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Cougars end season on high note
Central Kitsap High School head football coach Mark Keel knew his team had a tall task against Skyline High School last week, so he went to the tapes.
Keel normally packs his week of practices watching film of the opposition, but the Cougars had extra motivation, and an additional day, to prepare for the state's top high school football program in a Class 4A state preliminary playoff round game on Nov. 6. Central Kitsap fell short of upsetting the Spartans with a 16-14 loss in Sammamish. The nail-biting game surprised those expecting a blowout, but Keel wasn't the least bit shocked.
“Our motivation was that we knew a lot of people were probably there just to see us get blown out,” Keel said. “The key was that we watched a lot of film. We watched film almost everyday just so they could get over the initial 'ah' of Skyline.
“Our guys had the opportunity to see them as high school boys, just like they are. We needed to show more film so they could look more human.”
The Cougars kept close with Skyline throughout the entire game, with the two-point difference coming from a safety in the second quarter when Central Kitsap snapped the ball out of the end zone. Keel's defensive squad was able to tame the high-powered Spartans, but Central Kitsap couldn't muster enough on offense to pull off the mammoth upset. Keel believes a stout defense could be the key to a victory, as long as the offense finds a spark, which wasn't the case for the Cougars.
Neverthe-less, Central Kitsap played a surprisingly competitive game against Skyline, a challenge that his players met head-on.
“Skyline showed us a lot of things that we don't normally see in this league, whether it's the athleticism or the schemes,” Keel said. “We had an extra day to prepare and come in Saturday morning. We saw some things that we felt we could take advantage of and our guys were able to accept the challenge.”
Central Kitsap finished the season 6-4, including a 4-3 record in the Narrows League. When Keel reflected on the 2010 season, he mentioned the Cougars' upset win at Eastlake, a perennial KingCo powerhouse program. Central Kitsap edged out the team from Sammamish, 13-10, and the victory set the stage, and expectations, for the remainder of the season. Keel admits he didn't foresee such an outcome against Eastlake in the first week of the season.
“I really was not expecting that,” Keel said. “I was expecting just to see where we were as a team and try to be competitive, and then we ended up beating them on the road and that was amazing for us.
"We all felt pretty darn good about our football program and it surely set the expectation for the year."
Keel was impressed the Cougars were able to rally around a strong senior class and finish with an inspired performance against Skyline. The team will graduate 16 seniors in June, and Keel feels the Cougars have a strong sophomore and junior classes to sustain success in 2011 and 2012.
"Next year will be a rebuilding year," Keel said. "We've already recognized that those guys are all gone, and now we're going to have to start developing over the springtime, summer, preseason, and start developing again."
He credited the seniors for developing a spirit of camaraderie and selflessness.
"The expectation is to get that back, and without that, it doesn't matter who the players are, we won't be successful," he said. "That's the goal."