The system remained the same. The personnel did not.
That does not encompass every reason behind South Kitsap’s demise from one of the state’s elite in football to mediocrity, but it is a significant reason behind the shift. And that is why locals should be thrilled about last week’s hiring of ex-Bethel coach Gavin Kralik to run the Wolves’ program.
For too long, South clung to the memorable era of Ed Fisher, which was understandable to some extent. There was his 196-49 record. The Washington high-school record 23 consecutive state-playoff appearances. And the 1994 state championship.
But that was a different time. In the early 1990s, the Wolves featured mammoth linemen, such as Tony Coats and Benji Olson, both of whom went on to play at the University of Washington. The program’s talent in the trenches did not end there. Because of an abundance of talented linemen, 6-foot-2 Derek Strey, who later played at Eastern Washington and received a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks, was utilized at tight end.
That was then — and this is now.
If Strey had played for the Wolves in the last decade, there would have been seasons where he was the program’s largest offensive lineman. Despite that, the coaches never strayed to far from the I-pro scheme. When Eric Canton succeeded D.J. Sigurdson in 2012, he dropped tight end from the base offense and added a third receiver. But the Wolves remained a run-first program.
And one that struggled to tally victories.
In addition to last year’s 3-7 record, South averaged just 14.8 points per game. In 40 percent of their contests, the Wolves scored 10 points or fewer.
While paying homage to Fisher and the physicality that his teams displayed, he was clear that a different — modern — offensive scheme will be on display this fall at Joe Knowles Field. During his lone season at the Houston-area Bay Area Christian School, Kralik’s spread, no-huddle offense produced 705 points in 14 contests en route to qualifying for the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools’ Division III state football championship game. Bay Area Christian Academy ran more than 80 plays per game on several occasions last year.
That continued a trend from Kralik’s time at Bethel, where the Braves usually were among the South Puget Sound League’s most prolific offenses and he produced a 50-42 record between 2005-13.
“We definitely want to make the game as uncomfortable for our opponent as possible,” Kralik said.
It is a system that should better suit the modern-day Wolves. While there are no clones of Coats and Olson within the program, some believe of caliber of athletes at South is better than it was in the 1990s. Look no further than the school’s track program for an example of that. One member of the 1,600-meter relay team that helped the school win a state title in that event two years ago was running back Adam Gascoyne. One of his teammates was hurdler Brayden Maynard, a senior wide receiver last fall. And remember that Peninsula quarterback Robert Kvinsland, who attended SKSD through junior high, signed with Idaho State.
Talent is not the issue.
Kralik has more to work with than he did at Bethel. While he inherited a program that experienced more recent success — the Braves advanced to state six consecutive seasons and played for a pair of championships from 1999-2004 — its talent level has decimated with the opening of rival Graham-Kapowsin, where coach Eric Kurle took many of his players when he left Bethel. The result was a 2-8 record in 2005.
But Kralik recovered and led the Braves, who have just 10 state-playoff appearances in school history, to two in his final five seasons. He followed that with a seamless transition at Bay Area Christian.
In just 30 minutes of interaction with students during the interview process, The Kralik Way resonated.
“In a half hour, he had our kids running a no-huddle offense,” South athletic director Ed Santos said. “The way he held command of the kids, it was impressive.
“The kids were incredibly excited.”
And if that’s any indication, locals will soon feel the same.