Sports

Telegenic twosome has Wolves laughing all the way to the Final Four

It’s really not Kenny Kemper or Tony Saddler’s fault if they seem to call attention to the South Kitsap boy’s soccer team. They are, after all, just taking advantage of an opportunity that’s been presented to them.

And both will be trying to give the Wolves a defensive advantage this weekend as they lead South into its first-ever appearance in the Class 4A soccer final four at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.

The Wolves, 17-2-0, played Lake Stevens late Friday night in the first semifinal contest. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Snohomish-Mead semifinal at 8 p.m. tonight for the state title. The two losers will play at 2 p.m. to decide third and fourth place.

An update on South’s game against Lake Stevens can be found at the Independent’s Web site at www.portorchardindependent.com.

And when the South student body returns from the Memorial Day vacation on Tuesday, they could catch Kemper and Saddler tooting their own horn on final time on the school’s in-house television station, WOLF-TV.

If that happens, it wouldn’t be the first time.

“We kind of have a tendency to promote soccer a little bit more than other sports,” Kemper said of his and Saddler’s duties as occasional co-hosts of the daily morning show that is shown throughout the school.

That much was clear a week ago when the pair co-anchored a Friday morning update wearing their soccer jerseys and caught the ire of some coaches in the building.

“We got come complaints from other sports’ coaches for promoting soccer well above the other sports,” Kemper said. “Because we kept saying how ‘tight’ soccer was.”

In fact, one coach went as far as to call the duo’s broadcast “very bothersome.”

As entertaining as they may or may not be, depending on whom you ask, in front of the camera — they have also put together an odd but humorous spin on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, replacing swords and daggers with Rubik’s Cubes - they have been anything but entertaining to opposing offensives.

Saddler, a senior goalie, has nine shutouts to his credit this year and is allowing an average of 1.1 goals a game, although that number has risen slightly as South has seen better opposition during the playoffs.

Kemper, a senior defender, has spent the entire season right in front of Saddler, helping anchor the defense that has South to its deepest playoff run in school history.

The pair have known each other since grade school and have played soccer together even longer. Friends off the field, they are sometimes hard to differentiate between, especially on the field.

South coach Eric Bergeson said he has been known, at least in the first half of the year, to continually mix up their names, calling Kenny Tony and Tony Kenny. That’s not much of a surprise considering the pair play on the same end of the field, have virtually the same hair style and wear headbands when on the field.

They are also both tri-captains.

But, Bergeson says, that’s where the similarities end. “They are unique, dynamite individuals that I would never confuse in my mind,” Bergeson said.

Saddler is a vocal force in the net, calling out switches and demanding tough play from the defenders in front of him. He is also not afraid to openly admit when he makes a mistake in goal or gets caught out of position.

“I like a goalie that’s willing to do some yelling,” Bergeson said. “I like a goalie that starts with himself, who’s honest with himself about his mistakes. He’s owned up to every mistake he’s made.”

He’s also come up large many times this year, including the first two games of the state tournament. He made a couple of nice saves in shutting out Kamiak in the first round and despite giving up two score against Eastlake, made some critical saves late to ensure the win that sent South to the semifinals.

“I’ve gotten away with my fair share of mistakes in the regular season,” Saddler said. “But in this final four, no mistakes are allowed.”

Kemper is more reserved but still deadly as a sweeper. The Wolves’ top cross-country runner in the fall, he chose soccer over distance running this spring and has endured the label of traitor placed on him by some of his former running mates.

“Kenny may be our most soft-spoken captain,” Bergeson said. “He is a man of faith that leads by example. You’ll always see him play smart and play hard. He has improved significantly and the best part is, the improvement and the leadership he has shown as been in the times of growth that we needed after our two losses.”

More specifically, Kemper has been a rock of sorts that others have leaned on when the entire defense has not played up to par. Instead of letting everyone lean back on their heels or be dejected, Kemper has been there to provide stability and leadership, getting the improving process under way immediately both times.

Communication between the two has been key all year and they expect much of the same this weekend.

Kemper said the pressure on all of the defenders to perform better has gone up with each passing week. As the teams get better, so do the defenses, making it harder for anyone to score goals.

“The pressure really comes on us to keep (opponents) down to minimal goals to help our offense so that don’t have to put up a lot goals in for us to win,” Kemper said. “So there’s a lot more pressure (on us).”

But that’s OK with both. Games like the ones they will play in this weekend are the ones they’ve wanted to play in for some time.

“When we were both on (junior varsity) in tenth grade, this is what we were expecting out of our senior year,” Saddler said. “I’d really like to put up a zero – I hate getting scored on.”

And that would really be something for them to crow about.

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