POULSBO — One day last week, North Kitsap head football coach Jerry Parrish arrived at school to find something surprising: a pair of sophomore quarterbacks, eight hours early for practice.
Jared Prince and Jeff Camus weren’t confused; they just wanted to get some throws in before school started at 7:50 a.m.
After Parrish unlocked the proper doors and dragged out the bag of footballs, Prince and Camus happily ducked into the gym and fine-tuned their precision before the day’s first bell rang.
“Their interest level,” Parrish said, “is pretty darn high.”
After a 2001 season where North Kitsap didn’t win a game until the final time they took the field, the Vikings will have to work to rekindle that interest among fans and league prognosticators.
But they think they have the talent to do it.
“We should be a lot better than last year,” said workhorse fullback James Smith, who got the bulk of the carries last year and now has new teammates at both running back positions, as well as quarterback and much of the offensive line.
The Vikings will run the precise wing-T offense this year, an offense that will be in the hands of sophomore quarterback Prince, who most recently showcased his running and throwing ability at Kingston Junior High.
“He does things that seniors who we’ve had couldn’t do,” said Parrish. “He’s worked hard, and received respect from the others because of that work ethic.”
Prince will be joined in the backfield by Smith, one of the Narrows League’s most durable and productive backs.
At the two halfback spots will be gifted players who have been moved from other positions. Patrick Gilbert, who was a wide receiver/kick returner last year, will man one spot, while the other will be held by last year’s quarterback, Chad Foster.
Up front, the offensive line will include Chris Carlsen, Chase Dukes, and Quinn Mouser, of whom Parrish said, “They’re as good as we’ve had in a while… the best potential we’ve had.”
Many of those same players will be anchors on defense, especially Carlsen, who was the team’s second-leading tackler last year and will contend for an all-league linebacking spot.
He will be joined by Prince, who will roam the defensive backfield at free safety; Dukes, who will hold down a defensive end spot; Mouser, who will play on the line; and Ryan Good and Leo Pendergraft.
Several of this year’s seniors — including Mouser, Carlsen, Gilbert, and Dukes — got plenty of playing time during last year’s campaign, which many players believe will pay off during this year’s run.
“I feel like we have more senior leadership this year,” said Smith. “This year, we have returning seniors with lots of varsity experience.”
Coach Parrish, who was pleased by the team’s performance at the jamboree in Everett on Sept. 6, agreed.
“You’re only as good as your seniors,” he said, “and ours are pretty good. They work together well, and they’re just good, quality kids.”
Parrish pointed to several examples, including Mouser’s on-field mentoring of another defensive lineman, to show that this year’s players are committed to each other as they are to themselves.
Besides the sophomores, the team will have one sizeable new addition: a new scoreboard that will soon be planted at one end of North Kitsap’s field.
The Vikings hope to give it plenty of work.
“These kids aren’t interested in what their numbers say,” Parrish said. “They’re interested in what the scoreboard says.”