Respect all, fear none: Vikings host ATM Nov. 11

POULSBO — With the state football championships on the rise, there’s no room for losers.

As North Kitsap prepares to play 2A Cascade Conference champion Archbishop Murphy in a loser-out home game at 7 p.m. on Nov. 11, they intend to control the outcome.

Five public schools have forfeited football matches against the Snohomish-based private school in this season alone because of the strength and brute force of the selected team.

The situation, causing an upset in league structure, could presumably force the WIAA to re-evaluate its standards, and has left the Wildcat football team undefeated in play and itching for a competitive match.

Viking head football coach Jeff Weible was reviewing film footage of Archbishop Murphy Nov. 8 when the North Kitsap Herald approached him for an interview.

“I’ve already talked to their head coach last week,” Weible said. “We’re not going to play the game. We decided to forfeit.”

Of course, he was joking.

The Vikings have been anticipating their shot to battle ATM since last season, when the Vikings hosted ATM in the state quarterfinal. Small errors on the Vikings gave the Wildcats an advantage to haul a 27-0 win, knocking the Vikings out of the playoffs in the 2015-16 season.

But this year, the purple and gold say things are different. They say they’re stronger, faster and, unlike other schools, psyched for the opportunity to battle with ATM again.

“Our kids certainly paid the price in the off-season,” Weible said. “One of our coaches is a personal trainer and trained kids during the winter and spring. From their work in the weight room they’re stronger, faster and better athletes. They’ve earned what they’ve got. They’ve worked hard, prepared well, and get along really well.”

Weible said the Vikings are stronger this year due to their dedicated coaching staff, an experienced offensive and defensive line, and their playoff experience last year. He feels all of this will drastically help their play against ATM.

“Going through the playoff run was valuable and gave them tons of experience,” he said. “There’s more familiarity. We know what Archbishop Murphy’s strengths are. We have good confidence in their ability and we certainly know who they want to get the ball to.”

Coaches and players spent the earlier part of the week studying the Wildcats’ tactics, and Weible took note of a few key players. He said ATM is of good speed and size and is well coached, but a few players — like senior wide receiver Anfernee Gurley, and senior left guard Jesus Echevarria (6 foot 1 inch and 330 pounds) — are instinctual and dominant on offense and defense.

“Every team we play has guys that weigh 300 pounds,” he said. “[Their reputation] is pretty sensationalized by media and Archbishop Murphy. Our kids match up pretty well size wise and we certainly play teams just like them, in speed and plays.

“We’re much faster this year,” he said. “Archbishop Murphy has a few kids with elite speeds, but our speeds are good on the offensive and defensive — especially against Orting. We’re better that we’ve been in last couple of years.”

The Vikings, undefeated in the 2A Olympic League at 6-0, 10-0, won the West Central District title with a 44-21 defeat of the Orting Cardinals, Nov. 4.

The Archbishop Murphy Wildcats wrapped up their season with a comparable score and defeated Burlington-Edison High School 55-6 to place third in their district playoffs.

“The kids are all fired up. They were pounding on lockers,” Weible said of his team.

“Their whole existence has been built up in the off-season to have the opportunity to play these guys again. It’s gonna be one heck of a battle on Friday night. We respect them, but we don’t fear them.”

— Sophie Bonomi is the sports reporter for the North Kitsap Herald. Contact her at sbonomi@northkitsapher

Junior running back Dax Solis gains some yardage Nov. 4 vs. Orting. (Sophie Bonomi/Kitsap News Group)

Junior running back Dax Solis gains some yardage Nov. 4 vs. Orting. (Sophie Bonomi/Kitsap News Group)