Sports

Last stand for North-South rivalry?

It’s a rivalry that dates back to the 1920s, but no one seems certain when South Kitsap will play against North Kitsap again after Friday.

After a two-year hiatus, the teams will meet again for the “Civil War” game, but South athletic director Ed Santos doesn’t know when the schools will meet on the gridiron again.

North’s student body has shrunk with the opening of Kingston High School this fall. Consequently, the Vikings will join the Class 3A Olympic League starting next season.

“I think this is kind of a fun rivalry,” Santos said. “There’s been some great games.”

South coach D.J. Sigurdson agreed.

“It’s always a big game for us,” he said. “It’s an obvious natural rivalry. It will be a nice atmosphere with our first home game. There’s a lot of reasons to get excited for that one.”

South has won nine of the past 10 meetings between the schools and leads the series 32-21-4 headed into the 7 p.m. game at Joe Knowles Field. The lone Wolves’ loss in that span, though, was a 62-7 blowout that no one at South seems to have forgotten.

“Coach (D.J.) Sigurdson tells us about it,” said South senior running back Stephen Tucker, who was a freshman in 2004. “He uses that as energy for himself. He gives us that story every game, and it gets us amped up.”

This year’s game is considered a nonleague contest even though both teams play in the Narrows League. That’s because North plays in the Bay Division, while South is in the Bridge Division.

Everyone concerned seems to agree that distinction doesn’t take anything away from the rivalry.

“It’s a heated contest,” North coach Steve Frease said. “We don’t get the chance to play them every year, but we always look forward to playing against them. It gives us a chance to see how we measure up. South has a tremendous tradition and is one of the better programs in the state.”

The Wolves won the last meeting between the schools, 41-12, in 2005 and Tucker said it’s easy to get motivated for the game.

“It’s Kitsap and it’s not South, so I’m going to be amped up for it and so is the whole team,” he said. “We’re going to be ready for them.”

The game also is important to both schools because they lost their season openers. The Wolves fell 21-19 Thursday at Kentwood, while the Vikings suffered a 41-7 setback Friday at Bainbridge.

“Our guys are ready to get back on the field to prove themselves and play a better game,” Frease said.

Tucker said it’s an opportunity to get back to their objective of reaching the state playoffs for the first time since 2002.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “We have a goal and we’re going to try and realize that.”

TUCKER’S BIG GAME

The focus headed into the last week’s game was on Kentwood running back Demetrius Bronson, a University of Washington commit, who rushed for 164 yards on 10 carries.

Bronson’s 68-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter gave the Conquerors a 21-12 lead with 3 minutes, 6 seconds left and essentially ended the Wolves’ comeback hopes.

But it actually was Tucker, who rushed for 198 yards on 33 carries, who had more rushing yards.

“I expected him to have a really good game,” Sigurdson said. ”He’s that type of player.”

Tucker said the conditioning work the offensive line put in during the offseason helped their endurance throughout the game and opened space for him to run.

“We thought we could run the ball on them, which we did, but we just had a couple of mistakes that changed the game,” he said.

In addition to Bronson’s long touchdown, Kentwood fullback Steven Warner had a 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

The Wolves also missed a 22-yard field goal just before halftime.

TOUGH OPENERS

Santos said the 2008 schedule won’t be set until later in the year, but Sigurdson likes to open against traditional state powers. Since he became coach in 1997, the Wolves have played Cascade of Everett (1997-98), Snohomish (2001-03) and Kentwood the last two years.

The Wolves opened 2004 in Narrows play against Lincoln, but scheduled Bellevue the following week.

“We always try and schedule tough opponents,” Sigurdson said. “That’s the way we’ve always done it. We don’t try and schedule according to our roster. We always have tough openers.”

Sigurdson said there are several benefits to difficult openers.

“It provides a great deal of focus early in the season,” he said. “Kids know what they’re up against and it gives you something to look forward to and work hard as a goal.”

South has a 3-5 record, which includes a forfeit loss in 1998 against Cascade, in those nonleague against Bellevue, Cascade, Kentwood and Snohomish in the Sigurdson era.

In 2004, the Wolves lost five of their next seven games after a 47-13 loss against Lincoln in the opener and finished with their first losing record (4-6) since 1977.

South also lost the following week in each of the last two seasons after dropping the opener.

“The emotional part gets kind of tough to overcome when you start the season on the wrong end of the (won-loss) column,” Sigurdson said. “We’ll work at it and I think the kids understand it’s a long season ... I think they’ll bounce back.”

North Kitsap Herald sports editor Shaun Scott contributed to this report

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