The high school spring football period generally takes on one of two tones for perennially competitive programs: It’s either time to rebuild, or it’s time to make a run at a state title.
For Peninsula this spring, it’s the latter.
At Roy Anderson Field, the energy was palpable at practice on Thursday afternoon, with the sounds of Iron Maiden pumping through the stadium speakers, coaches barking at players and the pads popping.
There isn’t much in the way of roster turnover for the Seahawks heading into the 2018-19 school year. Coach Ross Filkins has an experienced group to work with.
“It’s kind of the nature of high school football — you’re going to graduate seniors every year,” Filkins said. “And that’s great, but we do have continuity right now. We have a lot of returning players sprinkled in throughout the positions. We feel like we’re ahead in terms of our teaching progression, from where we were a year ago.”
Here are my five takeaways and storylines from watching a bit of spring ball last week.
Ahead of the curve
With a good chunk of returners who knew what was expected of them, Filkins said the players embraced the offseason weight training.
“We made a major emphasis in our (offseason) training,” Filkins said.
There’s no wasted time this spring with players trying to learn offensive or defensive schemes. Most of the presumed starters saw varsity time last year, so the Seahawks are ahead of the curve.
Lines will be key
It took a while for the young offensive and defensive lines to gel last season, with so many new faces. But once they did, the Seahawks were able to commit to their style of play: Running the football on offense, stopping the run on defense.
Sophomore left tackle Mason Hyde and sophomore defensive lineman Isaiah Juvik earned all-league honors as underclassmen.
“Just being in the weight room helped us develop last year,” Hyde said. “A lot of hard work made that season a little easier.”
Juvik, who plays all along the defensive line, got his first significant playing time in last year’s Fish Bowl win against Gig Harbor, when a Peninsula starter went down and Juvik was called into action in the second half. From that point, he flourished.
“I just want to be 100 percent in these spring practices,” Juvik said. “I want to be as good as we were in our last game last season as we are here in scrimmages. I want to be at 100 percent, full speed ahead for our first game. I’m just excited to be back here, bring that intensity, run through the O-line and make plays.”
In addition to the benefit of experience, Filkins said both lines will be more athletic this season.
“The returning linemen are significantly more developed physically than they were a year ago,” Filkins said.
Filkins referenced Khalif Spry, who dropped from 305 to about 275.
“He’s much quicker and more athletic right now,” Filkins said. “And Mason Hyde, he’s really filled out now. He’s throwing around some good weight in the weight room right now. Guys like that, you can really see where our line play is so much farther along than it was last year.”
If Peninsula wants to beat South Sound Conference rival Timberline, line play will be key.
“You can’t get by with smoke and mirrors against them,” Filkins said.
In addition to having an experienced offensive line, Peninsula will have the same quarterback for the third consecutive season, with Burke Griffin back for his senior year calling plays. Paired with senior running back Braeden Potter, the Seahawks have a clear identity on offense and a signal-caller who already is well-versed on the playbook.
Finding a go-to receiver
One position that will see some change is wide receiver. Griffin’s favorite deep threat, Alex Beloate, has graduated and big-play receiver Jace Keim is gone as well. Expect junior-to-be Chase Wittmers to step up in this role. Wittmers showed flashes of big-play ability as a sophomore, and looks stronger and more confident this spring. He has the tools to be a No. 1 receiver and should see a lot of passes coming his way in the fall.
While “one game at a time” will still be the prevailing mantra as long as Filkins is at the helm, it’s telling that this team is thinking about playing deep into the postseason.
“Our ultimate goal is to win one game a week,” Filkins said. “If we can do that and focus on that, that’s how we’ll earn the opportunity to win a state championship. These last two years, we feel like we’ve been just a play or two away. We feel like we’re close and we just want to take care of every detail and have fun along the way.
“Our whole purpose in this is just to appreciate every minute we’re out here together and just focus on each week’s ultimate goal, to win that one game. If you just stack them together, it takes care of itself in the end.”
There seems to be a desire, starting with Filkins, to take the Peninsula program from one of the state’s “very good” programs to one of the state’s “elite” programs. That starts with the non-league schedule Filkins put together. Peninsula travels to O’Dea in week one and will host Skyline in week two, before hopping into league play.
“It’s going to take every guy to get through this,” Filkins said. “But we have very high expectations for our program and we have an ambitious schedule.”
Count Peninsula’s left tackle in.
“I’m hungry,” Hyde said. “We’re all ready to take this to the next level. It’ll take a ton of hard work, 110 percent at practice. I love it. I love the intensity. I love everything about it and this program.”