A year ago, I never would have considered hitting Stadium High School while making the rounds at prep football practices in the South Sound, let alone on the first day of the season.
This year, there’s reason to believe the Tigers will be competitive.
“We’re very optimistic,” said Stadium coach Jess Nelson, who’s entering his fourth season. “We’re in year four now. All the player know me and my staff and our philosophy and our systems. Every year we have goals and those have been building. It’s going to be a real great breakout season.”
The Tigers have plenty of reasons for their optimism. For the first time in more than a decade, Stadium scored more points than it allowed in 2009. The Tigers ended last season with a pair of shutout victories over Auburn Mountainview and Shelton. After losing close games — contests Nelson believes the team should have won — to Wilson and Lincoln, Stadium reeled off confidence-boosting wins over Foss and Mount Tahoma. The Tigers even hung with Narrows League powers Olympia and South Kitsap before falling in those games.
With a belief that they can win, the Tigers were jazzed for the first day of practice on Wednesday.
“It was a good first day,” Nelson said, “everyone has good attitude, gave good effort. The kids are really excited for 2010.”
Stadium returns five starters on offense and seven on defense, including a few standouts. Running back Kendall McNeil will be the team’s starting running back for the third season and will be joined in the backfield by junior quarterback Tyler Stumph, who started the final eight games of 2009. Senior left tackle Desi Morrow, a a first-team all-league pick, will anchor the offensive line. On defense, linebacker Martin Camacho, defensive lineman Andrew Duchesne and defensive backs Tyler Olague and Cody Doiron will lead the charge.
The eight-team Narrows League 4A will receive four postseason berths. While most expect Olympia, South Kitsap, Central Kitsap and Gig Harbor to be the top teams in the league, and probable playoff teams, Stadium won’t be the pushover it once was. If the Tigers can secure an upset or two, they’ll be in the playoff hunt.
I’ll be hitting practice at Curtis this afternoon and Lakes in the evening, and will post updates from both, as well.
Our high school football preview — a 10-page special section — will run in newspapers on Thursday, Sept. 2. It will have league previews, capsules on every team in our area, preseason rankings, a preseason all-state team and more. I promise it will be the best 75 cents you ever spend.