Sports

Snohomish invades SK in season opener

It was only a year ago the South Kitsap High School football team pulled out an 18-17 thrilling victory at Snohomish to open the season.

One year later — despite a teacher strike in Snohomish — the two teams will clash again in the season opener Friday at 7:30 p.m.

This time the Panthers will make the trek to Port Orchard.

While the memory of last year’s game is fresh, the makeup of both squads has undergone considerable changes, though Snohomish returns a few players who were thorns in SK’s side last year.

Leading the way for Snohomish are seniors Jake Darling (all-WesCo) and Ross Fay, who will be looked upon to establish to running game in the team’s wing-T offense.

SK coaches remember Fay all too vividly.

One of the most athletic players in the state, Fay recovered a Victor Valle fumble and intercepted a Travis Vetters pass for a touchdown last year.

Snohomish also returns a seasoned quarterback, even though SK never saw him play.

Junior Jeff Rodland started the final five games of the season last year after John Knutson went down with a season-ending knee injury.

The Panthers went 4-1 under Rodland, who was a sophomore.

Though only 5-9 and 160 pounds, Rodland’s ability to throw the ball will force SK’s secondary to play honest, though Snohomish’s offense revolves around the running game.

SK coach D.J. Sigurdson watched video of Snohomish’s jamboree last week and said the team is a prototypical Snohomish team.

“They’re real quick and they’re going to run a lot,” Sigurdson said.

Though they run the wing-T, Snohomish is almost considered an option team because it uses deception with its running game.

Sigurdson said the key to defending the option is based on what his players feel, not what they see.

“They need to read their keys...you never want to watch the backs,” Sigurdson said. “

Panthers coach Mark Perry, entering his eighth season, said he has a good feeling about his team this year.

Asked to compare his feelings going into the SK game last year and this year, Perry said he likes his team’s makeup more this year.

“I do in the sense that we are a quicker team this year,” Perry said. “Our linemen are a lot quicker off their feet, and SK is not as big as they were last year. I’m not saying (the SK) kids aren’t as good this year, but they won’t have the two 285-pound guys in the middle they had last year.”

While the makeup of the team is solid, Perry said the invariables have provided some frustration.

Between the teachers’ strike and the planning of the road trip to South, Perry said it has been a tough couple of weeks.

Teams are permitted to coach despite a teachers’ strike because coaches’ contracts are separate from teachers’ contracts.

While it would seem there’s been more free time for the football team to practice, Perry said it has been difficult to get a routine down, which he sees as critical for a team to succeed.

“We don’t want to be out here on the picket line,” he said. “We want to be in the classroom, and the kids need to be in the classroom to get into some sort of routine. Our routine is sort of screwed up right now.”

As for traveling to SK, it provides for planning Perry isn’t used to.

“When you play at Everett it’s only 20 minutes away and you know when to leave,” he said. “But to get to South I’ve had to check the ferry schedule and do a lot of planning. For the players it will be different, too.”

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