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Royals reach for greater heights | Prep football preview
Kent-Meridian is ready to show the rest of the South Puget Sound League that it's not a football team to be discounted.
The Royals, behind the big-play exploits of Quincy Carter, improved last season, finishing in the middle of the SPSL North Division pack at 4-6.
K-M is ready to take the next step as it gears up for its season opener, a nonleague encounter at Battle Ground next Friday. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
The players hope their hard work over the summer pays off. The biggest difference between this year and last, they say, is the way the team internalized their self-confidence, instead of getting it from their coaches.
"It has a lot to do with fellowship," said Gabriel Galman, a small but muscular powerhouse of a running back who covers 40 yards in 4.5 seconds. Galman also mans one cornerback position for the Royals.
"We're a big old family out here, and the thing is we've stayed together," Galman said. "So when we're out there we trust each other, and that's what really changed the atmosphere out here."
A lot of this has to do with the team bonding outside of practices, as well as working out and training extensively before preseason drills began.
"During the dead period we'd just strictly work out, nothing around the football," Galman said.
Galman and center Tanner Torr spent time working with the team in less regimented workouts. Torr said that it helped build the team's camaraderie and confidence.
"Without the coaches we're able to control the pace but also put in the work," said Torr, who is widely known as the Royals' strongest and biggest player. He also wrestles in the offseason.
K-M enters the season with a new quarterback. Ben Woods replaces Carter, who is playing running back at Central Washington University this fall.
"He's already stepped into the leadership role as a quarterback. He's just stepping up and he's really ready to take this role," Torr said of Woods.
Coach Brett Allen is confident as ever about the Royals' abilities. Some of this comes from the Kent Liftoff summer event, during which the team hoisted more than 6,000 combined pounds, 400 more than the runner-up, to take the weightlifting competition.
Allen said his team is driven to win.
"What's nice is that the kids are talking about it. The kids are talking about a championship," Allen said.
Last year, while Allen convinced his players that they could be a successful team, he said that he wasn't sure they were convinced themselves.
Allen said that his coaching staff have "definitely been pushing them to their limits during the summer time."
One of his key psychological motivators for the team has been telling the players to visualize a goal during strenuous workouts. Such an exercise might be running hills at French Field and getting the team to visualize its goal — whether it's a championship game or a college recruitment — at the top of that hill.
"We do that so that when we get in the game and your body gets tired, they can look at that hill and know that this is nothing," Allen said.
This year, Allen has made several structural team changes to help avoid a few costly pitfalls from the 2013 season. One of the most notable — which he learned from Pete Carroll's book, "Win Forever" — was the importance of playing beyond the first string and finding players who were situationally good.
"Typically in high school you get a group of starters and you ride those starters through a game," Allen said.
Allen also is working against tying the team's success to the quarterback, both from a strategic and psychological standpoint.
"In the past we had a superstar quarterback. David Jones my first year, then we've had Quincy the past two years," Allen said. "So our kids have had a tendency to stand around and watch the superstar. ... (But) the kids are excited about the fact that they're going to do this together (this season)."
Royals at a glance
Offense, Tanner Torr, center, 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, senior (second-team, All-SPSL North); Vinnie Malietufa, running back, 5-7, 210, sr.; Nate Barton, wide receiver, 6-0, 160, sr.; Marquise Card-Diallo, guard, 6-0, 280, junior; Shamar Malik Woolery, RB/WR, 5-8, 160, jr.; Matt Daigre, WR, 6-3, 170, sr. (led team in receiving yards in 2013).
Defense: Jacob Gartland, end, 6-0, 200, sr.; Angel Cheema, end, 6-3, 215, sr.; David N'Guessa, outside linebacker, 5-11, 190, sr. (honorable mention All-SPSL North); Gabe Gallman, cornerback, 5-8, 165, jr. (honorable mention All-SPSL North); Vinnie Malietufa, inside linebacker, 5-8, 220, sr. (honorable mention All-SPSL North); Emmanuel Daigbe, OLB, 6-2, 180, jr. (second-team, All-SPSL North); Nate Barton, CB, 6-0, 160, sr.; Shamar Malik Woolery, safety, 5-8, 160, jr.; Marc Dennis, safety, 6-1, 170, jr.
Junior Siafuafu, sr., OL/DL, 6-0, 280; Kyle Maquindang, sr., WR/DB, 5-6, 155; Zeek Cordova, soph., OL/DL, 5-10, 230; Noah Franquez, jr., OL/LB, 5-9, 210; Aramani Reese, sr., WR/S, 6-2, 180; Richmond Gaye, sr., WR/DB, 5-9, 160.
Speed and strength. Royals won the Kent Liftoff for the first time in June, hoisting more than 6,100 pounds. Belief. Royals had a great spring and summer and have genuine confidence that they can compete for a championship.
Depth, a few injuries at key spots.
Coach Brett Allen, "For the first time since we have been here, we do not have the one superstar for everyone to follow. Instead, we have a lot of talented players in different spots who believe in one another, and who understand that their strength is in their skill diversity.
"If we can weather the early season storm of building depth, grade issues and injury issues, we will be a tough-out the rest of the way. The kids expect to compete for a division championship and won't settle for less."