PORT ORCHARD — For the South Kitsap football team, running the gauntlet that is the South Puget Sound 4A League has been a difficult challenge this season. But there remains optimism and enthusiasm on the part of both coaches and players that the program can compete in perhaps the state’s toughest league.
Even in the late stages of the Wolves’ 45-13 loss to Olympia on Sept. 29, players and coaches alike were still engrossed as if it were the fourth quarter of a state championship game — the kind of culture head coach Cory Vartanian has sought to instill.
“The kids believe in our system and believe in one another,” Vartanian said. “They play for one another and have a lot of pride in their school. As a coaching staff, what more can we ask for?”
There were certainly plenty of rough spots mixed in with some bright moments for South Kitsap — several penalties brought premature ends to drives that otherwise saw the Wolves moving the ball well; two bad snaps on punt attempts ultimately resulted in touchdowns for Olympia; and a red zone opportunity that saw the offense stall with a chance to get back into the game.
“We were picking up first downs and we were moving the ball well,” Vartanian said. “But we had some false starts, we had a holding penalty on a nice run, and then we had some breakdowns.”
Olympia’s Vinnie Baroga jumped on one of those bad snaps to give his team good field position at the South Kitsap 46-yard line. Three plays later, senior running back Eachan Pettis scampered to the end zone from 34 yards away to give the Bulldogs a 16-0 lead. That score was preceded by the biggest play of the night, an 83-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ketner Young to receiver Ibi Ceesay.
On the ensuing drive, South Kitsap was forced to punt again. The snap sailed over the punter’s head and was recovered by Isaac Muckian for a score, padding Olympia’s lead to 22-0.
The Wolves scored on their first possession of the second half when quarterback Garrison Glisson threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Alec Johnson. Momentum continued to swing to the home team after South Kitsap blocked a field goal attempt by Olympia on its next drive.
When the Wolves took over possession of the football, Glisson made a terrific throw to senior Quinn Ogan for a 32-yard gain that brought the crowd to life as their team seemed destined for another trip to the end zone. But Olympia ramped up its pass rush and eventually forced another South Kitsap punt.
On the next drive, Olympia’s Owen Shea broke free for a 51-yard touchdown that swung momentum in the Bulldogs’ favor.
“We came out in the second half and made some adjustments,” Vartanian said. “We had some momentum and we stalled out. We had some things going on up front, but guys were doing their best and things didn’t go our way tonight.”
The Wolves scored a late touchdown on Glisson’s second aerial strike of the game, which went to Ogan from 19 yards away.
Ogan finished the game with six receptions for 81 yards and the touchdown. Senior running back Izaiah Davis continued his unheralded, but integral, work as South Kitsap’s primary running back, carrying the ball 25 times for 81 tough yards. Glisson finished 12-of-29 for 144 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
South Kitsap travels to Tacoma on Friday, Oct. 6 to take on Bellarmine Prep for yet another tough league contest. The Lions lost to Olympia, 28-21, on Sept. 15.
“We’ll continue to work hard, the kids are working hard every day, (and) as a coaching staff, we couldn’t be more proud of our kids,” Vartanian said. “They believe in the system. All we can do is continue to move forward.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.