Sports

Saints expecting stability, success this season

While the players on the field are largely the same ones that captured an NAFL2 national championship a year ago, the West Sound Saints had a huge turnover in administration in the offseason, one the team’s new ownership hopes will bring stability and a “foundation” to the organization.

Mike Murray, an offensive lineman for the team, bought the operation outright in April after purchasing a 50 percent share the month before. Former owner Matt Gates realized he wouldn’t have the time available to commit to the upcoming season, Murray said, and sold the remainder of the team.

“I’ve got a pretty big business background,” Murray said. “And I’ve always been a little on the entrepreneurial side.”

When Murray became a part of the Saints, he made a number of friends on the team and wanted to do right by them when he reorganized the management structure.

“I decided to scrap the program, pay all the debt the team had and go back and do things right,” he said. “We gave the team a foundation that it’s never had before.”

Stability comes to the Saints by way of a consistent practice schedule with the same three locations used and, better yet, the same home field for every game.

West Sound will play four regular season home games and will host any postseason play at Silverdale Stadium.

Last year, the Saints primarily played at Roy Anderson Field in Purdy with other “home” engagements at Curtis High School in University Place, North Mason High School in Belfair and one playoff game at Silverdale Stadium.

New equipment is coming in by the truckload, including custom-designed uniforms. According to Murray, the Saints were the third-biggest customer of Riddell this season behind the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Huskies.

Murray is devoting plenty of time to the team, but he’s certainly not going it alone. Rollis Talalemotu, director of operations, and Joe Diabo, general manager, are also making a big commitment, which can include taking time away from their everyday jobs.

“Joe and Rollis are like my field lieutenants,” Murray said. “These guys deserve as much credit as I do.”

Murray, a former Central Washington player, is currently attending college on-line and plans to complete his MBA in three years. He and his front office have also laid out a five-year plan for the teams.

“We’re still in the very beginning stages of getting the program going right,” he said. “It’s critical the guys see that there’s structure.”

The program already has things going right in terms of talent. The vast majority of a 13-2 team is back and hungry to win an even greater honor this season.

“It looks promising,” said new head coach Les Archer, promoted after four years as an assistant. “We’re optimistic (because) we’ve got veterans all hitting their prime now at 25 to 27 years old with three to five years of experience. I think, in their minds, they can accomplish anything.”

Archer is proud to boast a 1-0 record as head man, with a national championship.

“I don’t know how many scenarios would lead to that,” he said.

The Saints bring back size, experience and just plain nastiness on both sides of the line, with players like Murray, Talalemotu, Diabo, Al Glover, Kevin Smith, Jackie Triplett and Mike Coe.

“These are real good, dependable players,” Archer said. “Mike Coe played at PLU ... and he’s versatile, he can play tackle, guard or center. We’re looking to just dominate up front.”

Marvin Bronson returns at quarterback and will also split out to wide receiver and find himself at strong safety, just as he did in last season’s playoffs.

He forms a two-headed quarterback with Kyle Nelson, formerly of Central Washington University, and is more of a pocket passer when compared to Bronson’s Michael Vick-style of play.

Justin Kelly, formerly a tight end, spreads wide to become a big, bruising flanker.

“He’s gonna have a great year,” Archer said. “At 6-4, 220 pounds, not many corners with size can match up with that in our league.”

Look for a bulked up Ramon Martinez to be out there catching the ball as well. Martinez added 15 pounds in the offseason, Archer said.

The Saints are not going to come in rusty. Several key contributors are playing for the Seattle Stallions of the Pacific Northwest Football Conference, a newly formed spring league, and that team is undefeated with a shot at playing the league title game the same day as the Saints’ opener June 17 at Silverdale Stadium.

Archer said his players have pledged they are Saints first and foremost and will play in the title game should the opportunity arise before promptly making the drive to Olympic High School for round two.

“There’s an opportunity for 2006 to be even better (than 2005),” Archer said. “It all came together in that Houston (playoff) game. I saw things click. People gelled. By Florida, they figured they could play with anybody.”

Leadership comes from Bronson, Eddie Llamas, Malachi DeWalt and a fourth captain to be selected by the players.

The only real question mark Archer can see is in the kicking game. Bronson can punt, but field goal kicking and kickoffs are still up in the air.

“We want somebody who’s solid from 40 yards in,” Archer said. “If our offense gets the ball to the 20, we should get points.”

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