By Aaron Swaney, Aaron Lommers, David Krueger, Herald Writers
Everything at King’s
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.”
The Cougars were one of the most entertaining teams to watch a year ago. Playing a wide-open spread-option attack, the Cougars had a senior-heavy roster of athletic playmakers that were creative within the offense and made a number of highlight-reel plays.
This year those guys — Justin Peterson, Donovan Evan, Kolby Schueller, Brandon Stott — have graduated. Lakewood coach Dan Teeter is confident the Cougars are reloading.
“We’ve got kids who have been waiting their opportunity for a year or two and have worked their tails off,” Teeter said.
Many of the players who will have the ball in their hands this year for Lakewood didn’t a year ago. New quarterback Blake Watts and running back Palmer Gregory played almost entirely on the defensive side of the ball a year ago. Wide receivers Jacob VanWinkle and Brett Bustad were behind Peterson and Stott.
But Teeter doesn’t envision much change to the offense.
“It’s going to be a different style in how it looks, but we’re still going to throw the ball around quite a bit,” Teeter said. “It probably won’t be as polished as it’s been in year’s past.” Head coach at Murphy
In a season of turmoil, the Wildcats had three different head coaches and still made it to the 2A state quarterfinals.
This year, the Wildcats hope they have found the man that will lead them back to the playoffs for years to come in former Archbishop Murphy assistant coach Jerry Jensen, who was on staff with the original Wildcats head coach Terry Ennis.
“Murphy was a really special place when I came here in 2005,” Jensen said. “I was a witness to Coach Ennis starting the program in the beginning. It just holds a special place in my heart.”
Jensen, who was an assistant coach at Mount Vernon last year, said that he will stress competition, consistency and trying to improve on the field each day.
Culture at Sultan
Head coach Ben Murphy took over the program in 2010 with the goal of building the program into a perennial contender. The process has been slow — the Turks won one game in his first year, three in the second and four in the third. But the players believe this could be the year they break through.
“The attitude has gotten better,” senior Antonio Rivas said. “When we came in freshman year the leadership was there at points, but it wasn’t consistent enough like it is going to be this year and like it was last year. It’s more positive.”
This year’s senior class is the first to have played all four seasons under Murphy and it shows. The players buy into the program and believe in each other.
“We’ve been with him the whole time,” Rivas said. “So I think we’ve gotten a chance to know him and we’ve got better chemistry with him.”
Buying into what the coach is teaching is one thing, but if it doesn’t quickly transfer into victories, often times teams can lose focus. Luckily for the Turks, their four wins were good enough to earn a postseason game last season and give the team a sense of accomplishment.
“Last year we learned how to win,” senior offensive lineman and linebacker Taylor Comfort said. “We are ready to go.”
Kerry Jackson, Archbishop Murphy, RB
With many of last year’s team graduated, numerous spots were opened across the board for Archbishop Murphy. One position that needed to be filled was running back, where Jackson, a sophomore, has started to establish himself.
“He’s a kid that’s starting to figure out football a little bit,” Jensen said. “We get him moving in the right direction and he’s going to be able to do some things.”
Jensen said that Jackson is a talented athlete, and just needs to get some reps and experience on Friday nights.
“He’s got the raw tools,” Jensen said.
Koa Wilkins, King’s, QB
With Green graduated, 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.”
James Mackenzie, Sultan, RB/DB
Mackenzie saw varsity time for the Turks last season and will play a bigger role this season, although Murphy isn’t sure if he will start as of yet.
“I fully expect to see him on the field quite a bit,” he said.
Mackenzie’s biggest asset should be his speed. His quick first step could lead to a lot of big plays for the Turks offense this season.
“He so quick and so elusive that it will be hard for people to round him up,” Murphy said.
Blake Watts, Lakewood, QB
You don’t replace Justin Peterson. Just ask Teeter.
But maybe three players can help fill the gap. One of those players is Watts, who will be working behind center after Peterson and Schueller, who split time at QB last year, both graduated.
Teeter said that Watts is similar to Peterson in many aspects. “He’s a very good athlete,” Teeter said. “He’s close to as fast as Justin but not as elusive. He’s more powerful.”
Though he only took a handful of snaps last year, Watts said he learned a lot about how to play quarterback
“That’s all I did last year is learn from Teeter and stay after practice and work with Justin and Kolby,” Watts said. “The offense has come naturally for me this year. I’ve known everything from last year.”
Daniel Head, Granite Falls, FB
A standout on the baseball diamond, Head decided to return to the game of football and should be a potent part of the Tigers’ triple-option run game.
GAMES TO WATCH
Lakewood at Arch. Murphy
Terry Ennis Stadium, Everett
Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.
Cougars have won past two in this rivalry, but Wildcats get them at home.
Granite Falls vs. Sultan
Sultan High School
Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.
The Turks have won the past two games in the Black and Blue Bowl rivalry.
King’s vs. Cedarcrest
Cedarcrest High School
Thursday, Oct. 10, 7 p.m.
This Cascade Conference rivalry game will be televised on ROOT Sports.
So. Whidbey at Coupeville
Friday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m.
Coupeville shocked the Falcons last year to regain The Bucket in this annual rivalry.
King’s at Lakewood
Lakewood High School
Friday, Nov. 1, 7 p.m.
This game decided the conference title last year and could be a repeat in 2013.