Playing for pigskin pride

From the smallest programs may come the biggest satisfaction this high school football season.

That certainly shapes up to be the case for local high school football teams a week into the 2004 season, as little 2A Klahowya kicked off with a big win, while Central Kitsap and Olympic, both 4A schools, regroup in practice this week after resounding road defeats.

Klahowya Eagles

The Eagles, who have big expectations after returning 16 seniors from last year’s 3-7 squad, opened Nisqually League play Friday night with a 21-0 victory at Forks.

It was a victory that kept in line with what Coach Brad Hamblet saw in practice — a speedy, well-sized defense creating opportunities for an offensive work in progress.

“Defensively, it was what I expected,” Hamblet said. “Offensively, we were a bit shaky ... we’ve got a little bit of work to do.”

Nowhere was the contrast more stark than in the turnover numbers. The Eagles picked off four Forks passes, and one, a 68-yard return by senior Corey Huffman, provided Klahowya’s first touchdown of the season. Cody Kirkpatrick picked off two more passes and A.J. Cobb had another.

Jerid Sturman-Cayman, a 5-9, 220-pound senior who anchors the Eagle defense as an inside linebacker, contributed to 23 tackles.

There were bright spots on offense as well, as senior Brett Collier provided the game’s second touchdown with a 77-yard fourth-quarter burst and Sam Rucker capped the scoring with a 15-yard run. But it took a while to get to that point, as the Eagles’ offense fumbled six times, losing the ball four times.

Hamblet will happily take the “W,” but says the Eagles’ true test of its standing in the Nisqually League will come this Friday when Klahowya plays perennial league contender Orting in a 5 p.m. contest at Silverdale Stadium. (Orting thumped the Eagles last year, 34-6, and opened its 2004 campaign last Friday with a 32-0 thrashing of Hoquiam.)

And as far as making the playoffs for the first time in the school’s seven-year-old history?

“I don’t like to make predictions, because there’s a lot of things that can go wrong along the way,” Hamblet said. “We have a good core of seniors, but not a lot of depth. A lot depends of whether we stay healthy.

“If we do, then we’ll have a pretty good team.”

Olympic Trojans

Last year, Olympic opened its season with a 42-7 win over Mount Tahoma — and finished the season 4-6.

This year, the Trojans opened play with a 32-12 loss to the south Tacoma school, which got its first win in two years after going 0-10 in 2003.

Does that, in the perverse way of seasonal patterns, portend a change for the better?

Olympic Coach Carlton Cooper admits his inexperienced squad is going to have to grow up in a hurry to make that happen.

“I expected us to be a little more crisp than we were,” Cooper said of the season-opening loss, in which the Trojans turned over the ball six times and made numerous other errors, such as snapping the ball over its punter’s head. And to add injury to insult, Olympic lost its starting center and a starting defensive tackle to injuries.

Senior Tyrone Taylor was one of the team’s few bright spots, scoring both Trojan touchdowns on runs of 5 and 33 yards. He finished with 68 yards on 12 carries to lead an Olympic attack that managed 230 total offensive yards.

But Cooper said he’s confident in the team’s potential to show vast improvement.

“If we can clean up the little things,” he said, “we’ll have closer games.”

That’s what it’ll take to be competitive in the Narrows League Bridge Division, which features two of the Puget Sound region’s best quarterbacks — North Kitsap’s Jared Prince and Gig Harbor’s Matt Shearer — and one of the state’s best running backs in Shelton’s Isaiah Tatio.

“It’s going to be pretty tough this year,” Cooper said.

The Trojans will get another chance to warm up for its division schedule this Saturday when they travel to Ingraham of Seattle for a 1 p.m. contest.

Central Kitsap Cougars

By the numbers, Central Kitsap’s recent fate has been much like its next-door 4A neighbor to the south. The Cougars, who also finished 4-6 last year, opened the 2004 campaign with a 42-7 non-league thumping at the hands of Evergreen of Vancouver last Saturday.

Coach Mark Keel’s squad generated little offense — its only touchdown came on a second-quarter fumble recovery by Ben Hornsey. Daniel Mayfield led a modest rushing attack with 14 carries for 71 yards.

And despite forcing three early fumbles, the Cougar defense was run over for six offensive touchdowns totaling 222 yards — on the scoring plays alone.

Things don’t figure to get much easier Friday night when the Cougars host a perennial Metro League heavyweight in O’Dea of Seattle.

But then again, the big news this week was Bellevue’s upset of De La Salle of California, a nationally celebrated school with a 151-game winning streak stretching back 13 seasons.

So anything can happen.

As two-way Cougar player Danny Van Datta told the Reporter a few weeks ago: “The coaches think we can be a state championship team this year and we believe them.

“We’re all friends and if we can get together as a team, we can win as a team.”

Hopefully starting Friday.

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