Unless you are at Mount Tahoma where preseason football camp opens at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, the rest of the schools will start up later – when the sun is up.
The plan right now is for me to hit Curtis High School in the morning to get a look at the Vikings, then rotate around Lakes High, Steilacoom High and finally motor on over the bridge to see Gig Harbor High under new coach Aaron Chantler.
Meg Wochnick, the Olympian sports reporter, will visit North Thurston High School in the morning where a few former Northwest Christian players will join the Rams (Northwest Christian is skipping football in 2012 due to poor turnout numbers).
Here is The News Tribune’s five-subject primer for the opening of camps in the South Sound:
SET UP FOR DEEPEST RUN
With all due respect to Bellarmine Prep, which keeps knocking on the door in Class 4A; Lakes, which has the state’s biggest hurdle to clear – Bellevue – in 3A; and Tumwater and Capital, who now have to tangle with each other in Class 2A and the Evergreen Conference, the area program with the clearest path to a state football title is Cascade Christian in Puyallup.
Coach Randy Davis’ group has rolled to five consecutive appearances in the Tacoma Dome, winning the Class 1A state title in 2010, and falling a step short of repeating last season, losing to Connell.
The Cougars have their own issues to clear up, starting on the schedule. They open with a non-league game at Cashmere, then return to host Southwest Washington powerhouse Montesano the following week.
In the sixth week, they also will try and avenge their lone Nisqually League defeat from last season by traveling to Cedar Park Christian.
Personnel-wise, they are a deeper and more experienced team than the one that unexpectedly reached the 1A title game a season ago.
Lakes ran out its usual stable of college-bound players last season in winning the SPSL 3A, and reaching the state quarterfinals, losing to Bellevue.
But in the Lancers’ season-ending 35-14 loss, Bellevue went into the matchup intent on taking away one weapon – receiver Sammie Long. He was the only player the Wolverines defended with bracket coverage.
Long, a University of Washington commit, is the same massive target (6-foot-4, 195 pounds) as former Lakes star Reggie Williams – but a better route-runner. And he has the same elite athleticism as Jermaine Kearse, another Lakes product who graduated from the UW last spring.
Long will occupy the ‘X’ receiver spot on the outside, but coach Dave Miller said he will shift the senior around.
DROP IN CLASSIFICATION, NOT EXPECTATION
Despite being one of the smallest 3A schools in enrollment figures in the state, Capital has made the state playoffs the past four seasons.
In 2010, the Cougars reached the 3A semifinals, losing to Kamiakin. And last season, they lost a thrilling 19-16 game to O’Dea in the quarterfinals.
Now, Capital drops down to 2A, and will be a member of the Evergreen Conference with the likes of Tumwater, W.F. West and Centralia.
With 17 returning starters on offense and defense, Capital is loaded for another run – but cannot afford to lower its guard joining a new league in a lower classification.
It’s not as if the Cougars will shed the big-school mentality entirely. They play Newport of Bellevue, Olympia, Bothell and Bellarmine Prep – all 4A schools – in non-league.
Quarterback Chris Brown lit up the air as the Bonney Lake quarterback last season, passing for 2,813 yards and 34 touchdowns.
Two of the primary beneficiaries of that were the team’s “Killer Zs” – seniors Zach Zaragoza and Kaleb Zahnow.
Zahnow led the SPSL 3A in receptions (75 catches for 821 yards and six TDs). Zaragoza led the league in receiving yards (60 catches, 867 yards, 11 TDs). Zaragoza was selected to the all-league first team; Zahnow to the second team.
First-year coach Jason Silbaugh is expected to run the ball a lot more this season, but will push the home-run button with Zaragoza and Zahnow on deep play-action passes.
NEW TO THE THRONE
Eight new area coaches come into the fold this season – all with varying levels of experience.
Beamer High’s Darren McKay is the most seasoned, spending the past 12 seasons at Gig Harbor, winning 77 games. Others were coordinators at other schools, including Silbaugh (defensive coordinator at Lakes ) at Bonney Lake, Gig Harbor’s Aaron Chantler (offensive coordinator at Wilson), Enumclaw’s Mark Gunderson (defensive coordinator at Foster) and Foss’ Patrick Johnson (defensive coordinator at Hephzibah in Georgia).
And, of course, the biggest splash hire came at Lincoln High where former Abes’ standout Jon Kitna, who played 15 seasons at quarterback in the NFL before returning to his alma mater.
Kitna said Tuesday he expects between 95 and 115 players to report to preseason camp.