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Opposing defenses beware, the Bethel receiving corps figures to be something special in 2019.
While many teams are lucky to have one go-to receiver, the Braves have three Division I-caliber starting receivers in seniors Cameron Parker, Puka Sokimi and Peter Latu, who is verbally committed to Oregon.
Head coach Mark Iddins and his players hope the trio can propel the team past the first round of the state playoffs, where its season has ended the past two years, and into a position to compete for a state championship.
“They have a confidence about them that nobody can cover them,” Iddins said. “When you have that, it makes it real hard for defenses, especially when you have a quarterback that can get them the ball. Once they get the ball, they’re not just catch and be done guys. They’re tough to tackle after they get the ball, too.”
The Braves’ starting quarterback is yet to be determined, but the team is confident it will work out.
“It’s really important,” Sokimi said of the quarterback position. “As long as they know what they’re doing and they can make the throws, then it shouldn’t be too hard because we got some dudes.”
With so many talented receivers, one might wonder if there will be enough passes to spread between them, but Iddins said one of the key factors in the group’s success has been its unselfishness.
“It’s gotten to the point where these guys don’t care if they catch one ball or if they catch 10, because they know throughout the season their numbers will come,” Iddins said. “It’s just about what the team needs.”
Sokimi reiterated his coach’s comments.
“If I don’t catch 12, then I know they’re going to catch about 20,” Sokimi said. “If they catch 12, then I can catch 12, too.
“I think we’ll be one of the best out there, in the state,” Sokimi added. “(Defensive backs) are going to have problems.”
That balance was on display in 2018. Parker led the team with 33 catches for 829 yards, nine touchdowns and an average of 25.1 yards per reception. Latu caught 27 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns, and Sokimi added 25 catches for 351 yards and three touchdowns. Sokimi did all that while having to move to quarterback for several games due to an injury to the team’s starter.
Thanks to a stout offensive line, the running game figures to add balance to the Braves’ offense. Junior Will Latu, Peter’s younger brother, will lead the way there. Will rushed for 438 yards on 64 carries and scored nine touchdowns a year ago. He also caught 29 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns out of the backfield.
“No other team can handle our receiving corps and our running corps,” Will Latu said. “It’s deadly.”
And the defense isn’t too shabby either.
“Most of the guys that our getting recruited on our team are getting recruited on defense,” Iddins said. “Defense is actually where we feel we have the most talent all around. We know in order to win you have to be solid in all facets of the game.”
The Braves finished last season 7-4, losing to Peninsula 55-34 in the first round of the 3A state playoffs. The players and coaches say they learned a lesson from that loss.
“I think we went into that game thinking that we were going to win it too easily, some of our players did,” Iddins said. “Once they smacked us in the mouth, some of our guys didn’t handle it well.”
This year, Iddins said his team has the talent, and he believes they have the heart, to compete with the best of the best.
“We don’t feel like there is anybody out there that we can’t play with,” Iddins said. “I think everybody out there that is realistic and watched high school football knows Eastside Catholic is arguably the most talented team that’s ever been in Washington. They won the state title pretty handily last year, so I think they’re the ones with the target on their back, for sure. Whether or not we can get up to their level, we’ll see. But we’re not shying away from anybody. We’re up for the challenge.”