Sports

South Kitsap's 'Friday Night Lights' will shine again

“We’re not going to give up.“

That’s about all South Kitsap coach D.J. Sigurdson said to me after Friday night’s 62-7 loss to North Kitsap.

And while I was disappointed in the length of our conversation that night, I wasn’t in what he said. In fact, I expected to hear that from him.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been in Port Orchard for just over a year now, covered 11 South Kitsap football games and have had countless conversations with Sigurdson. I’ve met his family, joked around with him and, more importantly, I’ve seen him play golf.

Maybe that’s why those words don’t surprise and why I was happy to hear them.

I know this year has been hard on Sigurdson and his staff. It’s been tough on the kids, their parents and SK’s fans. And it’s starting to get a little tough for me.

I’m still kind of the new guy that some people don’t want to trust just yet. I’m not a local, so some people think I must have an agenda or I’m out to get South Kitsap in some way.

I’m sure Sigurdson would admit to not fully trusting me at first and I don’t blame him. I’ve had to win over most of the coaches and administrators at the school.

That’s what sportswriters have to do sometimes.

After all, I had nothing to do with this program or this town when I arrived last year. And when the Wolves failed to make the state playoffs for the first time in 23 years, I had convinced myself that my stay here in Port Orchard would be a short one. Not because I didn’t like it but because I would be seen as the jinx of the program.

And now, I get to cover what may turn into the worst season the program’s seen in the last 25 years.

I’ve already heard some grumbling about the way I’ve covered the team so far this year. I’m being too negative. I don’t understand how things work around here. I’m not being the rah-rah kind of guy some fans want me to be.

All of that may be true, but I think there is something ya’ll should know about me. If anyone knows what it’s like to witness the decline of a sustained, successful program, it’s me.

And if you’d like to get a bit of background into why I can say that, then go see the movie Friday Night Lights which opens here in town, coincidentally enough, this Friday.

For those of you that may not know, this movie is based on the 1990 book by H.G. Bissinger that chronicles the 1988 football season of my high school alma mater, Odessa Permian, the most successful high school football program in the history of Texas.

I know the story well. Besides being a graduate of the school, I was working at the paper in Odessa that year and knew many of the principal characters of the book. Still do.

I was interviewed by Bissinger and witnessed most of the games that year in person.

I know this town takes a lot of prides in the football program and the legacy it has built and it should. So does mine, as it should.

Permian opened in 1959 and from 1965-1995 the program won six state titles, made 11 state final appearances and had a record of 444-44-12.

But then the book came out and everything started to fall apart.

If you haven’t read the book, I suggest you do. It’s a great read. It details the town’s fascination with the football program, the hero worship that comes from being on the team and how the whole town wraps itself around the games on Friday nights.

It also tells the deeper, darker side of Odessa. The racism, the bad economics and how some kids have reached the pinnacle of their lives by the time they are 17 years old.

The book embarrassed enough people in Odessa that the emphasis on the football program was toned way back. The result has been a 44-38 record since 1996 and just one playoff appearance.

So when I see the once-proud Wolves lose by scores of 64-12, 47-18 and 62-7, I know what you’re feeling. My school has been going through the same thing these last few years.

But don’t give up. Things will get better as long as you, the fans, continue to show support.

With the movie Friday Night Lights comes a renewed optimism in my home town. People are once again excited about Permian football. They are not afraid to be fanatical again. They’re no longer embarrassed to be associated with the team or the town.

And the football program is off to its best start in the last 10 years at 4-1.

So don’t let that happen here. Don’t stop going to games because this year’s team isn’t up to the standards of its predecessors. Don’t let scores like 62-7 scare you off, it will only get worse if you do.

Sigurdson, his staff, and his team will weather this storm.

They have said they will not give up.

Neither should you.

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

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