Old rivalries to be revived on the gridiron

Over 10 months ago, I was driving home from the state basketball championships in Yakima. Light was quickly fading as I headed toward Snoqualmie Pass and the snow showers picked up. Visibility quickly went down to just a few feet as I slowed to a crawl, barely able to see the car in front of me.

Then as I made my way toward Issaquah, a huge car accident snarled traffic on Interstate 90 for hours. I would have had to sit there, if not for a truck blocking the right lane a few hundred feet back, just before an exit. I reversed out of my lane and left the highway, traveling through Issaquah and Bellevue before heading toward the Seattle ferry.

Traveling around the state is one of the best parts of my job — and you will definitely put in a lot of miles during each of the three postseasons — but as I waited in line for the next boat, I thought to myself, “Man, I could use a break.”

Let that be a lesson to us all, because I’ve been on one since March; though there is some hope for getting back on the sidelines soon.

And with the news that the Olympic League will encompass 13 schools from four counties, there will be some interesting matchups, especially when it comes to football.

It’s pretty common for local schools in different classifications to play early regular season games against one another, but it’s much rarer in football. There are a couple of long-standing rivalries still going — Bainbridge and North Kitsap have the Agate Cup and Central Kitsap and Olympic have the battle of Bucklin Hill — but it’s been some time since even a majority of the county’s eight biggest schools have regularly competed against one another.

Between 1999 and 2006, South Kitsap, Central Kitsap, North Kitsap, Bremerton and Olympic were all 4A schools and members of the Narrows League. South Kitsap had been a founding member in 1980, and the other four schools joined for football in 1999. Bremerton and Olympic left in 2006 to rejoin the revived Olympic League, and North Kitsap followed in 2008 after dropping down to 3A. South Kitsap and Central Kitsap stayed until the league disbanded in 2016. The Wolves joined the 4A South Puget Sound League, and the Cougars went to the 3A South Sound Conference.

Bainbridge has bounced around from the Wesco to the Olympic League — except for football, which participated in the Pierce County League — and finally to the Metro League.

Beginning in fall of 2020, the eight schools were set to be spread across five different leagues as Bainbridge remains in the Metro and Klahowya was set to join the Nisqually League. Kitsap County is also home to Crosspoint, a member of the 1B SeaTac League, and Chief Kitsap Academy, which belongs to the 1B North Olympic League.

But all of the local schools are set to join forces for at least one truncated high school sports season caused by COVID-19 this year.

The Olympic League’s North Division will be home to most of the county’s oldest schools, except for Bremerton, which will put some schools back on the field together for the first time in a while. Olympic and Sequim will also be a part of that division.

South Kitsap and Bainbridge last had a regularly scheduled football game in 1966, a 28-6 Spartans victory. The two teams did, however, play a crossover consolation 10th game in 2017, which Bainbridge also won 34-21.

North Kitsap gets its first chance to play the Wolves since 2007, its last year in the Narrows League. South Kitsap won that one handily, 41-7. South Kitsap and Sequim played every year from 1947 until 1962, but have not since then.

Here are some highlights from previous matchups we could see again this year if the region is able to move into Phase 2 and start competitions:

2007: South Kitsap 41, North Kitsap 7

This was the last of a matchup once known as the Civil War, and the Wolves won this one going away in Port Orchard. South Kitsap star running back Stephan Tucker rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns as the Wolves led 27-7 by halftime. Kyle Brose had the only touchdown for North Kitsap, a 1-yard run in the second quarter.

2013: Central Kitsap 45, Bainbridge 6

Before reviving its early season non-league rivalry with North Kitsap, the Spartans took on Central Kitsap in 2012 and 2013, and the Cougars dominated both matchups. In 2013, senior quarterback Andrew Schweiterman threw for 180 yards and three touchdowns and also scampered away for a 70-yard score (amazingly, you can still find clips of those touchdowns on MaxPreps and Hudl) as the Cougars led 38-0 by halftime. Brion Anduze was on the receiving end of a pair of TD tosses, and Taylor Soete caught the third. Kyle Jackson scored the lone touchdown for the Spartans on a pass from Connor Teddy.

2015: South Kitsap 25, Central Kitsap 14

The final year of the Narrows League and the final matchup between these two teams went to the Wolves. South Kitsap quarterback Jake Taylor threw for 322 yards and one touchdown and completed 27 of 37 passes. It was one of only two wins that season for the Wolves and the first for then-head coach Gavin Kralik. Isaiah McGee gave Central Kitsap a 7-5 lead with a 52-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but CJ Gill returned an interception 82 yards for a score to put the Wolves ahead for good. CK quarterback Tyler Tubbs hit Kaleb Bates for a 15-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but Mikey Garcia iced the win with a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth.

2017: North Kitsap 25, Central Kitsap 14

A drizzly night in Poulsbo led to some fumbling issues for both teams, but the Vikings got on track at home in the second half thanks to a 170-yard, three-touchdown performance from running back Dax Solis. Central Kitsap QB Bradley Dykstra threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Quirious Conley for the only touchdown of the first half. After Solis’s first touchdown at the 9:39 mark of the third quarter, Andrew Blackmore connected with receiver Kai Warren on a 26-yard touchdown to give North Kitsap the lead. Darickus Welborne scored on a 28-yard run in the fourth quarter.

2019: Bainbridge 13, North Kitsap 7

A defensive struggle, the Spartans had just 182 yards of offense, but it was enough to capture the Agate Cup. Alex Ledbetter scored both touchdowns for Bainbridge and had a combined 123 yards passing and running. Charlie Hughes added 33 rushing yards and Franco Abbularde had 18. John Devlin was the Spartans’ leading receiver with 54 yards and also had two sacks, a fumble recovery and two tackles for a loss. Sio Peato had five tackles for a loss and two passes defensed.