2004 was one to grow on

The lessons were hard, but they were learned.

That’s the conclusion South Kitsap High School football coach D.J. Sigurdson will take from the worst season he’s ever experienced as a head coach and the school’s worst season since 1977.

South Kitsap ended the year with a disappointing 4-6 mark and missed out on the state playoffs for just the second time in the last 25 years.

“I don’t care what anyone says,” Sigurdson said last week after the season ended. “You do learn a lot from going through something like that, but it’s not easy.”

The 2004 season was definitely not an easy one on all involved. The losing record was the first in almost 30 years and it saw some scores — 47-18, 64-20, 62-7 — that are not usually associated with South Kitsap football, at least not from a losing perspective.

“I felt all year it was always like, ‘If I would have done this or if I could have done that,’ ” Sigurdson said. “I think you’re always evaluating what you’re doing. You could call it, at times, second guessing. ‘I wish I would have made that change sooner or I wish we would have done that sooner.’ We had those kinds of questions.”

Some of those questions dealt with personnel moves and playing time. Sigurdson said he and his staff were hesitant to play some of the younger kids earlier in the year simply because many of them would have had to change positions while dealing with the pressure of playing varsity ball.

But one of the tougher things to deal with was the way the coaching staff and players responded to the slow start.

“I think the toughest thing for us to adjust to was, when you win a lot, there’s just that sense of pride that what we do is the right way do it,” Sigurdson said.

He said that the thought early in the year was even though the Wolves started off playing two very tough opponents — state-ranked Lincoln and Bellevue — the team would be fine.

“I took for granted that they were damaged after those two games (both blowout losses) and emotionally, they lacked a little bit of confidence and the reassurance that someone was going to step up and make a play,” Sigurdson said. “When you get beat like that, there were just a lot of questions that were unanswered. And I took that for granted.”

Sigurdson said he had a mental picture of a team that would be able to overcome all kinds of setbacks, a team that could rally itself, even though the Wolves returned every few starters and were basically a young, young team.

“I think we were a little bit apprehensive,” Sigurdson said. “It was a learning process that we had to go through. It took us a while to understand where we actually were.”

But the toughest questions were directed at himself and how he responded as the team’s coach. He said after the 0-2 start he was more angry than anything.

“It forced me to become what I consider resourceful,“ Sigurdson said. “I had to make them understand that this was not acceptable. And I also had to make sure that I was not quitting on them or fixing the blame on them. I’m going to accept the responsibility.”

At that point, Sigurdson said, the intensity level at practice was cranked up and everyone on the team found out just who was in it for the long haul.

“I learned that being upset and mad about getting beat, mad about effort and all that stuff, it didn’t do us a hill of beans,” Sigurdson said. “Just being pissed and walking in and expressing my anger wasn’t going to help us. So I think I learned more on how to respond to that type of adversity.”

But the year had its positive moments, Sigurdson said. And Anthony Galloway would be at the top of his list.

The senior tailback literally carried the offensive load this season, rushing for 1,472 yards on 263 carries while scoring 10 times. That averaged out to 26 carries and 147 yards a game.

And he did all that with opposing defenses knowing he would get the ball. He also did it behind a very young offensive line that became the strength of the team by season’s end.

Sigurdson also praised the play of junior quarterback Kyle Pease, not so much for the numbers he put up — 41 of 106 passing for 574 yards and four touchdowns — but for the way he handled himself and the offense in a difficult situation.

As for the youngsters who saw action, there is core group that the team will be able to build around. Those that saw the most playing time toward the end of the season included sophomores Cory Dame, Renard Williams and Jesse Galligan along with the play of juniors Andrew Thatcher, Kyle Saltsgaver and Monte Enyeart.

“I’m glad that we got those guys in,” Sigurdson said. “I’m not sure if playing sooner was a huge case in some of their cases.”

And Sigurdson said the best part of the season was how they responded at the end, winning the final two games, including the way they came back and beat Mount Tahoma 27-20.

“I like the way we came back and responded,’ Sigurdson said. “Instead of us looking around and waiting for someone to make a play, we stepped up and made plays. And that’s something we can build on.”

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