FOOTBALL | Kralik curbs conventional practice strategy

Wolves open preseason practice indoors for 75 minutes

It might seem unconventional to those who played football in the last century.

But South Kitsap’s new coach, Gavin Kralik, said his practice methods fit the evolution of the game.

For the opening 75 minutes of the Wolves’ first practice Aug. 19, they worked out indoors. And, as Kralik explained, that was not just an effort to avoid the 90-degree heat for the duration of the three-hour practice.

“I think football has evolved,” said Kralik, who was hired March 30 after spending last season at Texas’ Bay Area Christian and 2005-13 at Bethel. “We try and stay on the upside of that. It’s not what we did day one of coaching 10 years ago, but it’s where we’re at now.

“We just want to get all of our guys to a spot where we’re executing and we’re able to play a lot of guys without mental errors. If we can get to that spot, I think we have a really good shot of being successful.”

The session started in both the main and auxiliary gyms at the high school, where position coaches worked with athletes. In the locker rooms downstairs, Kralik met with the quarterbacks.

“We work with the quarterbacks before practice and then we bring the rest of the team in to do a lot of mental training in terms of understanding and teaching before we get out on the field,” he said. “If we’re trying to play up-tempo, in order to stop and teach [during practice] you’re breaking up the tempo part.”

Bay Area Christian, which ran more than 80 plays in a game multiple times, produced 705 points in 14 games last season. 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 tallied a 50-42 record. In both places, Kralik utilized a successful spread, no-huddle offense.

That was the case during the Wolves’ first practice, but not at a level Kralik expects when they host Central Kitsap on Sept. 4.

“Sloppy,” said Kralik, when asked to characterize the first workout. “There were a lot of things on both sides of the football that we’ve got to clean up. But the kids worked hard and we’re in a better spot than we were coming out of spring football.”

That element, senior linebacker Mikey Garcia said, was important.

While former coach Eric Canton took the team to camp in the beds of the old Army barracks at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend for four days during each of the last two years, the Wolves did not conduct spring practices.

“I think last year this would’ve been our very first practice getting to know the offense,” Garcia said. “At least now we all know the offense. It’s nailing it down and conditioning.”

Garcia was part of a defense last year that surrendered more than 40 points in four contests en route to a 3-7 record.

“We were on the lower end,” Garcia said. “We were huffing and wheezing — hands on our knees.

“Now that the defense is getting conditioned, hopefully it’s going to be a battle.”

Kralik took a different approach toward the offseason as South conducted the maximum 20 spring practices. The team scrimmaged against Lakes and Graham Kapowsin on June 20 and participated in a passing and linemen challenge July 25 at Lakewood High School. South again will scrimmage Aug. 28 at Lakes.

“It’s kind of like preseason football,” Kralik said. “If you played your first game of the season week 1, you’re going to have a lot tougher time than if you’ve had opportunities to go out and compete against someone else, evaluate players and fix things you need to fix between scrimmages and games. I think it’s pretty essential for us.”

Garcia also likes the approach.

“Being able to see people we won’t even play gives us a good idea what it’s going to be like when we hit the first day of the playoffs,” he said. “Getting other looks just benefits us as a whole.”

Kralik shared similar sentiments.

“I think we’re way ahead of where we were in the spring because we had those 20 practices,” he said. “Obviously, a lot of people are doing that across the state so we’ve got to make the most out of every practice we have.”

• Some familiar names, including South graduates Dustin Booth, Rob Ells and Renard Williams, have returned as assistant coaches. All three also were on Canton’s staff last year.

“There’s a lot of alumni that understand the tradition and importance of South Kitsap to this community,” Kralik said.

• Garcia said he is excited to practice on the new artificial surface at Kitsap Bank Stadium before the season begins.

“I heard we get about three or four practices on the turf to get used to it,” he said. “After having to play on the classic South Kitsap field, usually when it gets to October it usually is not a field anymore. Knowing that we get to play on something nice all season makes us all happy.”

• Kralik said he worked to convince a pair of the school’s top track and field athletes to play football this season. Junior Nolan Van Amen, who won the Class 4A discus and shot put titles last spring, and triple-jump specialist Albert MacArthur, a senior, both turned out.

“We’re trying to get all of the athletes out possible within the school,” Kralik said. “Those guys are two big pieces that didn’t play last year. We’re fortunate they came out.”

• When asked about one position that has surprised him — in a positive sense — Kralik said the defensive line. In addition to Van Amen, Kralik said he likes what he has seen from senior Elijah Griffin.

• There is a two-way battle for the quarterback job. Kralik said both seniors Cole Craner and Jake Taylor “are very capable,” but neither separated himself as the starter during spring practices. The 6-foot-4 Taylor features a more traditional quarterback build, while the 5-11 Craner is more mobile.

• Kralik’s older brother, Joe, is coaching the Wolves’ receivers. He played from 1990-93 at the University of Washington.