SILVERDALE — For 33 years, the Battle of Bucklin Hill has only been played at one end of the road. But that changes Friday night as this long-standing rivalry game returns to Silverdale.
Silverdale Stadium, located on Olympic High School’s campus, has played host to both Central Kitsap and Olympic’s football teams since 1986 — it also added Klahowya, which also moves to its own on-campus stadium in 2019, as a tenant when it opened in 1997.
The completion of Central Kitsap’s own athletic complex means fans, parents, players and coaches no longer have to make the 11-minute trip down Bucklin Hill Road and Stampede Boulevard for every home game. And the football Cougars are thrilled to be the first ones to take the field.
“We’re excited,” said Central Kitsap’s senior defensive back Nigal Hardee. “We’re counting down the days, the hours, the minutes.”
There are plenty of other reasons for Central Kitsap supporters to be pumped as well. The Cougars feature the area’s best defense and the players feel primed for a big season — though they know it won’t be handed to them. The memory of their first round 53-13 playoff loss to Squalicum last season is still fresh in their minds.
“We have to put in the work to be able to be good,” said senior linebacker Colton Van Dijk.
The Cougars bring back ten starters on defense and there is plenty of talent throughout the unit. Mekai Seau and Ty Callao-Zeeman anchor the defensive line, linebackers Van Dijk and Nathan Flatau patrol the next level and the defensive backfield is loaded with Hardee, a top-notch shutdown corner, and safety Eathan Dodson.
They will get a good first test in the Trojans, which had one of the most explosive offenses around last season. They are led by a pair of Division I level playmakers in running back/receiver Malcolm Dewalt and receiver Adam Johnson, and an experienced quarterback in senior Zeke Gillick.
In 2018, Gillick threw for 1,763 yards and 18 touchdowns. Johnson caught 43 passes for 652 yards and seven touchdowns and Dewalt had a combined 953 yards rushing and receiving and 12 touchdowns.
But the rushing attack as a whole struggled and it forced the Olympic defense to stay on the field. In ten games, the Trojans averaged 30 points scored per game, but 35 points against. The coaching staff is looking for a little more offensive balance this season while recognizing the need to get the ball into the hands of their best players.
“We had some success passing the ball, but we have to help ourselves on that run,” said head coach Sal Quitevis. “That will not only help control the clock, but it will help our defense not have to be out there so much.”
That was evident in last year’s game as Olympic rushed for just 38 yards in the 33-14 loss to the Cougars. Despite that, Central Kitsap led just 13-7 at halftime before taking off in the second half.
The Cougars were led by two players that have since graduated — Alex Refilong rushed for 154 yards and two scores and Elijah McGee added 141 yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line has some experience and that will help first-year quarterback Joshua Flaugher, who has a pretty good stable of receivers in Jason Almonte, Zachary Webb, Kalai Pasi and tight end Jeven Keel.
It all makes for an interesting iteration of this rivalry game. A high-powered Olympic offense will match up with a loaded Central Kitsap defense, while a less experienced CK offense will go head-to-head with a new-look Trojans defense.
Add in the opening of a brand new stadium and it should be a game to remember.
“I think it’s going to be quite the atmosphere here,” said Central Kitsap head coach Mark Keel.
Game info: Central Kitsap vs. Olympic in the 42nd Battle of Bucklin Hill, Sept. 6, 7 p.m. at Central Kitsap High School.
Rivalry by the numbers
- Central Kitsap has the upper hand with 25 victories to Olympic’s 16.
- Olympic has beaten Keel’s CK teams only three times — 2006, 2014 and 2015.
- The rivalry ceased for two years between 2012 and 2013 after a 51-0 CK win in 2011.
- Olympic’s last two victories in 2014 and 2015 coincided with 2A state playoff berths.
Last five matchups:
2018: Central Kitsap 33, Olympic 14
2017: Central Kitsap 40, Olympic 7
2016: Central Kitsap 23, Olympic 7
2015: Olympic 29, Central Kitsap 0
2014: Olympic 7, Central Kitsap 6
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.