Justin Baker recaps Kennedy Catholic’s rally against Bethel
Week one of the high school football season in the South Sound is in the books. Here are some takeaways from the first week of action.
Kennedy Catholic’s run defense is improved
The high-flying offense, led by 5-star junior quarterback Sam Huard, a University of Washington commit, has been written about and covered ad nauseam. The Lancers boast one of the top offenses in the state — one that would likely stack up with some of the best in the entire country. But for the Lancers to take the next step and turn into a legitimate 4A title contender, the defense was going to have to improve this season.
While the sample size is small, the defense certainly looked improved in game one, in a 32-27 win against Bethel at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on national television on Friday night. Particularly, the run defense, which limited bruising Bethel junior running back Will Latu to 71 yards on 24 carries (albeit with four rushing touchdowns on the night). Defensive linemen Jahvius Leui and TJ Paaga were stout on the line, while linebackers Shane Aleaga and Donovan Lowe were making tackles in space. It was no secret to the coaches and players that the defense needed an overhaul in the offseason.
“We’re bigger, older, and we’ve been in the weight room,” said Kennedy Catholic coach Sheldon Cross. “Our defense played great. We’ve spent so much time on it. We knew we were going to be better and I’m proud of our defense.”
And the offense was as good as advertised. Even with a pedestrian performance — by his lofty standards — Huard threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns on 15-of-28 passing. Cal commit Justin Baker was electric, hauling in a touchdown catch in addition to a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Jabez Tinae caught a pair of touchdown passes and Reed Shumpert caught another.
No one will mistake the Kennedy Catholic defense for being the 1985 Chicago Bears, but if the Lancers can simply limit damage and slow teams down, the Lancers offense will take care of the rest.
Bethel has a quarterback
Huard wasn’t the only quarterback who had a good game on the Seattle Seahawks’ home field on Friday night. Junior Kekoa Visperas impressed in his debut, showing poise early, despite the bright lights and big crowd. He opened the game completing six of his first seven passes for 104 yards, slicing through the Kennedy Catholic secondary with relative ease. While he eventually came back down to earth, he finished the game completing 19-of-34 passes for 224 yards, adding 35 yards rushing on eight carries.
Visperas has plenty of weapons in the passing game, with Cameron Parker, Puka Sokimi and Peter Latu all capable of making big plays. With Will Latu proving a load to bring down at the running back spot, Bethel’s offense could take a step forward this season. While Lincoln and Lakes are the favorites in the 3A PCL, Bethel has as much talent as anyone in the league and could make a run at the league title.
Credit to Bethel coach Mark Iddins for his game plan against the Lancers. Bethel methodically marched the ball down the field, draining the clock with long possessions and keeping the ball out of Huard’s hands for much of the game. If not for a turnover on downs in the red zone late in the third quarter, Bethel may have come out on top on Friday night.
Local 2A state title contenders left no doubt
How about the performances from Tumwater and Steilacoom on Friday night?
Class 2A EvCo favorite Tumwater opened its season with a 55-0 beatdown of local rival Timberline from the 3A SSC. After missing half of last season with an ACL tear, running back Dylan Paine made his return to the field, rushing 12 times for 51 yards. Tumwater used a bevy of running backs, all of which rushed effectively against Timberline’s rebuilding roster.
And on the defensive side of the ball, the T-Birds pitched a shutout, holding Timberline to negative yards rushing and a paltry 46 passing yards. Quarterback Cody Whalen was plenty efficient, completing 9-of-11 passes for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Steilacoom, another local 2A title contender, opened its season with a 46-0 win over Class 3A KingCo side Lake Washington. Good luck to anyone hoping to slow this offense down this season. In his first varsity start, quarterback Chance McDonald racked up 500 yards in the air, completing 31-of-43 passes with seven touchdowns to one interception. Five-star recruit Emeka Egbuka was the star of the show for the Sentinels, tallying 270 yards and five touchdowns on just 10 catches, showing why he’s one of the most explosive players in the country. Isaiah Devane added 136 receiving yards and a touchdown on 11 catches.
SPSL 4A favorites take care of business
Even without four-year starter Dylan Morris starring for the Eagles this year, Graham-Kapowsin opened with a 21-14 win over Sheldon, one of the top programs in Oregon. Even if it takes some time for senior quarterback Nate Thomas to find his footing, the Eagles return their entire secondary from last season and have a stable of big, athletic linemen on both sides of the ball.
Last year’s 4A SPSL winner, Puyallup, opened with a comfortable 28-3 win over Bellarmine Prep, breaking in new starting quarterback Luke Holcomb, who took over this season for his older brother, Jacob, who graduated after being named The News Tribune’s All-Area player of the year in 2018.
While there’s plenty of time for the league standings to shake out, the two obvious contenders for the SPSL 4A title are Puyallup and Graham-Kapowsin, and both got off to a good start to 2019 in week one.