit of time,” Canton said.
Perhaps the biggest change from the Fisher and Sigurdson eras comes from phasing out the tight end to add an extra receiver. That does not necessarily mean the Wolves will move toward a pass-first offense. Canton said that all will be based on matchups. Instead, it relates to personnel. While many think of South producing massive players — linemen Andrew Peterson, Tony Coats and Benji Olson all played at the University of Washington — that no longer is the case. And even with a lack of experience at wide receiver, Canton sees enough talent at the position that he wants to get as much of it as possible onto the field.
Ryan Camp, Tom Simpson and Nic Stoner are the projected starters for the opener. Simpson, who plays baseball and basketball for the Wolves, has not played football in three years.
“He’s picking it up fast,” Canton said. “He’s smart and athletic.”
Devon Newquist, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, also is expected to vie for playing time along with several others.
“We have nine guys I feel comfortable with if they’re on the field,” Canton said. “There’s youth and inexperience, but they would do just fine.”
Under Sigurdson, the Wolves featured individual coaches for centers, guards and tackles. Canton has a pair of coaches, Ryan Bradley and Cory Vartanian, handling those duties. In addition to that restructuring, Canton has changed the system as South moves toward a zone-blocking scheme.
“I’m pretty pleased with how they’ve come along,” he said. “The terminology isn’t the same and the way we’re blocking isn’t the same.”
Canton said it helps that South features experience on the left side of the line in seniors Austin Kanouse (guard) and Damien Medeiros (tackle). Senior Darren Feulner lines up at center, while classmate Shaw Hesse is at right guard and junior Lucas Petrovich at right tackle.
Another change is the transition from a 4-3 to a 3-4 base defense. Again, that adjustment relates to the Wolves’ dearth of big-body players.
South often has featured linemen starting both ways, but Hesse will open the season as the only defensive lineman who also is on the first-team offense. He will be flanked by junior Forest Bingham and senior R.J. Polen.
Coaches often like bigger linemen to run the 3-4 to free up linebackers from taking on blockers and Canton said his starting trio — each of whom are at least 6 foot 3 — meets that requirement. But he also likes their athleticism.
Canton said junior Tristan Hartmann also could compete for playing time if he can stay healthy.
Similar to wide receiver, Canton likes the talent at linebacker and views the personnel change as an opportunity to get as many on the field as possible.
Senior Michael Beard and Booker will play inside.
“The inside guys are physical and run well,” Canton said.
He praised the athleticism of outside linebackers Newquist and Tsvyetkov.
After watching Edmonds-Woodway running back Desmond Young dominate the Wolves during last year’s Class 4A state play-in game, Canton is hopeful the changes will prevent a similar scenario from unfolding.
“We don’t want that to happen again,” he said. “We would like someone to be one-dimensional.”
The secondary is not among the more veteran-laden units on the team, but Canton likes the returners. Broome and Stoner, who did not play last season, are the cornerbacks. Camp is projected to start at one safety position with Gascoyne sharing the other with Kalima.
“They’re picking it up,” Canton said. “They’re athletic and that helps. It’s hard to run by them.”
He said he feels confident in the group when opponents are in passing situations.
“They’ve got a nose for the ball,” Canton said. “They can sense where a quarterback will throw it.”
Aaron LaDeaux served as South’s kicker and punter the last two years, but graduated and now is playing at Minot State University in North Dakota. Polen will inherit his duties.
Canton said he has other capable options, as well. Cooper Canton is the backup punter. The elder Canton served as UW’s punter in the late 1980s.