What’s new? Everything.
The easier question for the King’s might be “what’s not new?” The Knights graduated 19 seniors from last year’s team, including several all-conference stars like quarterback Billy Green (now playing at Brigham Young University), lineman Mason Friedline (Yale) and wide receiver/defensive back Caleb Taylor (Washington).
“It’s just personnel,” said King’s head coach Jim Shapiro. “Every high school program goes through it, no matter how good or how bad they were last year. You graduate a crop. Those kids behind them grow up. I think the greatest challenge is just to determine who’s going to be the guys.”
King’s still has a few key pieces from last year’s team, which won the first Cascade Conference title in school history. All-Cascade Conference second-teamers Lucas Swanson (wide receiver) and Zach Jacobson (offensive line) will help guide some of the younger Knights including new quarterback, Koa Wilkins, who is one of King’s 28 sophomores.
“The encouraging thing is I’ve seen a lot of our kids step up,” Shapiro said. “Names that you won’t know yet, or teams in our league won’t know yet, but by the end of the season you will know them pretty well.”
Returning all-conference players
Second team—Lucas Swanson (Sr., Wide Receiver), Zach Jacobson (Sr., Offensive Line), George Foster (Sr., Defensive Line).
Player to watch: Chris Yand, Sr., RB
Two seasons ago, Yand had what Shapiro called a “pretty severe knee injury” that sidelined him for the season. In his second game last season, he had a similar tweak to his other knee, which ended his junior campaign after just 18 carries (that went for 126 yards).
King’s has had high hopes for Yand the past couple seasons, but the senior just couldn’t stay healthy.
This season the hopes are just as high. However, Shapiro’s highest hope for Yand, who has missed most of the past two seasons, is that he can stay on the field.
“I’m hopeful that he stays healthy,” Shapiro said. “He has not been able to complete a high school season yet. But he’s healthy, he’s running hard, he’s a good leader so he’s a name to be watching for on both sides of the ball.”
Fresh Face: Koa Wilkins, So. QB
With Green graduating, the quarterback job was just one of several position battles for King’s over the summer. Wilkins, a sophomore, and junior Nick Severson spent the summer competing for the job, with Wilkins primed to get the starting nod when the season starts.
“Koa Wilkins is looking like the kid who’s really stepped up,” Shapiro said. “… If we had to start a game today we’d start Koa.”
Wilkins, who got some varsity time on defense last year, is just one of several fresh faces for a King’s squad that Shapiro said has “three or four” returning starters. In fact, Shapiro chuckled when asked for a “fresh face” to highlight.
“I laugh because they’re all fresh faces,” Shapiro said. “You can almost say any face out there.”
King’s will learn a lot about itself right off the bat. The Knights play Lynden, which has won the past two 2A state championships, in the Emerald City Kickoff Classic at newly-renovated Husky Stadium to open their season on Saturday, Sept. 7. The Knights will also be broadcast on ROOT Sports for the second time in as many years when they face Cedarcrest in a Thursday night game in Week 6.
In a conference where several teams at the top lost a lot of players to graduation, King’s should be in the mix for another conference title. The young players are going to have to step up, something that always seems to happen under Shapiro, and the Knights are going to have to take care of division foes Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood, but King’s should get back to the 1A state playoffs and could finally get that quarterfinals monkey of its back.
“This is my 20th season on this field and I haven’t been this excited in a long time,” Shapiro said. “Meaning, last year I loved it. Those kids were pretty easy to coach. I could sit back on my Barcalounger, drink a root beer and just kind of watch them play. They were that kind of group. This group’s kind of the unknown. But I think the things I see in them are really exciting. I’m excited to see how they get battle-tested. So my hopes are really high.”
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