PORT ORCHARD — South Kitsap’s football team will feature a mostly “new-look” squad this year. With only nine seniors on the roster — just six returners among them — the Wolves will be counting on their youngsters to step up.
Fortunately, the program has some good underclassmen ready to contribute, and they will get all they can handle as they make the jump to varsity in the tough 4A South Puget Sound League.
“This is probably the youngest team I’ve ever had in my 11 years of coaching, anywhere,” said head coach Dan Ericson, who begins his third season — and second full season — as South Kitsap’s head coach.
But first, a nod to the guys who will get the chance to have a full senior season — running back/safety Joren Rentie was one of the team’s top contributors during the spring, as was linemen Sila Feliuai. Nik Randall, another senior interior lineman, should also be around doing plenty of the dirty work. Senior lineman Eric Anderson also returns from last year’s varsity squad.
Ericson said South Kitsap consistently had 60 to 70 kids in the weight room all summer and had a roster of 112 athletes at the start of the preseason, with about 30 coming out for football for the first time.
Three underclassmen to keep an eye on are juniors Mason Elena and Nathan Ericson, and sophomore Jordan Lee. Ericson said all three will see time at quarterback, but they will also be involved at running back, receiver, on defense and on special teams.
“They’ll probably cook lunch, too,” Ericson joked.
Ericson said the trio are three of the program’s best athletes, and they will get their first chance to show it. During the spring, South Kitsap had its large program split across three different teams and were mostly kept apart in pods. Bringing all the players back together in the fall hasn’t been a challenge though; that’s coming when the regular season starts and they run the gauntlet in one of the state’s most challenging leagues.
“We’re in 4A, and this is about as hard as it gets in Washington, but I feel great,” Elena said. “This is the most bonded football team I’ve ever been on in my entire life.”
The youngsters are also eager to be a part of the generation that helps South Kitsap turn the corner and get back to its successful ways. The Wolves’ last winning season was in 2012 and the team’s most recent appearance in the state playoffs was in 2009, but this group hopes to lead the program back into prominence.
“It’s been really good for us to be all together for three years,” said Nathan Ericson. “We’ve been that core group that is going to try and change the culture for the younger generations coming behind us.”
In the shorter term, the players are looking forward to getting back to Ed Fisher Field with a full house, a rocking band and a renewed energy. They open the season on Week 1 at Curtis and then come home to Port Orchard on Sept. 10 when they host a tough Bellarmine Prep team.
“Having fans, having that energy they bring to the game,” Lee said. “Having things back to normal.”
2021 record: 0-3
Head coach: Dan Ericson
Key players: Sila Feluai, OL/DL, sr.; Joran Rentie, RB/DB, sr.; Nik Randall, OL/DL, sr.; Rafael Cabalo, WR/LB, sr.; Rylan Pearson, RB/DB, sr.; Mason Elena, QB/DB, jr.; Nathan Ericson, QB/DB, jr.; Jorden Lee, QB/DB, so.; Colby Shaw, OL/LB, sr.; Eric Anderson, OL/DL, sr.
Schedule: Friday, Sept. 3, 7 p.m. at Curtis; Sept. 10, 7 p.m., Bellarmine; Sept. 18, 7 p.m., at Rogers; Sept. 23, 7 p.m., Sumner; Oct. 1, 7 p.m., Olympia; Oct. 8, 7 p.m., Emerald Ridge; Oct. 15, 7 p.m., at Bethel; Oct. 22, 7 p.m., at Puyallup; Oct. 28, 7 p.m. at Graham-Kapowsin.