Editor’s note: A preview on Kingston football will run in next week’s paper.
The stars are in alignment for the North Kitsap football team this fall as it returns a roster full of experience and talent. With good health and good fortune, it could be a special year for the Vikings.
North Kitsap ran the table in the abbreviated 2021 spring season, averaging 38 points in its five league games. Having at least eight starters returning on each side of the ball and plenty of depth behind them has placed some lofty expectations on the team. They were recently named the No. 3 squad in 2A in Scorebook Live’s preseason rankings.
“There are high expectations on us, but that’s good,” head coach Jeff Weible said. “It means we’ve done things right, we’ve played well, we’ve earned the right to have those expectations.”
“We told the kids day one, we have to compete against our best selves every day. If we can do that, and get a little better each day, we’ll be prepared for the season.”
Leading the offense is dual-threat senior quarterback Colton Bower, who threw for 1,114 yards and 14 touchdowns in five games last season. Bower had a strong sophomore season, becoming possibly the first West Sound quarterback to rack up 1,000 yards both passing and rushing , but really settled into the offense as a junior, looking like he was in complete command at all times. “We continue to add things,” Bower said. “It’s complex, but I feel really comfortable.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the veteran quarterback has tons of options on the perimeter. Jaxson Gore was Bower’s top target last season, hauling in 20 receptions for 283 yards. Receivers Aiden King, Lincoln Castillo and Logan Sloman are all excellent targets as well.
On the ground, Bower was also the team’s leading rusher last season with 379 yards and four touchdowns, and Zeke Harris and Karsen Walsh also return at running back. “You can’t just go out there and focus on one guy,” Bower said. “We have so many threats out there.”
Anchoring the big men up front will be senior Blake Shipp, along with junior Sofian Hammou, senior Manny Oliveros and senior Quinn Knivila-Ritchie. Junior Matt Oppliger will lead the defensive backfield, and the Vikings have a number of players who can slot in as two-way guys, including Gore and Castillo. Bower will also be a big threat at linebacker.
The goal for Weible and his team is to finish atop the Olympic League, and although the Vikings had little trouble with their regular league foes last spring, that doesn’t mean the same will hold true this fall.
“Anything can happen in sports,” Weible said. “We’re not looking past anyone.”
North Kitsap will get a tough non-league matchup as it takes on Central Kitsap in Week 1. The two teams met in their respective openers last year, and North Kitsap won it with under two minutes to play. The Vikings were originally scheduled to play Montesano in Week 1, but that was called off due to COVID-19 issues on Montesano’s end.
2021 record: 5-0
Head coach: Jeff Weible
Key players: QB/LB Colton Bower, sr.; WR/RB/DB Lincoln Castillo, sr.; WR/DB Jaxson Gore, jr.; OL/DL Sofian Hammou, jr.; WR/DB Aiden King, sr.; OL/DL Quinn Knivila-Ritchie, sr.; WR/DB Matt Oppliger, jr.; OL/DL Blake Shipp, sr.; WR/DB Logan Sloman, so.
Schedule: Sept. 3, 7 p.m., Central Kitsap; Sept. 10, 7 p.m., Lakeside (Seattle); Sept. 17, 7 p.m., North Mason; Sept. 24, 6:30 p.m., at Port Angeles; Oct. 1, 7 p.m., Olympic; Oct. 8, 6 p.m., at Sequim; Oct. 15, 7 p.m., Bremerton; Oct. 22, 6:30 p.m., at Bainbridge; Oct. 29, 7 p.m., Kingston.