High School Sports

Magic in Port Orchard: South Kitsap football snaps 21-game losing streak

After 21 consecutive losses, the South Kitsap High School football team finally won Friday night, beating the visiting Rogers Rams, 31-14. It was the state’s longest losing streak, stretching back to 2016.

And first-year coach Dan Ericson was thrilled to see the streak come to an end under his watch.

“To get our first victory and get it in pretty convincing fashion, it was unbelievable,” Ericson said. “It was more than football. It was a community event. It was more than that. It was a big relief for the whole community. It offered some hope for everybody and let us showcase everything that’s great about South Kitsap High School.”

Maybe it was meant to be. Prior to the game, South Kitsap honored former coach Ed Fisher, who won 197 games with the program, including a state title with the Wolves in 1994. On Friday, the school officially renamed its field “Ed Fisher Field.”

Perhaps there was some of that mid-90s magic in the air in Port Orchard on Friday night, with South Kitsap coming out on top.

“It was a little bit Hollywood, a little bit magical, for us to be honoring a teacher and coach that had such an impact on the community,” Ericson said. “(Fisher) is a super nice guy, a humble guy. He was really, really excited for the team.”

Ericson said Fisher was the first person greeting the team in the locker room, when South Kitsap was tied at halftime, 7-7.

“We wanted to play our brand of football, force some punts,” Ericson said. “Rogers had a couple dynamic athletes. We needed to keep those guys in front of us and make some first downs on offense, control the clock and hopefully score some points.”

Coincidentally, this wasn’t the first time Ericson has been part of breaking the state’s longest losing streak. In his first year as the coach at Class 1A Klahowya, Ericson inherited a program that had lost a state-leading 22 games in a row. The team snapped that streak in Ericson’s first season there, also.

“Both situations were similar, people weren’t talking positively about it,” Ericson said. “I took the same approach here. One of my first things, I have to go get every kid that should be playing football to play football — just recruit the hallways. Getting multi-sport athletes to come out for the team.”

Like senior Deyondre Davis, the 4A state champion in the 110-meter hurdles. Or junior Rylan Bayne, the starting shortstop for the Wolves’ baseball team, who is the team’s starting quarterback this season.

Of all the negative aspects of a multi-year losing streak, the negativity and self-doubt that can plague a program in the midst of it is perhaps the most challenging hurdle to overcome. So when the final buzzer sounded, it was like a weight had been lifted off the shoulders of everyone in the program.

“It was pretty unbelievable,” Ericson said. “There was tons of tears, excitement, relief. Kids storming the field, students thanking coaches and players. They had never seen a win before. It was a packed house, just lots of emotion. It was just an unbelievable night.”

Jon Manley covers high school sports for The Peninsula Gateway and The News Tribune. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Manley has covered the Gig Harbor sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.