Bigger line could mean better for Bainbridge

The Bainbridge football team has undergone a serious transformation in just a few months, and in more ways than one.

Last season, the Spartans were heavy on athletic perimeter players and struggled in the interior. They could spread out and throw it around with the best of them, but there were games it was obvious they were not stout enough up front to run up the middle or stop the run.

But this fall, it’s a different story. With plenty of experience and strength on the offensive line and in the defensive front seven, the Spartans will look quite a bit different. The program also looks different in terms of pure numbers, with 24 freshmen signed up to play, boosting overall turnout to about 70.

“Last year, it was obvious,” Bainbridge head coach Jeff Rouser said. “We didn’t have the guys to run it. This year, we do.”

In six games last season, Bainbridge attempted 205 passes and threw for over 1,500 yards. This year, the pass-run splits should be more balanced.

The strength is upfront with linemen Axel Gibson, Connor Sweeny, Emmett Taylor, Sasha Herrmann and Wyatt Goade leading the way. They will be moving the pile for junior quarterback Jeff Utter and an array of backs, such as returners Jacob Dorsey (senior), Micah Bryant (junior) and Matt LeDorze (senior), along with newcomer Johnny Breen (junior). Junior receiver Luke Lavigne and LeDorze are the only returners who made receptions on last season’s senior-heavy team.

The defense should also be more adept at stopping the run. Herrmann will continue to make an impact in the front seven as he did last season as one of the unit’s best players. Senior Alex Jensenlopez will serve as the team’s middle linebacker and Caleb Durrance will also suit up at linebacker. Many of the aforementioned offensive players will see plenty of time on defense as well, including Gibson, Bryant, LeDorze and Utter.

But although Bainbridge still has plenty of returners despite graduating its quarterback and most of its running backs and receivers, the young guys are helping to push the veterans to earn their playing time, a luxury teams don’t always have with lower program numbers. “These guys are still competing,” Rouser said.

The pieces are in place for Bainbridge to have a successful season in the Olympic League. The Spartans match up well with most teams, and with good health, could be a contender. “I’m optimistic,” Rouser said. “But I want to go in there and not have any expectations there, have no pressure.”

2021 record: 3-3

Head coach: Jeff Rouser

Key players: Axel Gibson, OL/DL, sr.; Luke Lavigne, WR/DB, jr.; Matt LeDorze RB/DB, sr.; Sasha Herrmann, OL/DL, jr.; Emmett Taylor, OL/DL, so.; Wyatt Goade, OL/DL, jr.; Connor Sweeny, OL/DL, sr.; Alex Jensenlopez, RB/LB, sr. Jeff Utter, QB/DB, jr.

Schedule: Sept. 3, 7 p.m., Garfield; Sept. 9, 7 p.m., at Lindbergh; Sept. 17, 6:30 p.m., at Olympic; Sept. 23, 6:30 p.m., Sequim; Oct. 1, 6:30 p.m., Kingston; Oct. 8, 6:30 p.m., Bremerton; Oct. 15, 6:30 p.m., at Port Angeles; Oct. 22, 6:30 p.m., North Kitsap; Oct. 29, 6:30 p.m., at North Mason.

Strength up front: Wyatt Goade (59) and Axel Gibson go head-to-head in a drill during preseason practice. (Mark Krulish/Bainbridge Island Review)

Strength up front: Wyatt Goade (59) and Axel Gibson go head-to-head in a drill during preseason practice. (Mark Krulish/Bainbridge Island Review)