With their first home game less than a month away, the South Kitsap Wolves football team has officially begun practices and preparation for the upcoming season. With a new league and new talent coming in, as well as strong returning players, head coach Gavin Kralik has high hopes for the Wolves.
“We physically were not in a position to compete at a high level next season,” Kralik said. “We had a high number of committed kids this off-season. The preparation for this season began the Monday after our season ended last year.”
The Wolves went 2-8 in the 2015 season with their only wins coming against Central Kitsap and Mount Tahoma during the 4A/3A crossover game. However, with the Narrows 4A League dissolving, South Kitsap will now play in the 4A South Puget Sound League (SPSL) against some teams they’ve never encountered.
In a complete restructure, the SPSL now consists of Bellarmine, Curtis, Emerald Ridge, Graham-Kapowsin, Olympia, Puyallup, Rogers, South Kitsap and Sumner. Several of these teams, as well as those in the 4A North Puget Sound League, were highly ranked at the end of last season, and will give the Wolves some stiff competition.
“The 4A SPSL will be the toughest league in the state,” Kralik said. “Top to bottom, the league has a ton of depth. There is no question that this is the toughest league South Kitsap has ever been apart of.”
The Wolves first game of the season will be against Graham-Kapowsin, which is going into the 2016 season as one of the top-rated 4A teams in the state.
“No team in the state will begin the season with a tougher first two games than us,” Kralik said. Not only is the Wolves first league game against Graham Kapowsin, but in the second week of competition, they will host Sumner High School, another top league contender.
Even with the increased competition, Kralik said the Wolves are in a “much better position to compete as a team as a whole this year.”
Several key players for the Wolves will return this season to lead the team in seeking to improve its win-loss ratio. Izaiah Davis is entering his junior year. Last year, he rushed for more than 900 yards in nine games as a running back for the Wolves.
Davis isn’t the only leader on the team. Izaijha Byrd was the team’s leading wide receiver last season with 38 receiving yards, 712 rushing yards and five touchdowns in eight games. Linebacker JJ Leota, who recorded 62 tackles last season, is returning, as is Nathan Marin, a second-team defensive back last season.
Kralik said the team is ready for the change in competition and hopes fans are also excited for the upcoming season.
“We will be improved from last year. How much we have closed the gap on the other elite programs in our league will be the question this season,” he said.
South Kitsap’s first home game is against Sumner on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m. The Wolves will also host Puyallup, Bellarmine and Emerald Ridge throughout the season, alternating games at home and away.