FOOTBALL | Wolves ready for evening practices

Many players do not see stadium lights illuminated until the first game of the season.

South Kitsap is an exception.

The Wolves, along with other high-school football programs across the state, opened practice Wednesday. But South did not take the field until 6 p.m.

There are multiple reasons behind that. Coach Eric Canton said the first is that even though players were required to submit paperwork by 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, he knows from past experience that does not always happen. For that reason, Canton said some players missed the first practice when he coached at Bremerton (1996-98) and now at South, where he enters his third season.

“The first year was the same old stuff,” Canton said. “Kids did not have their paperwork in. Invariably by noon — when we’re done with practice — they’re bringing their paperwork in. We just decided to give them that day to get their paperwork done.”

Canton acknowledged that skeptics might say he is “coddling them a little bit,” but he added that the program only has a dozen days to hold 14 practices.

“We don’t have time,” he said. “It’s not a luxury.”

The adjustment was not made for just because of paperwork, though. After all, the Wolves will hold several practices that are scheduled to run as late as 8:30 p.m. through Sept. 4. Canton said he likes the idea of holding the annual “Wolf Run” at night because one of his players became sick and lost 14 pounds two years ago when it was held in 90-degree heat. The 41st Wolf Run requires linemen to run six laps in 12 minutes and skill players to complete seven laps under the same time limit. That run is scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday after the team’s practice.

But Canton, who held two night practices leading up to last year’s season-opener, also likes the idea of preparing his team for game conditions. Some coaches believe it makes most sense to practice at the same time their team plays. Canton subscribes to that thought process.

“We’re trying to acclimate ourselves to that,” he said, adding that his team won’t continue with night practices during the school year because he feels it would create challenges with players finishing their classwork.

After a week of practice, South will scrimmage Wednesday. Canton said he met Gonzaga Prep coach Dave McKenna, who holds a scrimmage that mirrors a game-day environment.

“They get their pre-game out of the way,” Canton said. “They go through all of that stuff, so when you roll out their Friday night, you don’t have to reteach it.”

Senior running back Marshaud DeWalt, a captain, likes the change.

“I like night practices way more because it gives you time to rest,” he said. “You’re under the lights and all of that.”

• The Wolves lost five assistant coaches — Ryan Bradley, Marcus Logue, Jared Prince, Chad Stanley and Matt Winfrey — from last year’s staff.

“That’s way more turnover than I want,” Canton said.

He said it is a difficult situation to avoid because the stipend coaches receive is minimal compared with the hours they work.

• Cory Vartanian, who is one of four returning assistants along with Dustin Booth, Troy Charlton and Rob Ells, will serve as South’s offensive coordinator. He also will call plays, which Canton did in each of the last two seasons. Canton still will call defensive plays.

“It will be different — and difficult — because I like it so much,” Canton said.

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