Sports

Knights could be singling a happier tune

"The Backstreet Boys and N'Sync don't have any worries - nobody from the Bremerton High School football team is coming for their jobs.Judging from the Knights' daily post-practice rendition of the school's fight song, led by third-year coach Shawn Perkins, there aren't any aspiring teeny-bop singing stars on the roster.But there are some football players. They won't make an impact on the pop charts, but the Knights just might throw a scare - or more - into some Narrows League Bridge Division opposition this season.This is a pretty good group. We've got some talented players, and we're hungry to get better, says Perkins, who took the Knights to a mid-summer team camp at Central Washington University to get this season kick-started.There already was some momentum. Bremerton's inter-division victory over Mt. Tahoma (the two were the eighth-place teams from their respective Narrows divisions), sent the Knights into the winter on a winning note, ending a 23-game losing streak.It's time to build on that success, and the potential his team showed during the summer, Perkins says.We've got a lot of guys who believe in the system; they're more disciplined, willing to learn, he says. We've done a lot of little things that are going to help us be better.Not content to just rest with those improvements in the little things, though, Perkins made a big change after last season, scrapping the wishbone offense in favor of a spread set that gives his experienced, speedy skill players a lot of ways to give opposing defenses fits.We've got a lot of ways to score, says assistant coach Mike McKnight. Other teams aren't going to know where we're coming from.In the past, we had one wide receiver, Perkins adds, so other teams could double-team him, then basically put nine guys up on the line to stop our run. This (new offense) plays into our team speed.Anthony Ragsdale and Justin Robinette, both pressed into service as sophomores last year, both can motor to the outside. But the biggest threat out of the backfield might be another junior, Tieba Bropleh, who Perkins said hit the weight room hard during the summer and came to practice a solid 195 pounds. Bropleh possesses both the speed to get wide and the power to go between the tackles.Then there's Adam Gent, back with the Knights after a year's absence, a 200-pound north-south runner who can churn out the tough inside yardage.As they did last year, Perkins has two quarterbacks he's comfortable with in senior Joe Bollinger (a part-time starter since his sophomore year) and junior Aubrey Neal. Both have shown they can move the team, but Bollinger's size and veteran stature might give him the edge.He's been a leader of this team since he was a sophomore, McKnight says. He's 6-foot-1, he's 210 pounds, he can throw, and the kids believe in him.But Neal, of whom Perkins says, He might be the real deal, is too good an athlete to not play. He'll get some snaps, and turn up in other situations where he can get his hands on the ball.Kellen Alley, who had a breakout game with three touchdown catches in a 52-28 loss to Central Kitsap late last season, heads up a tall, athletic receiver corps that also includes senior B.J. Ray and junior Reggie Williams.Perkins doesn't worry about the Knights' ability. He worries about their health. Traditionally, the ranks have been thin - late in the game and late in the season, Bremerton has worn down, leading to crippling mistakes.We play pretty good defense, he points out, but the problem has been that (the defense) has been out there too much.We're not deep; that's another problem we've had. A couple of key injuries, and we're hurtin'.If he can keep the troops on their feet, though, Perkins says he likes the Knights' chances to post some wins this season. He and his third-year seniors have been waiting a long time to taste success.It's so nice to have a set of kids that you've watched since they were sophomores, he says. They come through and stick with the program. Before, we've had like three or four seniors. This year, we're looking at, what - 10, 14, 15? It makes a big difference.Success isn't the only thing Perkins is expecting this football season. He and his wife, Kim, are due to greet their first child Sept. 15 - the night after the Knights' home opener against Olympic. The coaching staff might have to show some depth if Perkins' cell phone goes off at practice, or on the sideline during a game.We've got it all planned out, he grins of the succession of power should he be called away. "

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