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Saints hope 2006 just as magical
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
While the players on the field are largely the same ones that captured an NAFL2 national championship a year ago, the West Sound Saints had a huge turnover in administration in the offseason, one which the new ownership hopes will bring stability and a foundation to the organization.
Mike Murray, an offensive lineman for the team, bought the operation outright in April after purchasing a 50 percent share the month before. Former owner Matt Gates realized he would not have the time available to commit to the upcoming season, Murray said, and sold the remainder of the team.
Ive got a pretty big business background, Murray said. And Ive always been a little on the entrepreneurial side.
When Murray became a part of the Saints, he made a number of friends on the team and wanted to do right by them when he reorganized the management structure.
I decided to scrap the program, pay all the debt the team had and go back and do things right, he said. We gave the team a foundation that its never had before.
Stability comes to the Saints by way of a consistent practice schedule with the same three locations used, and better yet, the same home field for every game.
West Sound will play four regular season home games and will host any postseason play at Silverdale Stadium. Last year, the Saints primarily played at Roy Anderson Field in Purdy with other home engagements at Curtis High School in University Place, North Mason High School in Belfair and one playoff game at Silverdale Stadium.
New equipment is coming in by the truckload, including custom-designed uniforms. According to Murray, the Saints were the third-biggest customer of Riddell this season behind the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Huskies.
Murray is devoting plenty of time to the team, but hes certainly not going it alone. Rollis Talalemotu, director of operations, and Joe Diabo, general manager, are also making a big commitment, which can include taking time away from their everyday jobs.
Joe and Rollis are like my field lieutenants, Murray said. These guys deserve as much credit as I do.
Murray, a former Central Washington player, is currently attending college online and plans to complete his MBA in three years. He and his front office have also laid out a five-year plan for the team.
Were still in the very beginning stages of getting the program going right, he said. Its critical the guys see theres structure.
The program already has things going right in terms of talent. The vast majority of a 13-2 team is back and hungry to win an even greater honor this season.
It looks promising, said new coach Les Archer, promoted after four years as an assistant. Were optimistic (because) weve got veterans all hitting their prime now at 25 to 27 years old with three to five years of experience. I think, in their minds, they can accomplish anything.
Archer is proud to boast a 1-0 record as head man, with a national championship.
I dont know how many scenarios would lead to that, he said.
The Saints bring back size, experience and just plain nastiness on both sides of the line with players like Murray, Talalemotu, Diabo, Al Glover, Kevin Smith, Jackie Triplett and Mike Coe.
These are real good, dependable players, Archer said. Mike Coe played at PLU ... and hes versatile, he can play tackle, guard or center. Were looking to just dominate up front.
Marvin Bronson returns as quarterback and also will split out to wide receiver and find himself at strong safety, just as he did in last seasons playoffs. He forms a two-headed quarterback with Kyle Nelson, formerly of CWU, and more of a pocket passer when compared to Bronsons Michael Vick-style of play.
Justin Kelly, a former tight end, spreads wide to become a big, bruising flanker.
Hes gonna have a great year, Archer said. At 6-4, 220 pounds, not many corners with size can match up with that in our league.
The Saints are not going to come in rusty. Several key contributors are playing for the Seattle Stallions of the Pacific Northwest Football Conference, a newly formed spring league, and that team is undefeated with a shot at playing the league title game the same day as the Saints opener June 17 at Silverdale Stadium.
Archer said his players have pledged they are Saints first and will play in the title game should the opportunity arise before promptly making the drive to Olympic High School for round two.
Theres an opportunity for 2006 to be even better (than 2005), Archer said. It all came together in that Houston (playoff) game, I saw things click, people gelled. By Florida, they figured they could play with anybody.
Leadership comes from Bronson, Eddie Llamas, Malachi DeWalt and a fourth captain to be selected by the players. The only real question mark Archer can see is in the kicking game. Bronson can punt, but field goal kicking and kickoffs are still up in the air.
And the team wants to get fans out in force. According to the teams Web site, www.westsoundsaints.net, season tickets are available for purchase at a price of $20 for four home games at West Coast Fitness or by calling (360) 271-0827 for more information.
I think when people see the quality of ball were playing, theyll come back and bring their friends, Archer said. Its gonna be fun to watch. I know everybody wants to get us. We still have something to prove. Weve gotta do it with the target on (our) backs.