Orange and Black have a passing fancy

CK quarterback Mike Custer, a junior, didn’t throw much as a sophomore but he did get to score his first touchdown pass last year against in-district rival Olympic. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
CK quarterback Mike Custer, a junior, didn’t throw much as a sophomore but he did get to score his first touchdown pass last year against in-district rival Olympic.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

Mike Custer has a golden arm.

As a sophomore he threw a javelin 172 feet, 4 inches and established a new record at Central Kitsap having the second farthest throw in Washington at Class 4A. Put a football in his hand and he’s equally impressive in launching 80-yard bombs downfield.

Now if he can use that arm in a game is one of the great unknowns since the Cougars receiving corps — and Custer — are largely untested.

“We’re going to try and throw the ball more,” said CK coach Mark Keel, who isn’t afraid to put the brakes on throwing the ball in exchange for the running plays which dominate the team’s game plan. “But we’ve got some some young guys who aren’t experienced in catching footballs.”

Keel, now in his third season at CK where he has a 10-8 record, had plenty of praise for his new quarterback.

“He’s smart, has a good arm, runs well and has good leadership,” Keel said. “And he’s a strong kid — he can do backflips across the field.”

Not that Custer isn’t accurate with a football. In practice he nails receivers right between the numbers. Unfortunately for him, a lot of those balls end up on the ground when receivers can’t find the handle.

“I like to get in quick,” Custer said. “But I can throw it soft, too. It all depends on the play.”

So could the Cougar Crazies see a Hail Mary this season? Don’t count on it.

“I don’t think we have it in the play book,” Custer said. “But I want to throw an 80-yard pass in a game.”

If given the chance to go for big yards, Custer’s likely target would be Adam Roy, another track star who ran with the Cougars 100- and 400-meter relay teams at state. With a 4.6-second 40-yard dash, he can make it down field in a hurry as a receiver or running back where he’ll share time in the backfield with Nick Bial and Josh Martinelli.

Keel said the trio, who have the tough task of replacing Blake Berryman, Thomas Driver and Dustin Wilson, have what it takes to pound through opposing defenses.

“They run as hard as any of the guys we had last year,” Keel said. “And we’re working on holding on to the football because we had too many turnovers at that position last year.”

“We’ve just been going over the basics — working on holding the ball and our techniques,” Roy explained.

The team’s bread-and-butter on offense is the run, but its defense is what keeps it in the game as evidenced in last year’s 21-13 surprise win against South Kitsap.

“We run a 4-3 defense with different coverages behind it,” Keel said. “We have really active linebackers who are good at filling their holes and a strong defensive line.”

“Our defense is going to lead the team,” said Roy, who also plays defensive back. “We have a lot of speed and our front line is the biggest we’ve had in awhile.”

The great unknown for the team is if it can play hard every down and not succumb to the mental lapses that plagued them last season.

“They have a better idea of what’s expected of them,” Keel said, noting the Class of 2003 has stepped up as leaders. “They have figured it out that as seniors, it’s up to them to make sure things are on track during the game.”

Take back a couple of onsides kicks and the Cougs would have been 7-2, not 5-4.

“Coach Keel tells us to play hard every

play and not let up,” senior middle lineman Mike Afalava said. “So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The road to glory will be a difficult one for the boys of Bucklin Hill.

“It’s a tough league,” said Keel, who led the Cougars to West Seattle yesterday to play Class 3A powerhouse O’Dea in a non-league game. “You give a nod to South Kitsap for being the top team, but after that it’s wide open.”

The players would like to win at South Kitsap Sept. 27 to prove last year wasn’t a fluke, but they’re not looking past Friday’s 5 p.m. home opener at Silverdale Stadium against Gig Harbor — a team they have yet to defeat despite shutting them down offensively in their last meeting.

Keel said his team is ready for the long season.

“They’ve worked hard,” he said. “I’ve pushed them physically and mentally until they reached a threshold of their limits. And I’ve pushed them through that threshold and they’ve responded positively.”

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