It felt like many crisp nights throughout the years at Joe Knowles Stadium where South Kitsap imposed its physicality on opponents.
But this time, it was the Wolves who were pushed around during Friday’s 35-14 loss in a nonleague game against Newport.
South (1-1) actually took an early lead when junior Ramon Marin blocked a Tariq Muhammad punt and returned it to the Knights’ 1-yard line. After a delay of game penalty, junior quarterback Cooper Canton found senior Marcus Burk for a 6-yard touchdown pass.
It proved to be a short-lived highpoint for South. After taking possession at its own 41, Newport (2-0) needed just four plays to tie the game when senior Nkumbu Chisebuka scored on a 45-yard run. Chisebuka rushed for 193 yards on 13 carries.
But South coach Eric Canton attributed much of that success to another area.
“We just played a state-playoff football team,” said Canton, who even changed his T-shirt at halftime in hopes of changing his team’s fortunes. “They dominated the line of scrimmage and that’s what football’s all about.”
That was reflected in the halftime statistics. Using a series of counter plays out of its wishbone offense, Newport was able to move the ball effective even though it only attempted one pass, which fell incomplete, during the opening 30 minutes. The Knights rushed for 243 yards on 29 carries at the intermission.
“The most surprising part was how they ran the ball,” said South senior defensive back Logan Knowles, adding that his team was missing a couple of players who could have helped contain the run. “They had one play — it was a counter — that came back the other way. We really needed to adjust our entire game plan to stop that play.”
Meanwhile, the Wolves only had 31 yards of total offense at halftime.
The disparity in those numbers normally would indicate a blowout. But South only trailed 21-7 — and it could have been closer. After Paul Wells capped an 11-play drive with a 27-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, South nearly forced a three-and-out on Newport’s ensuing possession. But on fourth-and-4, a Wolves’ player jumped offsides. The Knights’ took advantage of the opportunity as quarterback Jordan Sanberg scored on a 1-yard run with 16 seconds remaining until halftime.
“As I’ve said, we’re young,” Canton said. “That’s basically a first-year player and I’m not going to rip his head off. He’s trying to go hard and make a play and that’s what we want.”
South’s most effective offensive drive of the game came during the opening possession of the third quarter. Buoyed by a pair of personal-foul penalties against Newport and a 17-yard completion from Canton to Burk, the Wolves needed less than three minutes to score on an eight-play drive. They reduced their deficit to 21-14 when Canton found senior Joshua Franklin in a sea of Knights’ defenders for a 5-yard touchdown.
Again, the momentum shift was fleeting as Newport’s Tyren Sams returned the kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown.
The Knights, who compete in the Class 4A KingCo League, appeared poised to blowout South late in the third quarter until junior linebacker Marshaud DeWalt recovered a Brian Setijono fumble at the goal line.
That miscue gave the Wolves another opportunity to reduce their deficit into single digits. Canton, who completed 7 of 18 passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns, found senior Logan Knowles for a 34-yard completion to Newport’s 17. But Canton was intercepted during the following play on a throw into the end zone.
South then forced a three-and-out and a short punt gave it possession at the Knights’ 26. But the Wolves, who moved the ball without issue during its 40-0 win Sept. 5 at Kentridge, turned it back over on downs.
Calvin Throckmorton, a 6-foot-6, 265-pound junior left tackle who already holds an offer from the University of Washington, said his teammates were cognizant of South’s 33-27 win last season at Newport, which was secured on a late interception. The Knights ensured there would not be any late-game drama when Chisebuka broke a 55-yard run and Wells followed with an 8-yard touchdown carry.
“These first two games … we wanted to come in and smack them,” said Throckmorton, whose team also avenged last season’s season-opening loss against Capital with a 35-7 win Sept. 6 versus the Cougars.
South now moves into 4A Narrows League play at 7 p.m. Friday against Gig Harbor at Roy Anderson Field.
“I’m glad we have an opportunity to learn from our mistakes,” Canton said. “We’ve got to get better. It doesn’t matter who our opponent is.”
Newport 35, at South Kitsap 14
Newport 7 14 7 7 — 35
South Kitsap 7 0 7 0 — 14
SK-Marcus Burk 6 pass from Cooper Canton (Nolan Souza kick)
N-Nkumbu Chisebuka 45 run (Chido Chang kick)
N-David Kim 27 run (Chang kick)
N-Jordan Sanberg 1 run (Chang kick)
SK-Joshua Franklin 5 pass from Canton (Souza kick)
N-Tyren Sams 75 kickoff return (Chang kick)
N-Wells 8 run (Chang kick)
Passing-Sanberg (N) 0-1-0-0, JP Routen (N) 0-1-0-0, Canton (SK) 7-18-1-96.
Rushing-Chisebuka (N) 13-193, Sanberg (N) 7-24, Conner Baumann (N) 10-59, David Kim (N) 4-13, Brian Setijono (N) 5-29, Wells (N) 7-86, Terro Bell (SK) 11-30, Corey Bell (SK) 3-6, Marshaud DeWalt (SK) 8-40, Ramon Marin (SK) 2-5, Canton (SK) 2-2, Li’i Kalima (SK) 3-3, Tanner Paulson (SK) 1-14.
Receiving-Burk (SK) 2-23, Logan Knowles (SK) 2-44, Marin (SK) 1-7, Franklin (SK) 2-22.