Vikings’ hearts are on the gridiron

North Kitsap football team hopeful Jesse Vanden challenges for the ball during preseason turnouts this week. The opening game is at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at NK Stadium against Bainbridge Island High. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
North Kitsap football team hopeful Jesse Vanden challenges for the ball during preseason turnouts this week. The opening game is at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 at NK Stadium against Bainbridge Island High.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

POULSBO — The North Kitsap Vikings football players don’t want to be the meanest or baddest boys in Kitsap County. They have far too much character to worry about a studly image, be it hard hitters or not.

And besides, who needs to earn rough and tough physical bragging rights when they’ve got it inside?

Sure they’d like to win state, but in actuality the focus is on improving each and every day.

Last spring head coach Steve Frease asked the players what they wanted the Viking team to stand for. The response left Frease brimming with pride.

They developed the core covenants: commitment, fourth-quarter stamina, pride in the inner circle, known for heart, confidence, leadership on and off the field and trust.

“There’s a lot of character to this group,” Frease said.

On Wednesday 90 players — Frease expects a few more players to join the ranks — clad in yellow jerseys and purple helmets braved the pummeling rain and kicked off the football seasons first official day of practice.

But practice for this group began months ago with a little weight training last spring. In June the players got together and conditioned three times per week. They attended the University of Washington 7-on-7 passing tournament, where they finished in the top six out of 32 teams. They attended summer camp as a team and many players did individual preparations.

Now they’re jazzed. They’re over the split caused when Kingston High opened last year, dividing the players between the two schools. It’s time to kick aside last year’s 4-6 record, which was one of the poorest records in a long time. They’re joining a new league of 3A schools, which aligns perfectly for the Vikes’ competitive needs.

“This is a game that comes down to execution and enthusiasm and regardless the competition you have to come into each game with that fire,” Frease said.

Fire? Check.

The team welcomes back a group of 28 returning seniors. While Frease had difficulty mentioning individuals in a team sport with a plethora of quality athletes in the program, he looks to four seniors for leadership and direction.

Kevin Stringer, a three-year letterman and returning quarterback, Taylor Chisholm, an honorable mention all-league returning running back/defensive back, Brad Deshano, a running back and linebacker who was the defensive MVP last year and Josh Byers, a two-year letterman guard and defensive end will lead the Vikes on the gridiron.

Thursday’s practice schedule quote was, “Work so hard you believe you deserve you win,” and Frease said the seniors epitomize the quote.

But more important than individuals is the team’s ability to be cohesive, which Frease said is its top strength at the moment.

“They’re a pretty close-knit group,” Frease said. “They care about each other and that equates to that chemistry component.”

Plus the Vikes have a lot of defensive players and linebackers with speedy wheels.

As for weaknesses, Frease said the offensive line, which only returns two starters, will need some attention.

The Vikes hit the turf at the North Kitsap Stadium at 7 p.m. Sept. 5 for their season opener against top rival Bainbridge High. BHS has won the showdown the last four years, therefore the Vikes will focus its practices on what it takes to beat BHS.

“We’re hungry to have a good year,” Frease said. “They love the game. And I think this group for the most part have prepared themselves. I’m quietly confident.”

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