The summer doldrums are finally gone; those endless sunny days will soon be replaced by overcast and drizzle. It’s finally fall again.
Practices kicked off this week, and the season is right around the corner. If you’re a high school sports fan in Kitsap, this autumn promises to be a good one, certain to be filled with unforgettable stories and moments.
Here are 10 questions, in no particular order, to which I hope to have an answer as I make my way around practices over the next couple of weeks.
Will North Kitsap football repeat as league champions?
The Vikings have won the last two league crowns and return a host of talented players from last year’s state quarterfinal run. Dax Solis and his 1,944 yards (not to mention 35 touchdowns) will have to be replaced, and the offensive line returns just one starter in Robert Shipp, who played right tackle last season. But the roster is deep, and North Kitsap always seems to reload these days rather than rebuild. Senior quarterback Andrew Blackmore could take on a larger role, and there is plenty of skill to pick up the slack in Kyle Green, Noah North, Aiden Allsop, Clayton William, Tyler Sloman, Taylor Jackson and Blake Wetzsteon along with any standout newcomers.
But if not North Kitsap, then who?
On paper, Olympic and Bremerton appear to be the biggest threats to North Kitsap’s reign.
The Trojans are bursting at the seams with talent at the skill positions, and they were the last team to beat the Vikings in the regular season (a 17-14 win on Oct. 30, 2015) as well as win the Olympic League. Zeke Gillick, a junior, now has a year of experience under his belt at quarterback and plenty of weapons at his disposal, including Darelle White, Malcolm DeWalt and Adam Johnson. They should certainly get back above .500 this year.
Bremerton went 8-2 last year despite a small roster, but the players who were on the sidelines were quite talented. If the Knights can avoid injury issues, they should be in the mix once again.
How many Kitsap teams will make the playoffs this year?
You have to like the odds for several team this year. In addition to the aforementioned three, Central Kitsap has the ability to get back to the postseason after two years away. The Cougars will carry forward a few scars and some motivation stemming from its 35-28 loss to Yelm last season, which cost them the chance to host a district game. As always, there are no nights off in the South Sound Conference, but Central Kitsap has the talent to hang with just about any team.
Also, don’t forget about Klahowya in 1A, which had a huge turnout for football last season. The Eagles went through a 3-7 in a rebuilding year and only lost three players to graduation. They will always have a tough road to the playoffs through the Nisqually League, but they have a chance if the flashes of potential shown last year come to fruition.
Is this the year Klahowya soccer climbs back to the top of 1A?
Speaking of Klahowya, the 2014 1A girls soccer champions have the look of a team ready to contend for the third state title in program history. All but two players return from last year’s state quarterfinal squad — keeper Emma Hough and midfielder Hailey Sargent. Like last year, one of the Eagles’ biggest tasks will be to stay sharp and focused in league games that rarely test them. Klahowya will play every 2A Olympic team once this year.
Will be it North Kitsap and Olympic fighting it out for a soccer league title once again?
It’s been nothing but the Trojans and Vikings the past four years at the top of the Olympic League with Olympic winning the last two. Each team lost only three seniors to graduation, but Olympic will see Hanna Troy return after missing last year’s season with an injury. The Trojans’ star striker scored 20 goals as a sophomore, and she was exactly the player Olympic was missing in its 1-0 loss on a rainy night in last year’s state playoffs.
How high can South Kitsap girls XC finish at state?
The Wolves finished sixth last year at the 4A state meet and return their top seven runners from that race. While there isn’t a candidate in the group to finish at the very top of the leaderboard in Pasco, their strength lies in their depth. Five of their top seven ran a sub-20 minute time in the 5,000 meters last season. 4A is loaded with traditional powers, including Lewis and Clark, Issaquah, Skyview, Tahoma and Camas, but South Kitsap has the talent to compete with all of them.
Can Central Kitsap XC improve upon last year’s state performance?
The Cougars have two pretty good cross country teams in their own right. Last year, the girls finished ninth and the boys 12th, at Sun Willows. Maya Nichols finished an incredible freshman season with a ninth place finish at the 3A state meet, and the girls return six of their top seven runners. The boys will have to do a little reloading, but they had a number of underclassmen run well at various times throughout the year.
How will North Kitsap top last year’s state swim meet?
On the subject of incredible performances, the North Kitsap girls swim team was outstanding at last year’s 2A state meet. North Kitsap and Liberty were the only teams to score over 200 points, finishing well ahead of the competition. Then-sophomore Eleanor Beers won championships in the 50 and 100 freestyle events, and she was part of the 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relays that took home the top spot as well. The Vikings are loaded with talent across all grade levels, including seniors Isabel Hendryx, Izy Iral and Emma Hart, and sophomores Brianna Hoffman and Layna Hart. There is only one mountain left to climb now: a championship.
Will any Kitsap volleyball teams make it to state?
State volleyball is one of my favorite events to cover. Only two teams last year — North Kitsap and Kingston — made it to St. Martins in Lacey, and both teams saw their runs end fairly quickly. North Kitsap lost to Lynden, beat Tumwater and then lost to East Valley. Kingston lost its matches to eventual champion Burlington-Edison and Selah. Compared to the other sports, it was a relatively down year for volleyball in Kitsap. I look forward to seeing which teams made improvements in 2018.
Will anyone bring an end to Poulsbo’s dominance?
In case you are noticing a theme here, North Kitsap teams did exceptionally well last fall. The football, tennis, swimming and volleyball teams all won league titles, and cross country runner Madison Zosa captured an individual title at the league meet.