Sports

Newell gives Apple Cup a distinctly local flavor

While it will never take the place of Texas-Oklahoma or Texas-Texas A&M in my mind, I have to say my first Apple Cup was quite the experience.

It gave me a chance to see just how serious residents of Washington can take their college football. And it gave me a chance to see former South Kitsap standout Jimmy Newell in action.

I’ve heard a lot about Newell in the two months since I came to Port Orchard, and when the opportunity arose to see him play, I took it. I can always find a reason to attend a college football game.

But more on Newell in a minute. First some observations from a Texan’s first trip to the Apple Cup.

I have to say, the bizarre-looking stadium actually works for me. I didn’t know if it would until I got down onto the field for the game’s final six minutes. Man, was it loud down there.

But then, it should have been with just under 75,000 people watching the Huskies mount a comeback in the final minutes to steal — and I mean steal — a 27-19 victory.

It’s hard not to get wrapped up in something like that, even if you are thousands of miles away in body and spirit, like me.

I really didn’t care who won, I just wanted to see a good game. I got that.

But in all fairness, I guess I was secretly hoping Washington State would win. And before anyone starts jumping to conclusions, I have my reason: I wanted WSU vs. Texas in the Rose Bowl.

I knew it wasn’t going to happen but, hey, a guy can dream.

Just think about the columns I could have produced. You would have heard some good, old Texas trash talking for the next month. And the sports editor at the Central Kitsap Reporter, Sean Lamphere, would have taken the brunt of it.

All in good fun, of course.

And speaking of fun, Newell seemed to have plenty of it. But then again, victories tend to be more fun.

“I felt good to win,” Newell said. “I wasn’t happy with the way I played, but I was happy with the way our defense played, and that’s what’s really important.

“This goes right up there with last year,” Newell said. “ (That’s) just how intense the game was. And I didn’t get to play in last year’s game (because of an injury), so this one meant a lot to me.”

Newell, who plays free safety for the Huskies, was credited with seven tackles, five solos, and had an interception. With the win, Washington finished the year 6-6, avoiding its first losing season since the 1970s, and moved its win streak over WSU to six games.

“It was a tough year,” Newell said. “I think this kind of lessens the blow as far as when we look back at this season. Of course, I think each one of us will look back on this season and go, ‘Man, we could have done some pretty neat things and we just let some games get away from us.’ ”

Newell, who graduated from South Kitsap High School in 2000, gets back home often. His parents still live here and come home when they get the chance.

“That’s the best thing, being so close to Port Orchard, you can buzz back anytime you need a free meal,” Newell said. “Or (my parents) can come out here and watch me play.”

And he finds time to watch his alma mater play, as well.

“I always make it back on our bye week (to watch the Wolves),” Newell said. “I think I’ve seen one game in each of the last three years.

“Of course, I root for them to win the state championship every year,” Newell said. “I know that’s not realistic. We were one game away from losing our own streak, so I know how things can come apart and how difficult it is to keep one of those streaks going. It’s definitely time to start a new one.”

Newell said he keeps in contact with SK coach D.J. Sigurdson, among others.

“I talked to him, actually, right before the crossover game (against Mountain View),” Newell said. “We just talked shop. Talked football and life and whatnot. I keep in contact with him as well as (former baseball coach Elton Goodwin).

“When I go back (to South Kitsap), once in a while a kid will call me sir and that freaks me out,” Newell said. “Come on. Sir? Geez.”

If Washington does not receive a bowl bid — it is eligible at 6-6 — Newell will gear himself up for his senior and final season.

“I’ve been here a long time,” Newell said. “People are probably going to see me on the sideline next year and think I’m a coach because they’re like, ‘No way that Newell kid is still here. You’re kidding me.’ It’s my fifth year and hopefully we’ll make it an amazing experience.”

But don’t look for Newell, a double major in business and economics, to be walking the sideline next to Sigurdson anytime soon.

“I’m going to have a couple of pretty strong degrees by the time I’m out of here,” Newell said. “I don’t know if I’m cut out of the coaching mold. It takes a pretty intense commitment. I plan on coaching little league for sure. That’s all the coaching I want to do.”

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

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