Sports

Early signs have SK's Sigurdson smiling

The natural response from coaches always seems to be “better” when asked how their team compares at camp to recent years. But South Kitsap coach D.J. Sigurdson wanted to provide a little perspective first.

“We struggled in all phases in 2004, but that was kind of the culmination of the process,” he said. “However, nobody was exempt. I didn’t do a great job. In ’05, the kids did everything they could to get it turned around. They did a great job to get it turned around and establish some leadership. The same with ’06.”

So where does that leave the Wolves, at least before the start of practices in mid-August?

“With this team, I see natural progression,” Sigurdson said. “The seniors are taking more of a leadership role. They want to see things done right. The progress has been kind of steady. They’ve gotten stronger in the offseason. We’re making steady progress to where we want to go and these kids are working hard to get there.”

South has finished with a 6-4 record in each of the last two seasons after a 4-6 finish in 2004. While the records are hardly disastrous, more is expected at the state’s largest school — one that advanced to state for 23 consecutive seasons from 1980 to 2002.

It’s difficult and perhaps unfair to predict where the Wolves will finish this season, but Sigurdson already sees some reasons for optimism after his team’s camp last month at Eastern Washington and its own high-school camp, which ran Monday through Friday at the school’s practice field.

He said 85 athletes participated.

One player he said has looked good is senior quarterback Chad Tester, who replaces the graduated Chip Pearson and Aaron Smothers at quarterback.

“He’s done well,” Sigurdson said. “The more comfortable he gets, the better he gets. There is no substitute for the reps. He’s done a good job with leadership and being composed.”

Sigurdson also is pleased with the progress of senior running back Stephan Tucker and offensive linemen Kenny Cook, Matt Fedderson and Brian Kuznek — a junior who has sprouted up to 6-8 and 290 pounds.

“He plays really hard and is very aggressive,” Sigurdson said. “He has some maturity to gain as far as maintaining his blocks, but he always gives a good effort.”

Of course, offense rarely was an issue for the Wolves last season as they scored less than 20 points in a game only twice. And those two games were against perhaps the two best teams on their schedule — Narrows League rival Gig Harbor and Skyview.

South lost 31-7 against Gig Harbor and 21-15 at Skyview in the state play-in game.

The defense, which allowed an average of 28 points against three opponents who qualified for state last season — Gig Harbor, Lakes and Skyview — was less dependable and graduated the school’s most valuable athlete, offensive and defensive lineman Renard Williams, who won a state championship in the shot put in the spring and plans to compete in both sports at Eastern Washington.

“He was pretty disruptive in there, so that’s difficult to replace. And our secondary was pretty veteran,” Sigurdson said.

Besides Williams, the Wolves also graduated several players in the secondary. With those losses, Sigurdson said it’s important for the team to have a camp such as this one where they can focus more on individual athletes than team drills.

“We do so much team stuff in the spring,” he said. “We do very little individual stuff during our spring practice and then nine practices at Eastern. They know the big picture stuff and now they’re learning the fine details.”

It also provides players, particularly sophomores who are moving up to the high school, a preview of what the expectations are when regular practices begin.

“As far as motivating them, that first part of practice is difficult on their bodies,” said Sigurdson, adding that is natural this time of the year. “They’re not used to it. It’s just a little bit of shock.”

The bodies should be more ready when practice begins and they will need to be. After all, the Wolves’ opportunity to show how far they’ve progressed is less than five weeks away when they open the season Aug. 30 at Kentwood.

Chris Chancellor can be reached at 876-4414, or by e-mail at sports@portorchardindependent.com.

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