Cougs capitalize against Ravens

Central Kitsap tight end Caleb Brown delivers a stiff arm to an Auburn Riverside defender en route to a 44-yard touchdown catch in Friday’s 41-27 CK win.  - Photo by Aaron Managhan
Central Kitsap tight end Caleb Brown delivers a stiff arm to an Auburn Riverside defender en route to a 44-yard touchdown catch in Friday’s 41-27 CK win.
— image credit: Photo by Aaron Managhan

Central Kitsap football coach Mark Keel was a very happy man Friday night.

“I love it!” Keel yelled to his team in the locker room following the night’s 41-27 home win against Auburn Riverside.

“I love it!” his players yelled back in unison.

“We 2-0!” Keel bellowed.

“We 2-0!” his team echoed.

Keel then filled the locker room with a forceful yell that matched the intensity his team showed on the field in getting revenge against a squad that trounced the Cougs 31-0 a year ago. The yell got louder as his players joined in.

The show of emotion was understandable as the Cougars began the 2007 season 2-0 for the first time since joining the Narrows League after the 1998-99 school year.

“To be 2-0 is nice, as you can see,” Keel said, pointing to his players while they bounced around one another in a celebratory huddle. “You can see how happy they are.”

While quarterback Jason Simonis’ arm and running back Howie McDonald’s legs fronted CK’s offensive output, the Cougars’ defense stole the show, forcing six turnovers, including four interceptions, and recording four sacks against the Ravens (1-1).

“We knew we were gonna have to shut down their run,” Keel said of the defensive game plan. “This week we did a lot in practice to prepare for that. And it paid off on the field.”

Offensively, Simonis was 8-of-12 for 123 yards and two scores, connecting with tight end Caleb Brown on a 44-yard strike and later in the game with sophomore wideout Christian Wesley for a 12-yard touchdown. But once again, McDonald stole the show, piling up 227 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries.

But McDonald didn’t take the credit himself.

“This year, they do their job,” he said of the team’s offensive line. “That’s why I’m having some pretty good games.”

The Cougars burst out of the games early with Brown’s touchdown reception coming on CK’s first play from scrimmage (following a 5-yard encroachment penalty on AR). McDonald added two scores in the second quarter and Wesley made his touchdown catch with a little under 90 seconds to play in the half.

That built CK a 27-0 lead at the half, leading many to consider the game already over.

“I think everyone thought that,” McDonald said.

But the Ravens, a 3A South Puget Sound League perennial contender, put their first points on the scoreboard midway through the third frame, while holding CK scoreless at the same time. That preceded a slugfest in the fourth quarter, as AR outscored CK 21-14 in the final frame.

“That was crazy,” McDonald said.

When asked if he was happy with the halftime lead, Keel said yes, but no too.

“I wasn’t happy with that at all,” Keel said, meaning he didn’t want his players to lose intensity with a comfortable lead. “We questioned the players a couple times to see if they were satisfied. As a young team, that’s something you have to do. You have to know how to hold a lead.”

CK got contributions up and down the lineup, with Cole Adams scoring on a 30-yard run in the fourth, Glen Hewey picking off three passes and with Brown finishing with three catches for 67 yards and a score, fighting through tough coverage to help create his own opportunities.

“We know that Caleb all year is gonna get attention (from defenses),” Keel said. “He understands that. He’s doing a good job of not being selfish.”

Brown also added a pick defensively and laid a hit on Raven receiver Dalton Thomas that saved a pivotal touchdown in the fourth quarter. Thomas finished with 168 receiving yards and two scores for AR.

“He had a real big hit there too to save that touchdown,” Keel said. “I think that was a hit he knew he had to make.”

As for Hewey, Keel said the senior is a guy he’s very comfortable with in the secondary.

“He’s a good player,” Keel said. “He’s got a really good understanding of the passing offense.”

While Hewey should have been celebrating his third pick, he was grimacing a little instead.

“I wanted to drop to the floor but the guy grabbed me,” he said of the play. “It twisted my ankle a little.”

But that didn’t dampen his spirits at being 2-0.

“It’s wonderful,” Hewey said. “We’ve never been undefeated 2-0.”

The entire defense made key plays, with Allen Hewey and Brandon Joiner each recording a sack, Will Morris and Cameron Salley sharing one and Mike Crowley recording a fumble. The CK defense as a whole recorded a gang sack.

“We got great pressure from the guys up front,” McDonald said of the ‘D.’ “They’re the anchor of the team.”

As for McDonald, Keel said it’s apparent how much passion he plays with.

“The guy loves to run the ball,” Keel said. “All night, taking hits, cramping up. And he’s smiling the whole time. The guy just loves to play football.”

With South Kitsap up next, the Cougars will be thinking revenge for the third consecutive week. But no one is getting ahead of themselves.

“You know, last year we were both 0-3 going in and that didn’t go too well,” Keel said. “We know what to expect from them. But they’re always tough.”

“That’s what we hope to do,” McDonald said. “I’m not making any predictions, but I think we have a good shot.”

“I just worry about my team,” Hewey added. “We got 2-0, let’s celebrate Friday. Then we’ve got South. We’re back to 0-0.”

Regardless of what happens on the field this Friday, as the Wolves (1-1) travel to Silverdale Stadium for the 7:30 p.m. nightcap, McDonald said the wheels are in motion to keep CK moving forward.

“I think this year is the year,” McDonald said. “We can turn it around; get CK back where it should be.”

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