In a time of the season when many teams are dealing with injuries, the King’s football team finds itself actually getting stronger as it prepares for the 1A state tournament this weekend.
The Knights (8-2 overall) should be bolstered with the return of starting center and defensive lineman Calvin Kispert — who was out with a medial collateral ligament injury — as well as tight end Joe Stack.
“For the most part it seems like we’re getting healthier, which at this point in the game is kind of the opposite of most teams,” said King’s head coach Jim Shapiro.
Kispert is part of an offensive line that Shapiro said is a big part of the Knights’ success this season. Senior running back Chris Yand had 679 yards rushing in the regular season and sophomore quarterback Koa Wilkins threw for over 1,100 yards.
“Zach Jacobson, Donavan Ishmael, Cameron Sharpe, Jack Mcleod, George Gucake, our offensive line. Those are the guys that are the unsung heroes all season long,” Shapiro said.
King’s passed its first playoff test with a 30-12 win over Eatonville Friday in a 1A Tri-District game. The Knights’ offense erupted for 30 points, which is just what Shapiro wanted to see after King’s struggled to put up points in late-season contests against Sultan and Lakewood.
“The Eatonville game was really a spark for us,” Shapiro said. “We hadn’t really produced offense for a few games. We’ve kind of sputtered off. And last week to move the ball and put 30 points up and get the ball moving was good.”
King’s is hoping to get to the 1A state quarterfinals for the fifth-consecutive season. The Knights have never advanced to the semifinals.
Shapiro is proud of his team for getting back to the playoffs. Especially this year’s squad, which is a younger group of Knights after several stars from last season graduated.
“It’s big. In fact I was thinking about it today,” Shapiro said Wednesday night. “Not just for our program but programs that do well every year. That’s a huge blessing for the programs. You get more football. You get more games and practices. For this group of kids to achieve the things they’ve accomplished this year is pretty amazing to have that quarterfinal spot be a possibility.”
In order to continue on King’s will have to go against Tenino, which is 6-4 overall out of the 1A Evergreen League. The Beavers feature a strong offensive line, and playmaker in running back Zack Chamberlain.
“They have a real good sized line. They have some big kids down there,” Shapiro said. “They have an all-league running back (Chamberlain) that does a good job. They’re very similar to Lakewood, in that they run a lot of tight end sets and will get you with the ball.”
Like in their last contest, the Knights hope to establish both the run and pass early in the game and have the offense keep moving the chains.
“Similar to last week against Eatonville, if we can establish the ability — running or throwing — to get first downs we should be able to get things going,” Shapiro said.
King’s vs. Tenino
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: Centralia H.S.
How they got here: King’s (8-2) beat Eatonville 30-12; Tenino (6-4) beat Columbia 41-7.
Winner receives: Spot in the quarterfinals against Montesano/Cascade Christian winner.
Scoreczar pick: Tenino won the tough EvCo 1A League and is really hitting its stride late in the season. King’s has some unpleasant EvCo memories from last year, losing to Montesano in the quarterfinals. Once Tenino’s offense gets rolling, it’s tough to stop. But, King’s has faced other good offenses this year and has always met the challenge. King’s D wins this one. King’s 27-10.
Swaney pick: King’s, 23-14
Krueger pick: King’s, 28-17
Lommers pick: Tenino, 35-28