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Kitsap County Bears look to keep home win streak intact
KINGSTON — A perfect home record and home field advantage in the playoffs are on the line this weekend for the Kitsap County Bears.
“Going into this game, everybody knows what’s at stake,” Bears owner/quarterback Don Purser said.
The semi-professional football team plays its final home game of the regular season Saturday at Kingston High School. The Bears, ranked second in the North American Football League’s Northwest Division, are up against the undefeated division leaders, the Bellingham Bulldogs.
“We’re gonna bust our butts,” Bears head coach Dave Snyder said. “They’re the best team out there. With the right people at the right places, we should do well.”
A win would cement Kitsap’s second-place standing and guarantee home field advantage during the playoffs, which begin Sept. 18. It would also keep the Bears (6-3) undefeated at home in 2010.
The last time the Bears and Bulldogs met, in Bellingham on July 10, the Bulldogs dished out a 63-27 beating. It was Kitsap’s worst loss of the season.
“We definitely believe we’re way better than what we performed like at Bellingham,” Snyder said. “The only time we really ended up laying an egg was when we went to Bellingham the first time.”
Snyder said the Bears were missing some key people for the July 10 game, but he expects those players to be present Saturday. Players must pay for their own expenses to travel to away games and often take time off of work to play.
“In this league, it’s always tough to travel,” Snyder said. “Some teams travel better than others.”
Bellingham has traveled well this season, staying as tough on the road as they have at home. The Bulldogs went to Medford, Ore., on July 31 and handed the Southern Oregon Renegades — the division’s third place team — their first home loss in three years. Kitsap’s turn in Medford, on July 17, resulted in a 33-20 Bears loss.
Purser points to his top four threats — and one secret weapon — as reason to hope for a win Saturday. Top defensive end Jeff Ottelle, a 2007 North Kitsap High graduate, was missing for the trip to Bellingham last month, but will be available Saturday. Purser said he can usually count on Ottelle for three to five sacks per game, as well as some valuable production on special teams. Ottelle doubles as the team’s kicker, and made three field goals last week — from 27, 48 and 49 yards — in a 25-15 win over Bellevue’s Eastside Extreme.
“He pretty much takes over the game,” Purser said.
Snyder and Purser also believe the Bears can get the job done on offense, with both air and ground attacks.
“Offensively, we can score on anybody,” Snyder said.
EJ Ash, the team’s starting running back, had close to 200 yards against the Extreme, Purser said. The Bears also boast two of the division’s top receivers. Mike Bush, a former Washington State University wideout, brings experience, while relative newcomer Jackie Thomas brings raw talent.
“Jackie’s awesome,” Purser said. “The best receiver I’ve ever played with: real fast, great hands and he’s not afraid of anything.”
The Bears’ top threat, though, may be former Central Kitsap High School standout Nick LaFontaine, who returns to the turf Saturday for the first time this season. LaFontaine, who now lives in Las Vegas, was the team’s starting quarterback last year, when he racked up 40 touchdowns. By playing Saturday, he will be eligible to compete in the playoffs next month, Purser said.
Kitsap’s biggest stumbling blocks this year have been its turnovers and defensive softness. But with a full squad present on Saturday, the Bears should be able to overcome those obstacles.
“It’s just making sure our personnel is here and making sure we utilize the players we do have,” Purser said.
Kickoff for the Kitsap County Bears’ final regular season home game is 7 p.m. Saturday at Kingston High School. Tickets are $10 each.