Sports

Wolves aim to make statement in playoffs

There’s a lot on the line tonight for the South Kitsap football team. And even more up in the air.

As the Wolves get set to play Arlington at 7 p.m. at Snohomish’s Veterans Memorial Stadium in their first Class 4A state preliminary playoff game in two years, the No. 1 question seems to be will they or won’t they get both barrels of the Eagles’ run-and-gun offense.

More specifically, will the Eagles’ leading rusher, Jake Webb, return after a three-game absence due to illness, or will South get a heavy dose of quarterback Brett Smith?

SK coach D.J. Sigurdson is betting on the former but preparing for both.

“First of all, I’m expecting Webb to be on the field,” Sigurdson said of Arlington’s senior running back. “And I know what type of kid (Taylor Brown) that has been taking his place is. He’s a physical kid that runs pretty fast.”

Webb, a 6-foot, 185-pounder who has racked up 1,001 yards on 127 carries in six games this season and is his team’s best defensive player, will be a game-time decision at best after sitting out the final three games of the regular season.

But if he can’t go, don’t think the Eagles’ offense will be grounded.

Arlington has relied on a strong passing attack led by senior quarterback Smith, and Sigurdson said he expects nothing less tonight.

Behind the 6-0, 155-pounder, the Eagles have racked up 3,486 yards of total offense this year, averaging 32.5 points a game.

Smith has completed 139 of 211 attempts for 1,926 yards and 15 touchdowns against eight interceptions.

“He looks like he operates very well within their system,” Sigurdson said.

So well in fact, that Sigurdson said Smith reminds him a lot of his own passer, Kyle Pease in that both are very accurate throwers with solid arm strength. And neither makes a lot of mistakes.

Webb was the go-to guy for much of the year but lately the Eagles have been getting plenty of production from Brown (6-0, 200). Although he went through Tommy John surgery on an elbow last May and wasn’t expected to play at all this year, he has come through in the clutch, rushing for 127 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 35-14 win over Cascade.

Sigurdson said that on film, the Eagles look to be very athletic on both sides of the ball and will vary their schemes on offense, alternating between a two-back set that promotes a solid running game to one that showcases its talented receiving corp.

That group is led by wideout Andy Cohoon (5-10, 160), who has caught 43 passes for 567 yards and a score, and tight end Tim Acker (6-0, 175), who has four touchdowns on 41 catches for 534 yards.

Running back Thomas Payne leads the team in scoring receptions with seven and has hauled in 24 passes for 418 yards.

All those numbers could spell trouble for a team whose main defensive weakness has been its pass defense — or lack thereof.

“We’re hoping that we’ve gotten some of our pass-coverage flaws squared away,” Sigurdson said.

That will start with controlling the ball offensively, Sigurdson said, and a few positional moves in the secondary.

Chad Fowler and Cedric Carter, who recently returned from an ankle injury suffered in the North Kitsap game, will start at the corner positions. Sigurdson is hoping to slow down the Eagles high-octane passing game by getting some speed on the corners and forcing everything toward the middle of the field.

He is also hoping to use a solid running game to keep Arlington’s offense off the field as much as possible.

“We’re going to try and keep the ball out of their hands,” Sigurdson said. “We want to try and keep possession of the ball as long as we can.”

That should mean a large dose of Fowler, whose 1,031 yards on 155 carries and 11 touchdowns leads the team.

“They look to me to be pretty committed to trying to stop the run,” Sigurdson said, “and they just let their athletes react to the pass.”

But that may open up some options for Pease and the offense. The Eagles haven’t seen many passing teams this year, allowing just 338 yards on 31 of 88 passing.

Pease has had a stellar senior season, connecting on 85 of 136 passes for 1,237 yards and 11 TDs against just three interceptions. Senior wideout Monte Enyeart has hauled in 29 of those passes for 517 yards and five scores.

The winner of Saturday night’s game will advance to the first round of the state playoffs and face the winner of the Bothell-Kentwood game next week. South has not made an appearance in the state playoffs since 2002, when it had a state record 23-year consecutive streak snapped.

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