West Sound Orcas join the hunt tonight

Is this the season where the West Sound Orcas turn it around?

According to first-year coach Steve McDaniel, anything will be better than last year’s 4-9 season that was filled with player discontent and a lack-luster offense.

He’ll find out tonight at 6 p.m. when the team opens its season at Bremerton Memorial Stadium against the Snohomish County Vikings.

McDaniel, promoted from the team’s assistant ranks, has already made a difference to the team’s morale which shattered last year as offensive and defensive players banded in their own camps.

“These guys respect Steve,” said assistant coach John Corey. “I’ve been here 3-1/2 years and there’s less bickering than I’ve ever seen. They just want to get their nose down and play.”

The players have noticed the change in attitude as well.

“We’ve got a different mood,” said defensive back Dave Snyder. “Everything is a lot more positive and team oriented. The defense doesn’t feel like we have to do everything.”

Snyder, a teacher at Kingston Junior High and a football coach at North Kitsap High School, described McDaniels as being organized with a lot of energy and belief in his players.

“If I get in a lull, he’s there to pick me up,” Snyder said. “The guys are willing to sell out for him and that’s made a ton of difference.”

This year’s squad is a blend of old and new faces, including several former local high school players such as Klahowya grads Eric Mischenko and Dray Young and current Central Kitsap High School senior Randy Seau.

“I’m out here for the exposure,” said the 300-pound, 6-5 Seau. “And I’m learning a lot. It has gone from me pushing everybody else around to having to work to get to my position.”

Young, a former defensive lineman with the Eagles, said he’s waiting to finish college for the year before donning the pads.

“I’m going to play wherever they put me because I fell in love with the game in high school so I’m out here helping on Tuesday nights wherever I can,” Young said.

Leading the team’s offense is new quarterback Ramon Martinez who recently moved to the area from Chula Vista, Calif. where he spent a year playing at Grossmont College in nearby El Cajon.

Now he’s learning how to connect with his speedy receivers on high-percentage short passes with the occasional long bomb to open up opposing defenses.

“We have some good plays,” Martinez said. “The coaches have me at different formations. It’s like the West Coast offense -- I really like that.”

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