North Sound Conference preseason storylines/coaches poll

COACHES POLL

The predicted order of finish as voted on by the league’s coaches. Included is the average points teams received per vote, with first-place votes counting for five points, second place four, etc. First-place votes received by teams are in parentheses.

1. King’s (3) 4.75

2. Sultan (1) 3.5

3. Cedar Park Christian (1) 3.2

4. South Whidbey 2.75

5. Granite Falls 2

6. Coupeville 1.5

Notes: Coaches weren’t allowed to vote for their own teams. One coach chose not to participate in the voting.

FAVORITE

King’s. In a new conference with new coaches and a new school, it makes sense that the program with the richest football tradition and longest-tenured coach, Jim Shapiro, is the favorite in Year 1 of the North Sound Conference. No coach voted the Knights lower than second place. Nine of the 11 state tournament appearances made by North Sound Conference teams since 2000 belong to the Knights, who are coming off a year marred by injuries. Shapiro, in his 22nd year as the Knights’ head coach, said it was probably the worst he had seen in his tenure. The team will have decided on a new quarterback by the time of its season opener against Lakewood on Aug. 31, and he’ll have a strong offensive line in front of him. On the defensive side of the ball, the Knights should be stout up front with the likes of seniors Avery Hamann, Danny Bogen and Jacob Renneke and 6-foot-6, 280 pound junior Collin Hamilton. King’s will be tested early, with non-conference games against Lakewood (2A), Lakeside (3A) and 2017 1A state playoff qualifier Nooksack Valley to start the season.

CONTENDER

Sultan. The Turks finished 2017 in second place in the Cascade Conference at 4-1 in league play and hold a 6-2 record over teams in the new conference over the past two seasons. Sultan is replacing almost all of its prodution at its skill positions this season but returns all five starters across the offensive line. To go along with the experience up front, the Turks may have the most size on the line — seven players are listed at 220 pounds or above at offensive line and tight end on their 2018 roster. Senior Josh Ford leads the defense, coming off a junior campaign with nine tackles for loss, six sacks and five fumble recoveries. In 2017, Sultan hit a few small milestones on the field. The Turks won their first homecoming game in seven years, beat King’s for the first time since 2007 and hosted their first playoff game in 16 seasons. If the the Turks and Knights play up to expectations around the league, an Oct. 19 showdown on Senior Night at King’s could have huge conference title implications, with only one regular-season game remaining.

STORYLINES TO WATCH

What’s in store for Cedar Park Christian in Year 2 of the Butch Goncharoff era?

The Eagles made a big splash heading into the 2017 season when they hired former Bellevue coach Butch Goncharoff. CPC’s overall record stayed the same (4-6) from the year before Goncharoff came aboard, but coaches in the conference know Goncharoff and his staff have the ability to make the Eagles a dangerous team. Returning the bulk of their roster that flashed lots of potential doesn’t hurt either. CPC returners gained 1,010 of the team’s 1,900 rushing yards and scored 13 of 20 touchdowns in 2017. The team also returners starting quarterback Deegan Csigi and almost all of its receiving production. “You can never count out Butch,” Shapiro said. “Butch has been around for a long time. He obviously knows how to coach kids up. I anticipate he’ll being getting Cedar Park to an even higher level this year.”

Can the Falcons fly high after a season trying to rejuvenate the program?

Citing its overall youth and low turnout numbers, South Whidbey’s football team elected to forgo its 2017 Cascade Conference schedule in favor of an independet slate. The Falcons had just 11 combined juniors and seniors on their 2017 roster, which featured 24 combined freshmen and sophomores. After an 0-8 2016 season in which the team was outscored 325-88 and saw its roster dwindle into the teens, the Falcons went 7-2 in 2017 while playing a scheduled that consisted of 1A, 2B and Canadian schools. However, the team lost both of its games to 1A schools by a combined score of 31-6. “We were able to build some confidence, we were able to play teams that were kind of more at our comeptition level and (it) kind of showed the community that it’s a good team sport. We built that trust back in the community again,” Falcons coach Mark Hodson said of his team, which has seen the program’s participation numbers increase to nearly 40. “It was absolutely the right thing to do last year for South Whidbey.”

Closing the gap on the NWC

Last year’s Week 10 playoff games against the Northwest Conference were something the new North Sound Conference schools would probably like to forget. The conference’s top-seeded 1A school, Sultan, was on the receiving end of a 66-12 thrashing from Nooksack Valley, King’s didn’t fare much better in a 45-15 struggle against Mount Baker and Cedar Park Christian was no match for Meridian in a 63-3 blowout loss. Those scores follow a pattern that’s been going on for several years. The conference’s current members are 2-10 (both wins by King’s) against the Northwest Conference in playoff games since 2014 and haven’t won a crossover game since 2015. The North Sound Conference teams will get their shot to prove they can compete with the schools up north early this season with four games scheduled between North Sound and Northwest Conference teams in the non-league slate. In order for any of the four public schools in the league to end their state-playoff droughts that date back to 2000, they’ll have to get through a Northwest Conference foe in Week 10.

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