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Wolves Sports

Pacific to Palouse, it's kickoff time

Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 by Seattle Times

Sideline Smitty Seattle Times
Pacific to Palouse, it's kickoff time

A simple act will be repeated in our state from the Pacific Ocean to the wheat fields of the Palouse.

Someone reaches out and flips a switch.

Friday Night Lights.

Goodbye summer, hello football.

Football is the worthy consolation prize for losing summer warmth and light. The season starts on windbreaker nights, then moves to sweaters, then jackets, then storm gear before going indoors in December for the state championships at the Tacoma Dome.

I'm nuts about high-school football for a lot of reasons, including the fact that the sport teaches boys to get up when they've been knocked down.

Football is a no-cut sport at almost every school and is the one prep sport without non-school "select teams" hovering in the background and sometimes competing for loyalty.

Football also involves dozens of kids, even hundreds at some schools, who don't wear shoulderpads on game night. I'm talking about the band, dance teams and cheerleaders.

If I wanted to give a foreign visitor a taste of America, we would head to a small-town stadium on Friday night.

Football is a contact sport in which school rivalries are the most heated, where every game means something, and where homecoming is a tradition.

Schools without football that try to build homecoming around another sport? That's like eating meatloaf for Thanksgiving.

Here is my quick guide for the upcoming season:

Q: Which are the best teams in the state?

A: The 4A classification looks like the same dartboard as year, when Oak Harbor beat Bothell in the title game. There are more than a dozen good teams. My sleeper school is Evergreen of Vancouver with new coach Tom Smythe, who won three state big-school titles in Oregon.

Lakes of suburban Tacoma looks like the class of the 3A ranks, but Bellevue has won five of the past six titles and just reloads. Kennedy, which lost to Bellevue in overtime in the state-title game, could be there in the end.

The 2A neighborhood got a lot tougher last year with schools such as champion Lynden and finalist Centralia entering as a result of reclassification. I have a good feeling about Prosser, even though record-setting quarterback Kellen Moore is now at Boise State.

Connell and Royal catch my eye in 1A. Adna and Reardan are considered the teams to beat in B-11. Odessa, Garfield-Palouse and Lummi near Bellingham are eight-man powers.

Q: What position group is best-stocked in the state this year?

A: Offensive line. Last year, it was quarterbacks. Some of the best linemen: Alameda Ta'amu, 6-foot-4, 330, Rainier Beach; Le'Roi Edwards, 6-4, 285, Kentridge; David DeCastro, Bellevue, 6-5, 290, a Stanford recruit; Senio Kelemete, Evergreen (White Center), 6-4, 270, a Washington recruit; and Drew Schaefer, Eastlake (Sammamish), 6-5, 275, another UW recruit. Another Pac-10 recruit is California-bound Trevor Guyton, 6-5, 290, of Redmond, who probably will play defense in college.

Q: Who is top recruit in the state?

A: Kavario Middleton, a 6-7, 250-pound tight end/defensive end from Lakes. He has his choice of schools from coast to coast. Middleton also is one of the state's top returning basketball players.

Q: What are biggest coaching changes?

A: Two of the most noteworthy are former assistant Clay Angle taking over at Curtis of suburban Tacoma for retiring Bob Lucey, and Bill Heglar leaving Decatur to replace retiring Dick Nicholl at Mercer Island.

Lucey coached at Curtis for 31 seasons and had a 198-117 record with back-to-back 4A (then AAA) titles in 1989-1990 and 1995-1996.

Nicholl had a 158-104 record at MI from 1979 to 2006 and is tied with the still-active Frank Naish of Inglemoor for most wins in KingCo 3A or 4A history.

Q: What are some of the most-anticipated games?

A: Friday, Skyline at Bellevue; Sept. 7, Edmonds-Woodway at Mariner; Sept. 14, Auburn at Franklin Pierce, Moses Lake at Pasco; Sept. 21, Kentwood vs. Kentridge at French Field, Cedarcrest at Archbishop Murphy, Connell at Royal; Oct. 5, Evergreen (Vancouver) at Skyview (Vancouver); Oct. 12, Bothell at Eastlake, Kennedy vs. Evergreen (White Center) at Highline Stadium; Oct. 26, Richland at Pasco.

Q: Any new schools this season?

A: Kingston High School in the North Kitsap School District opens as a 2A school. The nickname is Buccaneers, although it should have been "Trio." (Kids, have your folks explain it to you.)

In an example of intelligent scheduling, the Bucs, coached by former Port Angeles coach Dan Norvick, open Friday at 5 p.m. at home against another new school — Union of Vancouver. Union's nickname is Titans.

Evergreen Lutheran, a 2B school in Des Moines, has added football and will play varsity and junior-varsity opponents. Only four boys on the squad have played tackle football, but coach Jeff Kurbis has a nucleus of decent athletes, so we'll see what happens.

Have a question about high-school sports? Craig Smith will find the answer every Tuesday in The Times. Ask your question in one of the following ways: Voice mail (206-464-8279), snail mail (Craig Smith, Seattle Times Sports, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111) or e-mail csmith@seattletimes.com

Copyright 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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