Orcas start fresh for next season

Is this the season the West Sound Orcas turn it around?

According to first-year coach Steve McDaniel, anything will be better than last year’s 4-9 season that was filled with player discontent and a lack-luster offense.

During this year’s preseason schedule, the Orcas tied the Snohomish Vikings 13-13 on May 18 and then succumbed to former Seahawk and Baltimore Ravens lineman Sam Adams’ Eastside Hawks 41-6 on May 25. McDaniel’s squad ran wild over the visiting Renton Ravens 29-13 Saturday night at Bremerton Memorial Stadium.

McDaniel, promoted from the team’s assistant ranks after Robert Mulligan left the Orcas for the Washington Cavaliers in Kelso, has already made a difference to the team’s morale, which shattered last year as offensive and defensive players banded into their own camps.

“These guys respect Steve,” said assistant coach John Corey. “I’ve been here three and a half years and there’s less bickering than I’ve ever seen. They just want to get their nose down and play.”

The players have noticed the change in attitude, as well.

“We’ve got a different mood,” said defensive back Dave Snyder. “Everything is a lot more positive and team-oriented. The defense doesn’t feel like we have to do everything.”

Snyder, a teacher at Kingston Junior High and a football coach at North Kitsap High School, described McDaniel as being organized with a lot of energy and belief in his players.

“If I get in a lull, he’s there to pick me up,” Snyder said. “The guys are willing to sell out for him and that’s made a ton of difference.”

The Orcas defense is its strength. The squad limited the undersized Ravens to 115 yards last weekend as linebacker Larry Logan ran back an interception in the second quarter for 76 yards and a touchdown.

This year’s squad is a blend of old and new faces, including several former local high school players such as South Kitsap High School graduate Arnie Otterback, Bremerton High graduate Bobby Stern, Klahowya grads Eric Mischenko and Dray Young and current Central Kitsap High School senior Randy Seau.

“I’m out here for the exposure,” said the 300-pound, 6-5 Seau. “And I’m learning a lot. It has gone from me pushing everybody else around to having to work to get to my position.”

Young, a former defensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles, said he’s waiting to finish college for the year before donning the pads.

“I’m going to play wherever they put me because I fell in love with the game in high school, so I’m out here helping on Tuesday night practices wherever I can,” Young said.

Stern graduated from Bremerton High School in 1998 where he was a backup cornerback. Now a video store manager, he said he tried out for the Orcas for the first time in April and now is a backup corner and linebacker.

“This is my first year so I’m trying to get my name in the mix and get some playing time,” said Stern, who admitted to being timid on the Knight’s squad which led coaches to forget about him. “I have a lot more confidence to step up and talk for myself.”

Leading the team’s offense is new quarterback Ramon Martinez, who recently moved to the area from Chula Vista, Calif., where he spent a year playing at Grossmont College in nearby El Cajon.

Now he’s learning how to connect with his speedy receivers on high-percentage short passes with the occasional long bomb to open up opposing defenses.

“We have some good plays,” Martinez said. “The coaches have me at different formations. It’s like the West Coast offense — I really like that.”

“We’re going to run and pass,” McDaniel said. “If we can run it up the gut, then we’ll do that and pass when we need to.”

Helping Martinez and running backs Todd Lewis and Larry Bates out is a rejuvenated offensive line which is now under the supervision of retired Cincinnati Bengal lineman and Bremerton native Kevin Sargeant. Once considered the team’s weakness, the line has cut down on the number of sacks allowed and has grown stronger with each outing.

They’ll have their work cut out for them June 22 at Silverdale Stadium when the Orcas host the Multnomah County Bucs, the defending league champions.

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