SEATTLE – Seven years ago, the King’s football team was 0-10 and at the bottom of the Cascade Conference standings.
Oh, how things have changed.
The Knights are coming off their fifth consecutive berth in the 1A state quarterfinals, and at least one King’s senior said this is the year the Knights finally get to the semifinals.
“Obviously, getting past the quarterfinals is a huge goal,” senior lineman Calvin Kispert said. “I mean, that’s five years in a row of losing there. It’s about time to get to the Tacoma Dome.”
Kispert has been around for those three losses and said they add fuel for the Knights to get past that stage this time around.
“I think having missed it so many times, when we finally do get there that will just make it all the better,” Kispert said. “… They’ve all been tough, close games. I just think that has provided a lot of motivation to work hard, not only on the practice field, but in the offseason as well.”
King’s starts its 2014 campaign against a familiar opponent: defending 2A state champion Lynden, which has developed into a perennial power.
This will be the third time the two teams have met in as many years, with King’s winning two seasons ago and Lynden getting revenge in a close 14-6 battle in the Emerald City Kickoff Classic at the University of Washington last year.
“It’s been a great competitive battle,” King’s head coach Jim Shapiro said. “We’ve split 1-1. For me, it’s really less about the wins and the losses but (about getting to) go against a state-caliber, higher-classification team. It really sets the tone and expectation of where we’re at – win, lose or draw.”
The Knights and Lions have turned into a good rivalry, according to Kispert, who admits it was “a little scary” going against Lynden the first time.
Now, he’s excited for the challenge.
“It’s a really good measuring point for us,” Kispert said. “We know they’re going to be good year in and year out. They’re going to be a top team. It’s really good for us to know where we’re at coming into the season and be able to judge what our strengths and weaknesses are moving forward.”
The early-season contest also gives some new Knights an opportunity to shine and show what they can do. Kispert expects the team to get help from both underclassmen as well as the veterans.
“I’m really excited about this team,” Kispert said. “This year’s team, in particular, there’s people in every class that are going to contribute, from top to bottom. Everybody’s going to get a chance to play and contribute.”
Said Shapiro: “You’ll see kids step up who aren’t on the radar yet, but they will be after a couple of weeks.”
Head coach: Jim Shapiro (18th season)
Key returners: Ryan Fransen, WR/DB, sr.; Laka Wilkins, LB/RB, sr.; Koa Wilkins, QB, jr.; Calvin Kispert, OL/DL, sr.; Nick Severson, WR/DB, sr.
Coach’s quote: “It kind of feels like last year a little bit. There’s this unknown: how good is this team going to be? Last year’s team kind of overachieved, which is good. There’s a big question mark on this team as well.”