SK to open ’09 season in the spotlight, on a grand stage

None of the players within South Kitsap’s football program have played on a field larger than the high school.

But that’s all about to change.

The Wolves begin their season at noon Saturday against Kennewick in the Emerald City Kickoff Classic at Qwest Field.

“We’re really excited,” senior guard/defensive tackle Nick Boss said. “We’re anxious to start, but that’s natural. We’re prepared.”

That begins with the tempo, which has been an emphasis during fall camp. Coach D.J. Sigurdson, who also will assume the role of offensive coordinator from Eric Canton, wanted to increase the team’s pace with the hope of creating more focus among players. Sigurdson said Canton was looking to spend more time with his family, and was replaced by former Washington State running back Derek Sparks.

“We’re trying to be more proactive about that,” Sigurdson said. “We’re trying to get in and out of the huddle. We seem to finish things a little better than in the past, but it’s still early.”

The players say they’ve adjusted to the practice routine, which Boss called “intense,” and are ready to take it into the game. Another transition begins today with the practice schedule. Sigurdson planned to meet his players at 9 a.m. with practice running until 11:30 a.m. to transition to the early kickoff.

He will gather the team at 8 a.m. Saturday at the high school, with the bus leaving an hour later. Sigurdson hopes to arrive at the stadium by 10:30 a.m.

“We’ll try and keep the pre-game as normal as possible because they’ll be pretty excited,” he said.

South opened its season just four years ago at Qwest Field with a 35-33 loss against Mercer Island. The Islanders finished with 333 yards of total offense, 290 of that coming on the ground.

“The venue didn’t get the better of us,” Sigurdson said. “We just got outcoached and outplayed.”

Most of the Wolves were playing at the one of the junior highs during that time, but they’re still aware of how it pertains to them against the Lions.

“We need to be able to stop the run on defense,” junior running back/linebacker Michael Neiner said. “They like to run trick plays.”

Kennewick finished just 2-8 last year, but has experienced somewhat of a revitalization under eighth-year coach Bill Templeton. He took over a program that had a 2-25 record in Warren Hull’s three seasons, and went 9-3 two years ago.

The Lions haven’t advanced to state since 1993, but the program went to state eight times in the 1980s under Ed Troxel. In the only meeting between the schools, Troxel guided his team into the 1983 Class AAA state semifinals, winning 49-21. The Lions finished a program-best second at state that year.

“There’s a lot of tradition,” said Sigurdson, who played with Kennewick assistant Ty Fisher at Eastern Washington. “They’ve got a bunch of guys who played with Coach Troxel who are coaching there. They’ll get them going.”

Kennewick returns several players at its skill positions, including quarterback Trent Brown and running back Jesse Gutierrez.

“They have a lot of returners and should be pretty experienced,” senior running back/linebacker Robert Issa said. “They should give us a good fight.”

After coaching his team through camp at Eastern to the present, Sigurdson is ready to see how his team adjusts during the game.

“It’s exciting to see us go through that challenge,” he said. “We’re ready to play someone else. We’re ready for that game tempo and seeing kids perform.”

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