Sports

Expectations high for Olympic football

(Left) Blake Johnson, a senior captain, is Olympic’s leading wide receiver and top defensive player. (Above) Zach Bird, who is vying for the starting quarterback position, fires a pass during practice Tuesday. - Wesley Remmer/staff photos
(Left) Blake Johnson, a senior captain, is Olympic’s leading wide receiver and top defensive player. (Above) Zach Bird, who is vying for the starting quarterback position, fires a pass during practice Tuesday.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photos

Before a drizzly practice Tuesday at Silverdale Stadium, about 10 Olympic football players took turns kicking extra points and field goals.

Running back Larry Dixon took a few swings, as did wide receiver Blake Johnson, while an assistant coach barked into their helmets to mimic a game atmosphere.

Some of the kicks flew through the uprights, others skidded awkwardly across the waterlogged turf. But after each kick, there was a hoot or laugh or light-hearted yell.

Everyone involved was having fun.

“I think there’s a whole new level of excitement,” said Johnson, a senior captain who returns after missing the majority of 2008 due to injury.

There is reason to be excited at Olympic.

The Trojans, who last year finished 4-6 and lost in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs to Lakes, are deep, talented and poised to make a run. The team was 8-2 in 2007 and advanced to the playoffs.

Dixon, who is rated the top running back in the state by Washingtonpreps.com, is poised to break the West Sound rushing record, and Johnson, the team’s top receiver and defensive back and all-state-caliber player, is healthy.

It all begins with the 5-foot-10-inch, 215-pound Dixon, who in 2008 rushed for 1,840 yards (7.6 per carry) and scored 14 total touchdowns. The senior is lighter and faster than he was in 2008 and will have college scouts watching him all season.

“We have all the talent in the world,” Johnson said. “If we play the way we are capable of playing and the way we’ve been coached to play, we can beat anybody.”

With Eric Allen battling brain cancer, Tim Albee has shifted from assistant coach to interim head coach. The ex-Marine and Oly classroom instructor had never been the head man prior to this season, but the players appear to be buying into his system.

“He lets everybody know if he thinks they can do better or if they should do better,” Johnson said. “He’s pretty compassionate.”

It is unclear who will start at quarterback when the Trojans begin the season tomorrow against Eastside Catholic. Chris Groat and Zach Bird are vying for the starting job, but neither has emerged as the clear-cut favorite. Bird filled in last season after Groat went down with an injury.

“I have no idea who is going to start, really,” Johnson said.

On the defensive side of the ball, it will be Johnson who anchors the charge. A Division I recruit, Johnson had 12 interceptions in 2007 when he was healthy and will roam the secondary as a free safety this season.

Keinan Paulino and Keith Davis lead a linebacking group that is without tackling machines Garrett Brown and Shane Galeski, both of whom graduated in June. The team also has a healthy group of sophomores, many of whom could see playing time.

“We are a team. It doesn’t matter if you’re a senior, junior or sophomore; if you put on an Olympic jersey we’re going to fight for you to the end,” Johnson said. “I think the seniors this year have been very accepting.”

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