Sports

Are you ready for some football?

It may come as a shock to some, but no one in the South Kitsap football locker room is running around in a state of panic.

There’s no screaming and yelling about the horrors of last year’s 4-6 campaign, the worst the Wolves have seen since 1977. No one seems too worried about a defense that allowed 34 points a game last year or some of the blowout scores that were hung on the team, including such gaudy numbers as 62-7, 64-20, 47-18, 47-13 and 45-28.

It’s pretty much business as usual over at Joe Knowles Field as summer slowly turns into fall and the 2005 high school football season rapidly approaches.  

And that’s just what South coach D.J. Sigurdson not only wanted but expected.

“We’ve done a better job coaching,” Sigurdson said of the upcoming season. “We’re more experienced and we’re more consistent at our positions. Last year, I think we were so inconsistent it was just … I think we fell victim to the fact that we played so poorly early on that we found ourselves back on our heels a lot. I think we started to second-guess ourselves.”

The new season, which starts with Monday night’s contest against Mercer Island as part of the Emerald City Kickoff Classic in Seattle’s Qwest Field, gives the Wolves a chance to make amends for last year’s unexpected and very unWolf-like disaster.  

With a solid and very experienced core of returning players, a coaching staff rededicated to putting in the work, a favorable schedule and a much weaker Narrows League Bridge Division, the Wolves have a golden opportunity to not only right one of the state’s more successful ships, but also to make sure last year was as much an aberration as Jessica Simpson’s acting career.

“We have a chance, as coaches, to get this back on track and put the kids in a better position (than last year),” Sigurdson said. “We didn’t do a very good job of that last year.”

But a new year brings a new attitude, along with a dozen returning starters and tons of experience where it counts – up front.

“Definitely right now, our strengths are at our offensive and defensive lines,” Sigurdson said. “Definitely, at this point, they are the furthest along and have the most experience.”

Senior co-captain Kyle Saltsgaver (6-1, 236) will anchor both sides of the ball this year, providing the Wolves with size, strength and two-years of starting experience. By playing offensive tackle and defensive end, Saltsgaver will be in the mix and have a say the whole game.

Joining Salty on the offensive front is center Andrew Thatcher (6-1, 222), guards Mike Cook (5-11, 244) and Brian Bayly (5-11, 256) and tackle Joe Beitinger (6-3, 231), giving the Wolves a front line that averages just over six feet and 238 pounds.

Taking advantage of the size and experience is a returning corps of players including quarterback Kyle Pease (41-106 for 574 yards and four TDs) and receiver and co-captain Monte Enyeart (10 catches for 177 yards and two scores).

Running back will be by committee this year, Sigurdson said, as the Wolves try to replace Anthony Galloway’s 1,472 yards rushing and 10 scores. Part of that committee will include Cory Dame, Tony Larsen, Tony Catalano and Chad Fowler.

“The kids that are in there now, they’ve all shown flashes,” Sigurdson said. “I know that whoever ends up back there, they will play hard for us. It may be by committee but I don’t thing we can go wrong with anyone back there.”

South averaged just over 21 points a game last year, good enough to win plenty of games, Sigurdson noted. Expect more of the same, although the passing game should be better than in the past few years with Pease and Enyeart hooking up a little more often.

“It may look like we’re opening it up a little more, but that’s because we’ll be more efficient in throwing the ball this year,” Sigurdson said. “We’ll have a little more consistency there. We feel like if (the quarterbacks and receivers) do their part and the line does its part and the running backs do their part, we should in pretty good shape.”

The big question mark is defense. Will it give up 34 points a game and huge numbers like it did last year, or will it be more consistent? Sigurdson is betting on the latter.

“We will be much more aggressive and fly to the ball,” Sigurdson said. “I don’t think you will see much standing around this year. I think we have some guys that want to make plays.”

That, once again, begins up front with the makings of the league’s best defensive line. Saltsgaver joins returning starter Dan Tajelle (5-5, 284) and juniors Renard Williams (6-0, 288) and Carl Welch (5-11, 214) to give the Wolves not only size but attitude up front. Cook, Thatcher and Beitinger will also see time on the line, keeping everyone fresh and ready to go.  

South will be solid at linebacker with Larsen, Jesse Galligan and Ryan Cosgrove, while Dame, Enyeart, David Hammrich, Jason Read and Cedric Carter will provide plenty of support from the defensive backfield.

After all is said and done, this team should make amends for last year and restore the Wolf pride that has kept them out of the state playoffs the last two seasons.

“Coming out of (an intrasquad scrimmage), I guess we feel comfortable because the kids were consistent,” Sigurdson said. “There wasn’t a lot of huge plays but they did their jobs and they were consistent.”

And that may be good enough to get things done.

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