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Poised to strike | Prep football preview
To call 2011 a difficult season for the Newport football program would be an insult.
The Knights opened the year with a 1-1 record before seemingly turning a corner with a win over Bothell that looked at the time like a stepping stone to bigger and better things.
But when tragedy struck that same evening with the passing of offensive coordinator Tim Driver, a coach at the school for two and a half decades, everyone within the program knew regaining the singular focus on football would be impossible.
"I can't describe how important of a person he was in my life," senior quarterback Isaac Dotson said. "He was my mentor since I started high school."
After team members and coaches were forced to process Driver's passing in the middle of the year, head coach Mike Miller said the offseason provided the necessary time to reflect and refocus. And for a team that now boasts one of the supremely talented signal-callers in the region in Dotson, that focus is on a return to the postseason.
The Knights will surround the University of Nevada-Reno commit with a more physically imposing presence than in 2011 across the board. Miller said his offensive line, on average, weighs in about 35 pounds heavier than last year and running backs Eric Rodan and Connor Baumann will also force the issue on the inside in the Newport running game.
Miles Fowler, a basketball star who caught a pair of scores in the win over Bothell, has moved from tight end to wide receiver while Drew Sample will take over in the starting tight end spot.
Dotson emphasized the importance of finding favorable match ups for Fowler, who he hopes can make life difficult for defensive backs that will be at a distinct size advantage against the long, wide framed junior.
"He was definitely a big playmaker for us," Dotson said. "He had a lot of big time catches and made a lot of plays. He's going to bring that back this year."
Miller said moving Fowler to the outside will give him an opportunity to showcase the athleticism that made him a preferred target of Dotson in 2011 and also relieve some of the pressure that comes with playing tight end, a position charged with blocking and making plays in the passing game.
Fowler agreed and said he believes the move will pay dividends and offer a chance for the Knights to stretch the field on the offensive side of the ball.
"I'm looking forward to going against some corners," Fowler said. "It's going to be a lot different. The guys are a lot smaller, obviously."
The Knights will face a slightly different schedule in 2011 with the shift in divisions in 4A KingCo, but the familiar challengers of Issaquah and defending state champion Skyline remain the main hurdles on the path to a division title.
For Newport, that means limiting scoring opportunities after allowing just over 45 points per game last season in five losses, including a pair of 50 point efforts first from Eastlake and then in the rematch with Bothell in the league crossover game.
Miller said while containing the run is the primary objective of any defense, his staff and players have no illusions about the challenge posed by Skyline's Max Browne and a host of other talented passers in the league.
"The reality is, the teams in our league pass primarily," Miller said. "That is where our defense will make or break us, in the secondary."
If the Newport defense can find a way to limit the production of teams like Skyline and Issaquah, it seems likely they will be in every game with the ever-explosive Dotson operating an offense he has been running since he was a postseason call-up as a freshman.
No longer the dynamic youngster or sophomore sensation, Dotson has taken a more vocal role as a leader this year after waiting in the wings as an underclassman. Miller also said he has taken a great deal of time helping coach the younger players on the roster, a true testament to his leadership.
"I think it has just come naturally," Dotson said of speaking up more than in years past. "As you get older, you know what you want and want the team with you."
"The reality is, teams in our league pass primarily so we felt like we had to spend a lot of time on that." - Newport head coach Mike Miller
8/30 VS Capital, 7 p.m.
9/7 VS South Kitsap, 7 p.m.
9/14 @ Woodinville (Pop Keeney), 7 p.m.
9/21 VS Issaquah, 7 p.m.
10/5 @ Roosevelt (Memorial Stadium), 7 p.m.
10/12 VS Skyline, 7 p.m.
10/19 @ Garfield, 5 p.m.
10/26 KingCo Crossover Game