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Division shake up changes approach
Successful high school football seasons are defined by postseason advancement. But playoffs are never a gimme in the SPSL 4A, even if Kentwood has made it look that way in recent years – winning three of the last four division titles, including the last two.
Conquerors head coach Rex Norris said the reshuffled league, with changes to the divisional scope and schedule, will mean more teams will be in contention for the postseason deeper into the year.
“The season is going to play out a lot differently than it has in the past,” Norris said. “In the past, the first games were such a big piece to the rest of the season. This year we are starting out with non-league games, which are tough. They will certainly cause a lot of different situations than in the past. Our league doesn’t really start until like game four. That is going to play a big role. It will alter the way teams approach the games.”
With the addition of Decatur and subtraction of Auburn and Auburn Riverside from the SPSL, Tahoma, Kentwood and Kentlake are apart of the Northeast division, joining Kent-Meridian and Kentridge. The standings will be based solely on division play. Each of the five teams in the split North divisions will stay within their respective divisions for weeks four through eight, which are, ostensibly, the only games that matter towards the postseason. The North schools will be seeded for week nine based on their standings, with a crossover between the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds. The No. 3 seeds from the Northeast and Northwest will match up head-to-head in a loser-out game. The top five teams advance to the playoffs.
Although the tension of the first few games in the regular season may be gone, don’t expect SPSL coaches to rest any starters.
“The only time we consider resting players is if they are injured,” Norris said. “…You want to win football games, you want to build momentum you want your team to have confidence going into the next week.”
After winning eight straight Claude French trophies, Norris expects his team to again fight for the top of the division in 2014.
“Every Kentwood team has the tradition of competing,” said Norris, who has a career record of 78-28 in his 10 years as head coach. “This team has a lot of questions it needs to answer.”
2013 record: 7-3, losing to Eastlake in the Class 4A round of 32.
First game: Curtis on Sept. 5.
Returning starters: 10.
Goals: “Play as a team,” Norris said.
Biggest game: “All of our league games are going to be big games this year,” Norris said. “Especially being with our closest rivals. We have a tough non-league schedule as well, so I would have to say that our first game of the year will be a very important game for us.”
• Josiah Bronson (Sr, TE/DE) — SPSL 4A Honorable mention.
• Brian Campbell (Jr, QB) — Returning starter who broke three school records in 2013.
• Kyle Capperauld (Sr, DL) — First-team all-league nose tackle who led the team in all defensive stats in 2013.
• Jared Goldwire (Jr, OL/DL) — At 6 foot 8 inches tall and nearly 300 pounds, he “brings a presence and athleticism to the offensive and defensive lines,” Norris said.
• Isaiah Williams (Jr, RB/DB) — “Relentless player, with great reaction to the football,” Norris said.
• Makani Mafua (Sr, OL/LB) — Captain and two-way starter.
• Keaton Tompkins (Jr, OL/DL) — Returning starter. “One of the strongest kids pound for pound,” Norris said.
With a few key players graduated from the 2013 team, head coach Tony Davis, in his 21st season with the Bears, said there are lots of positions “up for grabs” and that there should be some “very competitive August practices.”
2013 record: 5-3 league, 6-4 overall, losing to Gig Harbor in the district playoffs.
First game: Mount Rainier on Sept. 5.
Returning starters: Eight.
Goals: “We’ve really been focusing on getting better each practice and stressing the importance of that,” Davis said.
Biggest game: “The next one on the schedule,” Davis said.
• Kingston Suka and Brody Sullivan (Sr’s, OL).
• Amandre Williams and Michael Clausen (Jr’s, DL).
• Blake Donohue (Sr, LB).
• Defensive backs Aharon Lutgen (Sr), Cooper Larson (Sr) and OJ Jenkins (Jr).
• Tyson Cronin (Sr, WR/LB) — started two games in 2013 before breaking a bone in his foot.
• Caleb Brown (Jr, RB/DB).
• Zach White (Jr, OL/DL).
After failing to reach the playoffs in 2013, Kentlake looks to built with some veteran leadership. Kentlake last won the SPSL North in 2011, the same year head coach Chris Paulson earned SPSL Coach of the Year.
2013 record: 3-7.
First game: Graham Kapowsin, Sept. 4.
Returning starters: Six.
Key subtractions: Four starters on the offensive line, including All-State Lineman Mason Johnson, who is now at Oregon State.
Goals: “French Trophy, get back to the playoffs,” Paulson said.
Biggest game: “All four division games (K-M, KR, Tahoma, KW) are equally important,” Paulson said.
• Micah Vaifale (So, LB) — Started four games as a freshman in 2013.
• Matt Burley (Sr, WR/DB) — Only returning two-way starter.
• Danstan Kaunda (Sr, RB) — Lead team in rushing last year.
• Tino Wells (Sr, LB) — Started games at QB and free safety in 2013.
• James George (Jr, RB) and Cody Lee (Sr, RB) — “Dynamic players who should create explosive plays,” Paulson said.
• Andrew Dixon (Jr, LB) — “Physical player that will be a leader on defense,” Paulson said.