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Klahowya’s nest still full of talent
Nearly entire team returns to make 2008 run.
Now introducing, the 2007 Klahowya Eagles.
With just four graduated seniors and the loss of only one key underclassmen to a family move, the Klahowya Eagles of 2008 figure to shape up a lot like the Klahowya Eagles of yesteryear. But for 10th-year KSS coach Brad Hamblet, that’s just fine.
“This is great,” Hamblet said, adding he’s never had such a large group of returners.
The 2A Eagles went 5-5 last year playing as one of the Olympic League’s smallest schools against its largest 3A competitors, finishing second to Sequim for the 2A crown. Klahowya made it back to the state preliminary round.
Now, as the 2A Olympic League teams (KSS, Sequim, Kingston and North Mason) rejoin the Nisqually League for football, the Eagles are hoping another state berth is within reach.
With having so many players back, the Eagles have been able to hit the ground running.
“Actually, I don’t know if we jump into things faster as much as we don’t have to re-teach everything,” Hamblet said. “We just have to teach the same things.”
Also, the team returns virtually all of its leadership, transforming from a team with just four seniors to a team with more than 15.
“Leadership is fantastic,” Hamblet said. “These guys played a full season last year. They know what they want and they know what they need to do to get it done.”
The Eagles return a backfield that accumulated nearly 3,000 yards on the ground last season.
Andre Moore made the biggest splash, rushing 169 times for 1,591 yards and 17 scores. Cody Hertenstein gave the Eagles a two-headed monster, as he carried the ball 149 times for 779 yards and eight more scores.
“When we have the whole backfield back, you’re not gonna change a lot at all,” Hamblet said. “This is definitely gonna be a good-attitude team.”
The only loss to the group is fullback Jeremy Alder, whose bruising style will be missed, as his family moved to Arizona. Alder rushed for 210 yards and three scores last year, third on the team in both.
As a result, Hamblet said he’ll look at players like Randy Schmittler and Sam Harris to move into the fullback spot this year.
“One is move Randy Schmittler to full back with his speed,” Hamblet said. “He doesn’t have the size but he definitely has the speed. (Sam)’s been working pretty hard. He’s been doing a great job.”
Danny Zimny is back under center for the Eagles. While Klahowya will remain a run-first team, Hamblet said Zimny’s been working hard and the team is more comfortable going to the air this year. Transfer Darell Newman, who played baseball and basketball for KSS after transferring from North Mason after last fall, is pushing for time as the backup quarterback as well.
“We’re hoping to implement a little more of that into the offensive attack,” Hamblet said. “I think he’s feeling pretty good about it. Although we do have a transfer who’s been pressing him. But Danny’s a competitor.”
Most of the line is back, with the exception of senior Taylor Cole. That means Dominic Cruz, Paul Kelly, Cody Shaputis, Darren Norwood, Chad Reeder, Alex Andrews, David Dawson and others will be back to open holes.
“I’m actually really happy with our line,” Hamblet said. “They actually really excelled at our summer camp. I’m really, really happy with how that line has come together.”
So even with teams focusing on the Eagle running game, Hamblet said his team will be ready too.
“I think they can take it up a step this year,” he said. “Other teams are going to be honed in on that. But I think they’re ready to step up to that challenge.”
Even though the line may not have the size of some teams, the hearts of guys like Dawson, who is less than 6 feet tall and 200 pounds, more than makes up for it.
“David Dawson is not the biggest kid on the line,” Hamblet said. “But he’s definitely a bulldog.”
The team’s only clear weakness early will be the secondary, as Alex Schell was lost to graduation after leading the Eagles with two picks while recording 63 tackles. Newman will step into the secondary, where Hamblet said the team is strong, but not very deep.
“Our defensive backs, we’re thin, but the guys we have there are solid,” he said. “Darell Newman falls into that group really well.”
For the third-straight year, the Eagles open the season against Bremerton, this time traveling to Memorial Stadium Friday for the 7 p.m. season kickoff. Klahowya won the previous two meetings, but took last season’s just 28-27.
“I don’t think have to tell them anything,” Hamblet said about preparing his team. “They know it was close both times. I think the kids are confident with the abilities they have.”
After all, it wouldn’t be the first time the Eagles have lined up opposite a larger squad.
“They know we could be outmanned in terms of numbers,” he said. “They know they have to be a player on both sides of the ball.”
With the league change this year, the Olympic League’s 2A schools will do battle with Eatonville, Fife, Steilacoom and Washington.
“We’re familiar with all of them now,” Hamblet said. “The only one we’re not familiar with is Washington. But I do know this. All those teams are good. We’re gonna have to be ready for every single one of them.”
But Fife, which Klahowya battles on Oct. 10 for its homecoming game, offers a chance to avenge the Eagles’ last two losses in the state preliminary round. Fife won in 2006 56-8 while the Eagles cut the disparity in a 49-21 loss last year.
“We’re excited about playing them,” Hamblet said. “The kids are not looking past anyone to get there. But we’d like to kind of set the record straight a little bit.”
With the opener coming up, Hamblet knows his team will be talented. As long as the team stays healthy, he believes his Eagles can challenge anyone in the new Olympic League-Nisqually League.
“My only fear is we’re thin,” he said. “We have the players, but if any of these guys get hurt, it could be a tough go. We have to keep these guys healthy throughout the entire season.”