Orcas eye season-opening matchup with Jets

"Ready or not, it's time for the Real Thing.The West Sound Orcas, fresh from an 0-2 preseason, look ahead to Saturday's Northwest Football League opener against a Puget Sound Jets team which hasn't played since it beat the Buffalo Gladiators 23-19 last September to wrap up a 16-0 season and claim the National Football Alliance (NFA) championship.It's gonna be a real test, said quarterback Matt Gates after the Orcas' suffered a rain-wracked, lightning-lit 9-6 preseason loss to Snohomish County June 2 at Edmonds Stadium. It's going to be more of a mental test than anything. We know they're going to be stronger.Stronger than the Vikings, who won last Saturday despite being out-gained 173-16 in net offense? Certainly.Stronger than the King County Jaguars, who beat the Orcas 21-6 in the May 19 preseason opener? You bet.They're good, said Orcas coach Robert Mulligan of the Kent-based Jets. We've got a lot of work to do.As in the three losses the Orcas suffered in their 2000 probationary season, they could blame last Saturday's defeat on failure to take care of the ball. They fumbled eight times - attributable at least in part to the miserable, rainy conditions and the slippery artificial surface - and lost four of them. Both Viking scores were the direct result of Orcas turnovers.We stepped on our own tails a lot today, Mulligan said.Despite the turnovers, West Sound had it all over the host Vikings offensively. Snohomish County managed just two first downs in the second half and could do nothing through the air as the Orcas mounted a withering pass rush and were solid in the secondary.Clearly, though, the defenses were ahead of the offenses on both teams. SnoCo, playing its first game of the season, was a lot more forgiving than the Jets will be in this Saturday's regular-season kickoff (6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium).We're still building the offense, Mulligan said. The line is young, and it's still not up to par. We're going to work on that.The biggest decision facing Mulligan and his staff before Saturday's opener is whether Gates or Don Purser will get the start at quarterback. Purser, the incumbent starter, played the first half against the Vikings, Gates the second. Both showed some flashes, as well as considerable rust.We played Matt the first half against King County, Mulligan said, then just flipped it for this game. No reason why, we just flipped a coin (to decide who would start the May 19 game). We probably won't decide (on a starter for the Jets game) until practice Thursday.Neither quarterback generated much offense - in fact, the Orcas' leading passer was halfback Keenan Miles, who was 2 for 2 for 47 yards, hitting Shawn Parker twice. Their first connection, good for 23 yards, started West Sound's only scoring drive in the final two minutes of the first half. Then Purser got some help from Preston Brown, who fought off a pair of Snohomish County defenders to clutch his roll-out pass at the Vikings' 4 yard line.1999 South Kitsap High School graduate Elkanah Montgomery scored on the next play to give the Whales a 6-3 halftime lead.Miles fumbled away West Sound's first possession of the second half, giving the host team just 18 yards to go. The Vikings covered that in four plays, overcoming two penalties, with Andy Shreve's diving catch of Jeremy Corcoran's pass into the left corner of the end zone.The Vikes also got a second-quarter, 32-yard field goal from Nick Obrastoff - a score that was set up by a fumbled punt that gave them possession at West Sound's 15.So, despite West Sound's seven sacks (led by two from Kevin Shearer) and Rick Armstrong's interception, Snohomish County put more points on the board.We dominated on defense, Mulligan said. Our defense really improved - they gave up three touchdowns against King County and only one today.We've just got to get our offense squared away, and our kicking game, and I think we'll be all right.They'll have to be at their best by Saturday. "

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