Under normal circumstances, tonight fans would have gathered at high school stadiums all over Kitsap County to celebrate the beginning of the 2020 fall season with Week 1 of the football season.
Bainbridge High School would have hosted Olympic opening week; North Kitsap was set to travel to Juneau, Alaska; Klahowya was to face off against Kingston; Central Kitsap was scheduled to play Bremerton; and South Kitsap would have welcomed Curtis to Ed Fisher Field.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has put the brakes on all fall sports; the Olympic League and West Central District 3 recently voted to move them to Season 3 of the WIAA’s four-season plan. Tentatively, football practice can begin Feb. 15 while the rest of the fall sports resume March 1 — assuming the state’s coronavirus situation has improved enough to allow athletic activity.
With the tradition of Friday night lights in the fall postponed to spring, let’s take a look at some of the memorable opening football games over the past few years.
2019, Bainbridge 14, North Kitsap 3 — inaugural Agate Cup
The Spartans and the Vikings typically play one another during the first two weeks of the season and last year the programs, separated by the Agate Pass Bridge decided to create a traveling trophy to commemorate the rivalry.
Bainbridge prevailed over North Kitsap for the first time since 2011, becoming the first school to capture the Agate Cup.
It was a low-scoring, defensive affair at Bainbridge High School as both teams had lost several key pieces from their respective offenses to graduation the prior season, including both quarterbacks.
Diego DeLuna opened the scoring with a 32-yard field goal for North Kitsap in the second quarter, but Spartans quarterback Alex Ledbetter answered with a seven-yard touchdown run to give Bainbridge a 7-3 lead at halftime.Ledbetter scored again midway through the fourth quarter and finished the game with 123 total yards.
2019, Central Kitsap 41, Olympic 17 — CK christens new field
Having home games on campus as opposed to Silverdale Stadium meant a lot to the Cougars heading into their 2019 opener against their longtime rival, Olympic. The new stadium at Central Kitsap High School was filled, and fans buzzed with anticipation as the opening kickoff marked a new era.
That kickoff ended up in the hands of Malcolm Dewalt, who returned it 87 yards for a touchdown. On Central Kitsap’s first offensive drive, Dewalt picked off CK quarterback Joshua Flaugher to give the Trojans a 14-0 lead just five minutes into the game.
The crowd’s silence and Olympic’s spoilage of its rivals’ big day was temporary as the Cougars ultimately roared back to win 41-17.
After Olympic kicker Joshua Kennedy hit a 27-yard field goal in the second quarter, Central Kitsap scored the next 34 points. Flaugher ended up connecting with tight end Jeven Keel and receiver Kalai Pasi for touchdowns in the second quarter and Central Kitsap led 21-17 at halftime.
Joshua Willis capped off a big day on the ground with a 70-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Willis finished with 254 rushing yards and two touchdowns and was named Kitsap Daily News Athlete of the Week.
2019, Kingston 20, Klahowya 7
The Bucs had one of their best seasons in recent memory in 2019 and would have almost certainly finished with a winning record for the first time since 2013 if their week 2 game against Port Townsend hadn’t been called off in the second quarter due to thunderstorms.
Klahowya was hosting its first-ever game on campus, as it too had shared Silverdale Stadium with Central Kitsap and Olympic since its opening. But Kingston was successfully able to play the spoiler role in this game.
Tyler Marquez rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns for Kingston; Garrett Sitting-Dog added 84 rushing yards and quarterback Kyler Coe-Yarr chipped in 82. Max Moran scored the third touchdown for the Bucs, who were in control against an inexperience Klahowya team for most of the game.
Nick Lewis returned an interception for a touchdown to account for Klahowya’s only score.
2018, North Kitsap 20, Bainbridge 17
Prior to the 2018 season, it had been some time since the early Bainbridge-North Kitsap games had been competitive, but this one went right down to the wire as the Vikings prevailed 20-17 at North Kitsap Stadium.
All looked well for North Kitsap as it opened a 12-0 lead in the first quarter. The Vikings pounced on a fumble on Bainbridge’s opening drive and it led to Isaiah Kahana’s 2-yard TD just minutes into the game. Andrew Blackmore then hit Aidan Allsop in the end zone for a 14-yard score.
But it was still week one and both teams were shaking off some rust as bad wildfire smoke cancelled or curtailed a number of practices leading up to the game. Many teams in Kitsap were forced to practice inside and this game was played on Saturday afternoon instead of Friday night to allow an extra day to prepare.
The Spartans rallied back and ultimately took a 17-12 lead into halftime. Ryan Wilson’s two interceptions and Bainbridge’s ball-controlling triple option helped keep North Kitsap’s offense off the field. Max McLeod snuck into the end zone on a 2-yard run to cut the Vikings’ lead to 12-10. Then just before halftime, Gannon Winker hit McLeod on a deep pass for a 41-yard score.
Noah North, who led the Vikings with 133 rushing yards, plunged into the end zone in the third quarter to restore his team’s lead while the defense held the Spartans scoreless the rest of the way. Kyle Green finished the game with three sacks.
2016 – Bremerton 27, Klahowya 24
This was the second of two tremendous week 1 games between the Knights and the Eagles.
Klahowya had prevailed in 2015, winning 7-0 in overtime. The two teams battled to a scoreless draw for four quarters until Eagles quarterback George Harris hit receiver Dakota McIntire in the end zone for an 11-yard TD.
In 2016, it looked like the Eagles might be victorious again after Matthew Hence recovered a fumble late in the fourth quarter to put his team up 24-20, but Bremerton engineered a game-winning drive capped by Mikhail Papillion’s 30-yard scoring pass to Michael Barber.
Sema’J Cook finished with 91 rushing yards on 18 carries for Bremerton and Savante Perrigo hauled in four passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Papillion completed 7 of 16 passes for 129 yards.
Klahowya quarterback Dylan Zuber had the first of many outstanding games that season, rushing for 100 yards and passing for another 83. Gabe Wallis added 46 rushing yards and a touchdown and Jake Sargent caught four passes for 60 yards. Sargent also booted a 23-yard field goal that gave Klahowya a 10-7 halftime lead.
2015, South Kitsap 25, Central Kitsap 14
The Wolves were hoping to win their first season-opener against Curtis since this game five years ago against Central Kitsap, which took place on the new turf at Kitsap Bank Stadium. Then-head coach Gavin Kralik was making his debut as the leader of the South Kitsap football program and his new spread offense paid immediate dividends as quarterback Jake Taylor completed 27 of 37 passes for 322 yards and a touchdown.
South Kitsap took an early lead on a first quarter safety and a 23-yard field goal from Nolan Souza. Central Kitsap responded with a 52-yard touchdown run from Isaiah McGee, but Wolves linebacker CJ Gill picked off a Tyler Tubbs pass and returned it 82 yards for a TD.
The Wolves took a 19-7 lead as Taylor connected with receiver Albert MacArthur for a 38-yard touchdown. MacArthur finished the game with seven receptions for 112 yards. Mikey Garcia added a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. South Kitsap had its share of close games that year, but went on to win just once more and finished with a 2-8 record.