Sports

Vikings, Buccaneers kick off football season Friday

Kingston High School football player Nick Zehrung powers through the defense during practice at the KHS fields Tuesday. Kingston and North Kitsap open their 2009 seasons tonight.  - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Kingston High School football player Nick Zehrung powers through the defense during practice at the KHS fields Tuesday. Kingston and North Kitsap open their 2009 seasons tonight.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

All the grueling summer practices, two-a-days and endurance tests have led up to this.

Tonight, the high school football season kicks off as the Vikings play a rivalry game at Bainbridge and the Buccaneers travel to Chimacum, where they picked up their first and only win last year. Both teams are working hard to adjust to this season’s changes, and many players will see field time on more than one side of the ball.

“We’re working a lot harder on conditioning,” said North Kitsap senior Alex Flores, who will start at running back and defensive back. “Our first group is really good. We just don’t have a whole lot of depth behind it, so we’re ready to go all four quarters.”

The Viking offense, which put up an average of 31.5 points per game in 2008, will bring back just four of last year’s 11 starters. Head Coach Steve Frease is depending on veterans Flores, tight end Tolen McGregor and linemen Mitch Watland and Ian Booth to step up and lead the offense. Junior Alex Nettleton will start at quarterback, after a successful JV season in 2008.

“We’re getting better each day,” Frease said. “We’re thin right now, due to guys coming out late or guys missing practice. But when we’re a full squad, we’re going to be pretty tough, I think.”

Tonight the Vikings will take on a Spartan team that is facing some similar depth issues.

“Bainbridge is kind of in a similar spot,” Frease said. “They have athletes, and they don’t feel like they’re going to be too inexperienced, but they lost a bunch of seniors.”

Frease said the game will show the Vikings what they need to work on, and added that the team is excited to open the season against the Spartans, who they beat 33-7 in Poulsbo last year.

“It’s a rivalry game,” Frease said. “Kids remember this game their entire careers, their entire life. It is a big deal for us, but it’s non-league in the same respect. But we’re excited.”

Frease believes his team can find success as long as the offense continues to mature and players stay healthy. Right now, all-league defensive back Alex Smith is battling an injury. But the defensive secondary is mostly in good shape, with Flores and fellow senior Alex Fuchs ready to neutralize opposing air attacks.

“We have the skill players,” Flores said. “We’re ready.”

Ten miles up the road, the Buccaneers are preparing for 2009 by changing their outlook.

The Bucs will take on Chimacum tonight, who they beat 13-8 last year.. Head Bucs Coach Dan Novick's team is trying to develop a more positive way of viewing its challenges this year.

“We’re not there yet in terms of understanding what it takes to win, but we definitely have a more professional approach and a more consistent approach to practice,” Novick said. “If we’re more concerned about Chimacum than we are ourselves, then we’re going to end up having the same result as last year, which is struggling to get a victory. Transitioning from the playing-not-to-lose mentality to the playing-to-win mentality, that’s what I’m curious to see.”

The Bucs have their work cut out for them, after going 1-9 while averaging only 10.4 points per game last season and allowing 39.8. But Novick believes his players have the type of dedication and physical strength that will help them improve those stats.

“I really like our attitude,” Novick said. “If you’re coming out for a football team that was... 1-9, you’re certainly not out for the glory of it. You’re out here because you want to do the work and want to be a part of something bigger than you. We’ve got some kids who I think are hungry.”

Leading that group is Tucker Bowman, who will step into the quarterback role this year as a junior. The Buc lineup boasts only a handful of seniors, including starters Roy Swearingen on the line and Travis Schriner at running back and linebacker. Novick is looking for big numbers from the underclassmen, who he says have a fair amount of experience despite their age. Junior receivers George Hill and Tyler Klopp will team up with sophomore tight end George Marinan to make up the air threat. Joining Schriner for the run attack will be Lou Hecker, a junior who does double duty as a safety. Anchoring the defense will be lineman Freddy Rodolf, linebacker Sam Greene and defensive back Nick Zehrung, all juniors.

“I’m curious to see how these kids are going to play,” Novick said. “The kids that we have that are coming back for us, they understand the work that’s required, and they’re willing to put it in.”

2009 Viking Football Schedule

(All games take place at 7 p.m.)

Sept. 4 @ Bainbridge

Sept. 11@ Kingston (NK Stadium)

Sept. 18@ Timberline

Sept. 26 vs. Yelm

Oct. 2 vs. North Thurston

Oct. 10 @ Capital

Oct. 16 @ Bremerton

Oct. 23 vs. Olympic (Homecoming)

Oct. 30 vs. Port Angeles

2009 Buccaneer Football Schedule

(All games take place at 7 p.m.)

Sept. 4 @ Chimacum

Sept. 11 vs. North Kitsap (NK Stadium)

Sept. 18 @ Bainbridge

Sept. 25 vs. Eatonville

Oct. 2 @ Washington

Oct. 9 @ Sequim

Oct. 16 vs. Klahowya

Oct. 24 vs. Fife

Oct. 30 @ Steilacoom

Nov. 6 vs. North Mason

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