Eds. note: Herald writer Aaron Lommers visited Sultan camp on Friday afternoon.
What’s new: Culture
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 breakthrough.
“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.”
Rivas will be one of the leaders on the team this season and can do just about everything on the field. Murphy said Rivas will see time at quarterback, cornerback, safety, running back and wide receiver.
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.”
Returning all-conference players
First team—Taylor Comfort (Sr., Offensive Line, Linebacker).
Player to watch: Taylor Comfort, Sr., OL/LB
Comfort is one of two returning Cascade Conference players named first-team all-league on both sides of the ball last season, joining Lakewood’s Dylan Donohue.
“He’s an amazing kid,” Murphy said. “He has those things that football coaches love, but can’t coach. I can teach a kid proper form and technique, but I can’t teach the passion and that is something that Taylor exudes on the football field.”
As a senior, Comfort is unquestionably one of the team’s leaders. Murphy said the other players on the team respect him and listen to what he has to say. The leadership isn’t always vocal, Murphy said Comfort never gives up on a game or a play no matter what the score is.
Aside from his leadership abilities, Comfort is also a pretty darn good football player and he loves to do what most football players love to do.
“He loves to hit,” Murphy said. “He is one of those kids that that is the essence of football for him. He could play in a spread offense. He could play in a 3-5 defense. He could play anywhere and he’s willing to go up against anybody and give it his best shot and knock the socks of people.”
Fresh face: James Mackenzie, Jr., 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.
While King’s, Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood are the favorites until somebody proves otherwise, if any team is going to do it this season it could be Sultan. Coach Ben Murphy is excited about his junior quarterback Deion Bonilla and the overall speed and athleticism of his team. In the four years since Murphy has taken over as head coach of the Turks, they have increased their win total each season and he expects them to do it again in 2013.
The Turks open the season with North Mason, Mount Baker, Cedarcrest and Granite Falls. If they can come out of those four games unscathed, they face King’s, Lakewood and Archbishop Murphy respectively in consecutive weeks – a series of games that could make or break their season.