High School Sports

4A SPSL preview: Primer, predictions, team capsules

Sumner running back Connor Wedington, right, split carries last year, but had 2,366 all-purpose yards. It’s the UW commit’s show now.
Sumner running back Connor Wedington, right, split carries last year, but had 2,366 all-purpose yards. It’s the UW commit’s show now. dperine@thenewstribune.com

4A SOUTH PUGET SOUND LEAGUE

ON THE THRONE

Graham-Kapowsin QB Dylan Morris has his blindside covered with LT Foster Sarell back. Eagles hope this is the year they get to the Tacoma Dome.

CHANGE IS GOOD

The 4A SPSL added three perennial playoff programs in Bellarmine Prep, Olympia and South Kitsap after the 4A Narrows disbanded.

BY THE NUMBERS

Sumner running back Connor Wedington split carries last year, but had 2,366 all-purpose yards. It’s the UW commit’s show now.

PROJECTED FINISH

Graham-Kapowsin (11-1 last year), Sumner (10-1), Bellarmine Prep (7-4), Olympia (7-3), Puyallup (6-4), Curtis (7-4), Emerald Ridge (4-6), South Kitsap (2-8), Rogers (2-8).

MARK THE DATE

Sept. 22: Graham-Kapowsin vs. Sumner, 7 p.m. at Sunset Chev Stadium.

BELLARMINE PREP LIONS

Coach: Brian Jensen, second year.

2015 record: 7-4, second in 4A Narrows, lost in first round of 4A state playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator (set) – Jensen (multiple). Returning starters – 7. Top players – WR Christian Brown, 5-10, 175, jr.; WR Thomas Connelly 5-10, 160, sr.; OL Josh Hanigan, 6-0, 235, sr.; OL Andrew Jesse, 6-3, 235, sr.; OL Junior Lotovaivai, 6-2, 295, jr.; RB Matthew Money, 5-10, 195, sr.; QB Christian Moore, 6-5, 185, sr.; RB Czarshay Thomas, 5-10, 160, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) – Dan Shaw (multiple). Returning starters – 3. Top players – DB Brown; DB Isaiah Conner, 5-9, 175, sr.; LB Chase Chandler, 6-2, 225, jr.; DB Lance Joseph, 5-7, 165, sr.; DB Cameron Sterino, 5-10, 170, sr.

Outlook: Gone are the games of handing off the ball to Ahmad Lewis 44 times. He’s graduated and is a walk-on at the University of Arizona. Expect Money and Thomas to split the carries in the backfield, and Bellarmine to balance out with Moore entering his senior season. Jensen expects Moore to be Division-I bound next year. The key will be replacing so many playmakers defensively, including WSU linebacker Erik Glueck.

CURTIS VIKINGS

Coach: Chris Paulson, second year.

2015 record: 7-4, third in 4A SPSL South, lost in 4A district playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator (set) – Jeff Glessner (pistol spread option). Returning starters – 5. Top players – RB Sabian Bryant, 5-7, 160, jr.; OL Cal Helmberger, 6-2, 265, sr.; RB Jackson Miller, 5-11, 170, sr.; RB/WR Taj Moffett 5-11, 150, jr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) – Jason Anderson (3-3). Returning starters – 1. Top players – DB TJ Banks, 5-10, 165, jr.; DB Carson Gregg, 5-10, 150, jr.; DL Jesse Parks, 5-11, 230, sr.

Outlook: This team is faster and knows Paulson’s system at this point better than last year’s team. There’s no shortage of speedy skill position players, including Bryant, who becomes the primary ball carrier after averaging 6.8 yards per carry last year in his limited role behind Donnell Diego, who was second in the 4A SPSL in rushing last year (1,084 yards). The problem is size and replacing a talented senior class, “but (the Vikings) can run with anybody,” Paulson said.

EMERALD RIDGE JAGUARS

Co-coaches: Brian Anderson, Torey Donovan, Adam Schakel, Darren Erath, Troy Halfaday, eighth year.

2015 record: 4-6, fifth in 4A SPSL South.

Offense: Coordinator (set) – Schakel (spread). Returning starters – 7. Top players – WR Andrew Boston, 6-3, 190, sr.; OL Cole Elery, 6-4, 245, sr.; RB Kaden Flanagan, 5-11, 210, sr.; QB Gage Hansen, 5-10, 145, sr.; OL Andrew Noel, 5-6, 185, sr.; WR Levi Sweem 5-8, 155, sr.; WR Marvin Williams, 5-7, 150, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) – Anderson (4-3). Returning starters – 8. Top players – LB Flanagan; DL Jonah Mains, 5-11, 285, fr.; DB Cody O’Connell, 6-1, 185, sr.; LB Jake Roten, 5-7, 175, sr.; DB Logan Skoda, 5-11, 200, sr.; DB Drew Symmons, 5-8, 150, sr.; DL Zilly Quinn, 5-10, 170, sr.

Outlook: The Jags certainly have the weapons to compete, led by Boston, who is the league’s top returning receiver (60 catches for 869 yards last year). ER added Williams, a speedy transfer from Spanaway Lake, and Hansen returns to QB after throwing for 1,086 yards and 12 TDs in six games last year. The question mark will be up front, especially in a league that features as many power running offenses as the 4A SPSL does.

GRAHAM-KAPOWSIN EAGLES

Coach: Eric Kurle, 12th year.

2015 record: 11-1, first in 4A SPSL South, lost in 4A state quarterfinals.

Offense: Coordinator (set) – Kurle (multiple pro). Returning starters – 7. Top players – TE Beau Blowers, 6-2, 220, sr.; QB Dylan Morris, 6-1, 190, soph.; WR Eian Olmos, 6-1, 190, sr.; OL Ethan Porter, 6-1, 250, soph.; OL Foster Sarell, 6-6, 310, sr.; OL Matt Shook, 6-4, 255, sr.; RB Micah Smith, 6-0, 190, jr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) – Travis Robinson (4-2-5). Returning starters – 4. Top players – LB Branden Becker, 5-9, 210, sr.; LB Viliami Hansen, 5-10, 210, jr.; DB Jeremiah Kekoa, 6-0, 190, jr.; DL Jeramey Thesenvitz, 6-3, 220, sr.; DB Thomas Wheeler, 6-0, 190, jr.

Outlook: The Eagles returned their top quarterback (Morris), tight end (Blowers), the nation’s most coveted offensive lineman (Sarell) and two all-league linebackers (Becker, Hansen). So there’s a lot to like. Morris’ improved accuracy over the offseason makes him even more dangerous than when he threw for 2,152 yards and 18 TDs as a freshman. Smith missed all of last season with a knee injury, but he’s the lead tailback, one Kurle said can do it all.

OLYMPIA BEARS

Coach: Bill Beattie, 22nd year.

2015 record: 7-3, third in 4A Narrows, lost in 4A district playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator (set) — Bill Beattie (zone). Returning starters — 4. Top players — WR Cody Barnett, 5-9, 175, sr.; OL Peter Choi, 6-2, 220, sr.; WR Skyler Davis, 5-10, 190, sr.; RB Scott Gunther, 5-10, 185, sr.; OL Logan Wood, 6-2, 240, jr.; QB Ketner Young, 6-3, 185, jr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) — Greg Hargrave (3-5). Returning starters — 6. Top players — DL Peter Choi, 6-2, 220, sr.; DB Skyler Davis, 5-10, 190, sr.; DL Corbin Hartsock, 6-4, 220, jr.; LB Zaiden Hernandez, 6-0, 190, sr.; DL Amir Matheney, 6-3, 295, sr.; DB Dayne Shaefer, 6-2, 180, sr.

Outlook: Beattie’s teams consistently competed at the top of the 4A Narrows, but this league is new for the Bears. They’ve never played four of the teams in the 4A SPSL. Two of them they’ve seen once. Gunther (180 carries for 1,573 yards and 19 touchdowns) is healthy after missing two games last season, and Matheney, an Eastern Washington University commit, is a monster presence on the line.

PUYALLUP VIKINGS

Coach: Gary Jeffers, seventh year.

2015 record: 6-4, fourth in 4A SPSL South.

Offense: Coordinator (set) – Ray Brassard (multiple). Returning starters – 5. Top players – QB Nathaniel Holcomb, 6-1, 195, sr.; WR Noah McFadden, 6-0, 180, sr.; OL Logan Vesey, 6-0, 285, sr.; WR Tallon Yerbury, 6-2, 185, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) – John Garden (3-5). Returning starters – 4. Top players – DL Gavin Dunayski, 6-6, 250, sr.; DL Reupena Roberts, 6-1, 210, sr.; DL Eric Steffany, 6-2, 300, sr.; LB Honore Thomas, 6-0, 200, sr.

Outlook: It’s not hard to imagine Puyallup contending for a postseason berth, but it needs a healthy season from Holcomb after he missed parts of each of the past two seasons to injury. Holcomb threw for 1,189 yards and 11 TDs in six games last year. Success of the defense starts on the D-line. Dunayski is big and athletic and could have a breakout season. His speed allows Jeffers to stand him up as a rush-outside linebacker.

ROGERS RAMS

Coach: Gene Bowen, 13th year.

2015 record: 2-8, sixth in 4A SPSL South.

Offense: Coordinator (set) – Dane Looker (multiple). Returning starters – 4. Top players – WR Koby Barker, 6-1, 175, sr.; WR Cade Barrett, 6-1, 170, sr.; RB Alema Gago, 5-7, 165, soph.; OL Landon Rainwater, 6-1, 235, sr.; WR Nate Salausa, 5-8, 160, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) – Andy Armstrong (4-2). Returning starters – 5. Top players – LB Steven Affuvai, 6-0, 235, sr.; LB Hunter Briggs, 5-10, 175, jr.; DL Michael Fifita, 6-2, 315, sr.; DB Loren Mark, 6-1, 175, jr.; DB Kirby Skladany, 5-9, 170, sr.

Outlook: Bowen’s concern is how the Rams will handle having so few experiences with Friday Night Lights, especially his quarterback and offensive line. The Rams graduated 25 seniors from last year, but the cupboard isn’t empty. Gago looks like he could be an explosive running back, which is why he’s starting as a sophomore. Strength of offense is at receiver. Staff is more experienced now, with Looker, the former Puyallup, UW and NFL receiver, and Armstrong entering their second years.

SOUTH KITSAP WOLVES

Coach: Gavin Kralik, second year.

2015 record: 2-8, seventh in 4A Narrows.

Offense: Coordinator (set) – Kralik (multiple). Returning starters – 6. Top players – WR Izaijha Byrd, 5-11, 170, sr.; RB Izaiah Davis, 5-10, 195, jr.; QB Siaosi Soto, 6-1, 160, sr.; OL Jagher Beresheim, 6-1, 280, sr.; WR Izaijah Byrd, sr.; OL Jacob Miller, 6-2, 290, sr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) – Dustin Booth (4-3). Returning starters – 4. Top players – DL Anthony Killingsworth, 6-6, 260, sr.; LB JJ Leota, 5-11, 200, sr.; DB Nathan Marin, 5-9, 175, jr.; LB Jay Williams, 6-0, 210, sr.

Outlook: Should be an improved team defensively, with balance across the position groups. But how much better remains to be seen, and will be key to determine if South Kitsap can snag one of the league’s five postseason spots. Davis returns to the backfield after rushing for 905 yards and 10 TDs on 173 carries as a sophomore. The Wolves return two all-4A Narrows linemen (Beresheim and Miller). But does any school open with three tougher games than SK does? (G-K, Sumner and Ferndale).

SUMNER SPARTANS

Coach: Keith Ross, 16th year.

2015 record: 10-1, first in 3A SPSL, lost in first round of 3A state playoffs.

Offense: Coordinator (set) –Spencer Crace (West Coast veer). Returning starters – 6. Top players – OL Seth Carnahan, 6-7, 260, sr.; OL Jacob Clark, 6-3, 225, sr.; QB Luke Ross, 6-2, 180, jr.; WR Tyson Rainwater, 6-2, 185, sr.; OL Chase Skuza, 6-6, 295, sr.; RB Connor Wedington, 6-1, 195, sr.; RB Tre Weed, 6-0, 200, jr.

Defense: Coordinator (set) – Ross (4-4 black flag). Returning starters – 5. Top players – DL Logan Mayer, 6-1, 255, jr.; DB Sky Sandretsky, 5-9, 175, sr.; DB Wedington; DB Weed; LB Ben Wilson, 6-2, 220, jr.

Outlook: This is the most hyped team Ross said he’s had. Rightfully so – it’s filled with athletes. His son, Luke, is a year older and more experienced. Wilson, a Thor look-alike, led the team in tackles as a sophomore and is the best linebacker, already, that Ross said he’s ever coached. Weed will get more carries after spending last year predominately at receiver, and the bookend offensive tackles are at least 6-foot-6. Oh, and there’s Wedington, the UW commit.

TJ Cotterill: tcotterill@thenewstribune.com

Lauren Smith: lsmith@theolympian.com

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