Sports

These guys exude quiet confidence

The first indication that my summer is over is always the same – I find myself spending most of my time at South Kitsap High School instead of trudging up and down the fairways at Gold Mountain.

Beers, tees and scorecards give way to interviews, schedules and rosters.

Instead of calculating the distance to the middle of a green and worrying if I can carry the deep-faced bunker that protects the left side, I’m asking coaches about guards on the left side of the line and if they can protect the quarterback.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Fall, or what we Texas folk call mild summer, has always been my favorite time of year, and for many reasons.

The most obvious is, of course, football starts at both the high school and college level, both of which are big in Texas. Fridays that were once filled with 36 holes and lunch at the turn give way to tailgating parties and stadiums filled with 20,000 fans – at least in my home town.

Each mild summer would bring with it a new sense of beginning, no matter what happened the year before. Each Labor Day Weekend meant everyone was 0-0 and a state title was up for grabs.

So as I slowly made a nuisance out of myself the past two weeks in the South locker room, bothering coaches and players alike with equal abandon, I wondered just how everyone involved in last year’s debacle would respond.

Not so much to me and my so-called “negative” reporting last year but just in general.

After all, South’s 4-6 record was the worst the school had seen since 1977. And after making the playoffs a state record 23 years in a row from 1980-2002, the team hadn’t qualified the past two.

So, just how would everyone respond? Could they overcome it? Would they overcome it? Was last year the beginning of the end of South Kitsap football as it has been known?

I found the answer to my question in the most unlikely way – a simple interview with seniors Kyle Pease, Mike Cook, Monte Enyeart and Kyle Saltsgaver.

In a group interview where I asked each of them the same five questions, I was consistently surprised at the answers I got from each to one question in particular: What game on the schedule this year are you most looking forward to?

I’ll admit it was a loaded question, and I asked it hoping to get some really good, trash-talking quality responses. After just getting absolutely killed by North Kitsap 62-7 at home last year — and trust me, it could easily have been 102-7 if North so desired — everyone would be getting in line to repay the Vikings this year.

I can guarantee that if any team had ever come into my home stadium in Odessa and wiped our noses in it like North did to South last year, we’d be out for blood the next time we saw them.

The answers I got from Kyle, Mike, Monte and Salty told me everything I needed to know about the attitude and focus this team will have in the coming nine weeks. There was no trash talking, no blood lust, no anger, no revenge, no raised voices. No nothing.

To a man, they said the game they are looking forward to most is the one Monday night against Mercer Island. And not because it’s at Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, but because it the first game of the year.

And after that, the next game they are looking forward to is Mountain View Sept. 10. Not because the Thunder stopped South’s playoff streak two years ago, but because it’s the next game on the schedule.

And after that, it’s Port Angles because it’s the next game and on and on down the remaining schedule.

That impressed the hell out of me.

Despite what these guys went through last year, when many teams that could never have beaten them in the past took full advantage of the situation by not only running up the score but going out of the way to embarrass them, there is no ill will.

There is no talk of revenge or getting back at someone. The only thought is the game at hand, getting better with each passing week and doing whatever it takes to improve.

That, of course, is a testament to the program and the values instilled in them by the coaching staff.

And that’s why I can safely say this team will not only do well this year and restore some pride, but they will make a run at the Narrows League Bridge title and qualify for the state playoffs.

Which will delay my winter golfing season a bit, but that’s OK by me.

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

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