It was an interesting year for sports in South Kitsap in 2022, at least more interesting than they were the two previous years when COVID caused so many issues.
Following are the Top 10 sports stories this year in the Port Orchard Independent:
1. South Kitsap High School wrestling: All of the high schools competed in the Hammerhead Invitational, and the Wolves boys team won the huge tournament with 203.5 points. The girls team, only in its second season, also finished better than any other team in the county, placing 13th with 48 points.
2. SKHS football: It has been years since South Kitsap has been the football power it once was, but they had some positive moments this season. They ended a nine-game losing streak, extending from last year, by shutting out Rogers 42-0 in Week 2 of the season. On offense, the Wolves controlled the ball most of the game by focusing on their running game. It also had some success later in the year, but at the end of the season coach Dan Ericson resigned, so questions remain as the program moves forward.
3. Title IX’s 50th Anniversary: Women in sports has drastically changed over the last 50 years. Besides a 33% increase in participation, the opportunities for female athletes has grown tremendously. This story talked to some of the older and younger coaches and administrators in Kitsap County about how girls sports changed in the last half-century.
4. Praying coach wins, returns: Bremerton High School football coach Joe Kennedy, who lost his job after praying on the 50-yard line with players following games, is returning to his position next season and will continue praying on the field. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the call of the Bremerton School District that Kennedy’s practice of praying on the gridiron was not allowed under the law.
5. SK wrestler commits to Cal Baptist: Mitchell Neiner committed to wrestle at Cal Baptist University next year, after considering colleges all over the country, including Ivy League schools. He currently wrestles in the 138-pound weight class and holds an 86-5 overall record, including a state championship at the 126 weight class in last season’s Mat Classic.
6. ‘Phenomenal’ Eagles to soar state title: After falling short last season, the Klahowya Eagles went on a perfect run and captured their third state title in program history. Victoria Peters, Amira Layons and Ali divano led the Eagles to the title with their offensive talents. The team was the local standard for success going to the playoffs 15 consecutive years and capturing nearly 200 wins. Coach Troy Oelschlager leads the dynasty.
7. Hockey interest skyrockets: The Seattle Kraken National Hockey League team had its inaugural season in 2021-22. Since the Kraken arrived in the Northwest, the popularity of hockey has grown. Some of the children and adults who play hockey at the Bremerton Ice Center gave their thoughts on what the Kraken have brought to the local scene.
8. Midnight practice: Before having one of the best cross-country seasons in the program, Central Kitsap High kicked off its year with a midnight practice on the first day practices were allowed. The boys and girls team started the tradition a couple of years ago, and it has grown since then.
9. Local a pro baseball coach: Kenny Matanane grew up in Bremerton, focusing on many sports. However, his first love was baseball, and he always wanted to make it to the professional scene. Currently, he works for Louisville Bats, the Cincinnati Reds AAA team, as the strength and conditioning coach.
10. Klahowya at Lumen: The Klahowya Eagles were one of eight high school football teams in Washington state invited this season to play at Lumen Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks. Although the Eagles lost, the team experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event. The cheerleaders and band also had the opportunity to perform in a professional stadium, to the delight of their fans.