Fourth-year Kamiak head coach Bryant Thomas has guided the Knights to a program turnaround. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Fourth-year Kamiak head coach Bryant Thomas has guided the Knights to a program turnaround. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Resurgent Kamiak football team out to prove doubters wrong

After a 3-25 stretch from 2017-19, the Knights have won eight straight games in dominant fashion.

Wet and gloomy weather descended on the Puget Sound region this past week.

But for the Kamiak High School football program, the sun has finally broken through the clouds.

After all the struggles and lopsided defeats of recent years, the Knights are winning.

Kamiak has followed a perfect 4-0 abbreviated season this past spring with a 4-0 start this fall, giving the Knights eight consecutive victories and the longest active win streak of any prep football program in Snohomish County.

Their eight wins this calendar year are more than they totaled over the previous four seasons combined. And they even have a shiny new state ranking, with an appearance at No. 9 in this week’s Associated Press Class 4A poll.

“It puts a smile on my face, because we know what we’ve been through (with) the trials and tribulations,” fourth-year Kamiak coach Bryant Thomas said. “And it’s made our kids stronger. … I feel so happy for the kids.

“And to see the kids have a smile on their face — they’re laughing at practice (and) we’re having a good time,” he added. “It’s fun. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Knights suffered three consecutive one-win seasons from 2017 through 2019, going 3-25 over that span. Those latter two seasons were Thomas’ first two at the helm, when most of the team’s starters were underclassmen.

But as those players grew older and more experienced and continued to put in the work, the victories eventually followed.

“For the kids, it was getting them to believe and understand that if you continue to do things the right way, it’s gonna pay off in the long run,” Thomas said.

The one caveat to Kamiak’s turnaround is that the eight-game win streak hasn’t come against the most difficult of schedules. However, the Knights have been dominant against the teams they’ve faced.

This past spring, they outscored Everett, Mariner, Jackson and Cascade by an average of 28.5 points per game. They won each of those contests by at least 17 points.

And this fall, they’ve outscored Stanwood, Shorewood, Everett and Cascade by 34.8 points per game. They’ve won each of those contests by at least 27 points.

Kamiak opens Wesco 4A play Friday night against Jackson. Next week, the Knights face a Glacier Peak team that has state playoff aspirations. That matchup against the Grizzlies provides Kamiak a chance to show just how far its program has come.

“People talk about our schedule being too easy and all that,” standout senior Wesley Garrett said. “I mean, we dominate everyone we play. … I feel like we definitely have something to prove.”

The Knights are riding a county-best eight-game win streak dating back to the spring. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The Knights are riding a county-best eight-game win streak dating back to the spring. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Thomas, a former Washington State University wide receiver and former Idaho State University assistant coach, was previously the head coach at Auburn Riverside High School. He took over the Kamiak program in 2018, replacing longtime coach Dan Mack.

In his first season, Thomas said there were just 45 players in the entire program. That forced the Knights to play a number of freshmen.

“These kids that played as freshmen, I understood that they were capable of being able to play,” Thomas said. “And I also knew I (was) asking 14- and 15-year-olds to play against 17- and 18-year-olds, so we were gonna take some lumps.”

Kamiak was still incredibly young the following year in 2019. The Knights’ numbers increased to around 57 or 58 players, Thomas said. But that season, they had only one senior in the entire program.

“It was tough,” standout senior Nolan Martin said of those first two years. “But we were always a younger team, so I knew my junior and senior year that we were gonna be good. So we just fought through it. … We just kept working, and we knew that we were gonna be good when we were seniors.”

During those challenging first two seasons, Garrett credited Thomas and the rest of the coaching staff for instilling belief in the players.

“The coaches always believed,” Garrett said. “They all believed that when the time came — when we were juniors and seniors — that we were gonna put together great seasons.”

Kamiak began to turn a corner in the final three games of 2019. The Knights were competitive against Mount Vernon. They routed Jackson for their first win of the year, which snapped an 11-game losing streak. And they closed the season with a narrow loss to Marysville Getchell.

“The kids were able to look at (those games) and be like, ‘OK, we’re going in the right direction,’” Thomas said.

Thomas also said the program received an uptick in talent with the addition of some baseball and basketball players who turned out for football.

“I had enough guys who had told me ‘no’ my first year, who were now telling me ‘yes’ my second year,” Thomas said. “And then they could see the growth. And before we left the field (at the end of the 2019 season), they all were like, ‘Coach, we’re coming back next year. We’ve had so much fun. We’re coming back.’ And we needed that.”

Then after the long pandemic-induced gap following the 2019 season, Kamiak players began to see the fruits of their labor during their 4-0 campaign this past spring. Garrett said that was when they began to fully realize their potential.

“We just proved it to ourselves,” he said.

Versatile playmaker Wesley Garrett has already totaled nearly 900 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns this season. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Versatile playmaker Wesley Garrett has already totaled nearly 900 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns this season. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

This spring also marked an important schematic change on offense.

In Thomas’ first season at the helm, the Knights ran the triple-option. Then after the departure of their offensive coordinator, Thomas installed a spread option attack for his second year. He said that was like forcing a “square peg into a round hole.”

“In college, I got to recruit the athletes that I wanted for my system,” Thomas said. “In high school, kids are gonna come into my system and this is what I’ve got to work with, so how do I make that fit the personnel?”

Ultimately, Thomas drew inspiration from a former rival head coach. Witnessing firsthand the success former longtime Auburn High School coach Gordon Elliott had with his fly-sweep attack, Thomas decided to implement it this spring at Kamiak.

“I said, ‘Hey, you know what? I think this is a system that can work,’” Thomas said.

Running their new fly-sweep offense, the Knights averaged 43.5 points per game this spring. And this fall, they’ve scored 50.3 points per contest.

The offense highlights the skill-set of Garrett, a versatile playmaker and two-star recruit who is Kamiak’s best player on that side of the ball. Garrett has already totaled 893 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns in just four games. He has rushed for 530 yards and four TDs, while adding 363 yards receiving and six TD catches.

“I believe by the time the season’s over, he will have 1,000 yards receiving and 1,000 yards rushing,” Thomas said. “I’ve been coaching 20-some years. I have never seen (that happen) before. This kid legitimately can do it. He’s that good. … He’s definitely worth the price of admission.”

The Knights also have received efficient quarterback play from junior Ben’tre Worthy, who has completed 24 of 31 passes for 620 yards, nine TDs and two interceptions. He also has rushed for 111 yards and four scores.

“This dude can play,” Thomas said. “He’s doing a great job distributing. … He gets the ball to the right people, he gets people in the right positions, he’s understanding the scheme, and it’s allowing us to have success.”

Kamiak also is thriving on defense, holding opponents to just 15.5 points per game. On that side of the ball, Thomas said the Knights have leaned on a strong defensive line and great safety play by Martin.

“A lot of those kids have been playing since they were freshmen and sophomores,” Thomas said. “And that’s the one thing that’s been consistent is our defense. We haven’t really changed it since our first year. So you’re seeing the fruits of our labor from that. … They’re playing super fast right now.”

As Kamiak gets into Wesco 4A play, the schedule becomes significantly tougher. Glacier Peak is looming next week, and perennial state powerhouse Lake Stevens is two weeks after that.

If the Knights finish in the top three of the five-team league, they would earn their first Week 10 playoff berth since 2014.

“We know what we’re about,” Martin said. “It’s just the people who don’t think we’ve played anybody yet (who doubt us), so we have to prove to them. But I think we already know. We don’t need to prove anything to ourselves, because we know what we can do.”

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