Photo courtesy of Jennifer Landes Bellevue Wolverines head football coach Mark Landes, center, talks to his players during a contest during the 2016 season.

Gridiron stars are ready for the 2017 season

BELLEVUE WOLVERINES

Head coach: Mark Landes (second year)

Last year: 5-1 (ineligible for postseason)

Key players: Isaiah Ifanse, RB/DB; Ben Keeter, DE/TE; Mitchell Sturgell, S/RB; Jace Schneider, G/MLB; Stiles Satterlee RB/OLB; Drew Fowler, RB/LB; Joey Echigoshima, QB/DB

Bellevue Wolverines head coach Mark Landes, who was the interim head coach in 2016, saw the interim tagged removed in January. The 1988 Bellevue High School graduate is thrilled to lead the football program at his alma mater.

“I’m really looking forward to the season,” Landes said. “I never thought that I would be in this position. It is quite a challenge trying to fill some very large shoes from a great coach like Butch Goncharoff, who has meant so much to the program and to the kids at Bellevue. I’m grateful for the opportunity to coach kids I have known since their first days of junior football.”

The Wolverines will have a new signal caller at the quarterback position. Junior Joey Echigoshima will replace 2017 graduate Jack Enger.

“He is a junior who is a smart, athletic player who was Jack Enger’s backup last season,” Landes said.

Bellevue senior running back/defensive back Isaiah Ifanse will be in his third season as a major contributor on both sides of the ball.

“Isaiah is a hard worker who is a great kid with a great attitude,” Landes said. “He just wants to compete every play the best he can. He is a talented two-way player who has become an impressive team leader.”

Bellevue embraces the one day, one game at a time kind of mentality.

“Just like every year at Bellevue, we aim to get better every week and compete as hard as we can,” Landes said. “We want to live up to the standards of our program, and our kids certainly know what that means.”

NEWPORT KNIGHTS

Head coach: Drew Oliver (fourth year)

Last year: 1-9 (didn’t advance to the playoffs)

Key players: Brandon Steinberg, QB; Charlie Baumann, OL/DL; Marcus Fukutomi, WR/S; Justin Anderson, OL/LB

Continuity is the key to success for any high school football program.

Newport Knights quarterback Brandon Steinberg, who has been the starting signal caller since his sophomore season in 2015, is a dual threat who makes plays with not only his right arm, but with his legs. Newport head coach Drew Oliver is impressed with Steinberg’s dedication and evolution as a player.

“He just keeps growing in the offense,” Oliver said. “It was trial by fire early and now he really is getting a grasp of it. He has a great understanding of why we call the plays we call. It is good to see.”

The Knights are blessed with a core group of seniors to go along with a multitude of youthful players on the roster.

“We have a strong group of seniors that are cohesive,” Oliver said. “They take on the challenge, we got a lot of inexperienced guys and our veterans help bring them a long and teach them up. The seniors have been together for a long time and they’re a fun group to be around.”

Newport will open up the season against the North Creek Jaguars at 7 p.m. on Sept. 2 at Pop Keeney Stadium in Bothell. North Creek is in its first year of existence as a school. Playing a brand new team will be a formidable challenge for the Knights in the season opener.

“It is a little nerve-racking because there is not a lot of studying we can do of them,” Oliver said. “We’re kind of coming in blind in a lot of ways and that is OK. Like we tell our guys all the time, it’s not about the other teams, it’s about us and what we do.”

INTERLAKE SAINTS

Head coach: Brian Hartline (second year)

Last year: 7-4 (lost to Gig Harbor in playoffs)

Key players: Corban Lawlor, OG/DE; Lucas Varela, OG/LB; Mitchell Soohoo, NT/OG; Ethan Feaster, OG/NT; Bradley Kidwell, OT/LB; Paul Cemarka, OT/LB; Myles Chandler, WR/LB; Blake Hall, WR/S; Austin Hourn, DB; Elijah Barnes, QB

Interlake Saints head football coach Brian Hartline had an inaugural season for the ages with his football team last year.

The Saints, who finished with an overall record of 7-4, fell just one game short of the Class 3A state playoffs after losing to the Gig Harbor Tides 14-13 in a winner-to-state, loser-out district playoff game. The momentum from the 2016 squad has carried over into the 2017 season.

“Our off-season weight room program saw good numbers in the winter and spring months,” Hartline said. “Our team camp numbers went up, which was encouraging. I believe it’s set a foundation for what is expected. It’s not necessarily that you expect the playoffs or a certain amount of wins, but you expect to be competitive in each game. Your goal is the playoffs, of course, but the team focuses on each game individually and being competitive.”

Naoki Harmer (wide receiver/defensive back) and Duncan Varela (quarterback), who were two of the brightest stars from the 2016 season, graduated this past June. Despite losing two superstars, Hartline believes there are a plethora of players ready to rise to the occasion.

“Duncan and Naoki were the difference makers for us last season but there is a lot of talent, specifically in the junior class,” Hartline said. “Elijah Barnes (quarterback) is a great athlete that will be challenging for opponents, much like Duncan in terms of athletic ability. Austin Hourn has looked really good at running back and will put pressure on defenses. Blake Hall moved from running back to wide receiver and will be a big part of the offense as well. Myles Chandler is going to be playing both wide receiver and tight end. He is a great athlete and has soft hands.”

The Saints are focused on the “one game at a time” mantra whenever they take the field.

“We want to be competitive in each game we play,” he said. “If we are, the playoffs will take care of themselves.”

SAMMAMISH TOTEMS

Head coach: Rylen Akana

(first year)

Last year: 4-5 (didn’t advance to the playoffs)

Key players: Tao McClinton, OLB/WR; Coby Akana, QB; Victor Tobias, OL/DL; Brandon Zanders, WR; Gabe Garrett-Singh, RB; Ryan Hervy, TE; Tony Olivas RB/WR

In previous seasons, the Sammamish Totems football program has struggled to have a sizable roster.

It appears those days are a thing of the past following the first three days of practice. Sammamish head coach Rylen Akana, who was hired to lead the Totems football program in February, said there are currently 40 players on the roster.

“We have some really good numbers,” Akana said in a phone interview on Aug. 18. “We are at the 40 mark, which was kind of my goal. I know once school starts we will get a few more players too.”

The Totems will be led by wide receiver/defensive end Tao McClinton on the gridiron this year. McClinton is 6-feet, 4-inches tall and has a vertical leap of 32 inches, which creates a matchup nightmare for opposing team’s defensive backs.

“That guy is going to be unstoppable offensively and defensively,” Akana said. “He has got five different positions that he can play at the next level (college).”

Akana said incoming freshman Tony Olivas has been impressive in early season practice sesions.

“This kid is varsity-ready,” Akana said. “It is kind of unheard of. I’m not really a proponent of playing freshman at the varsity level but from what I’ve seen the first three days, he is ready to step in at the varsity level.”

BELLEVUE CHRISTIAN VIKINGS

Head coach: Todd Green (fifth year)

Last year: 3-7 (didn’t advance to the playoffs)

Key players: Brandon Parsons, OL/MLB; Mick Larsen, QB; Trevor Paulson, WR/S; Luke Leinweber WR/DB; Trent Paulson, WR/DB; Sam Tefft, DL/OL; Cade Peterson, S; Davis Hazen, S/RB

The Bellevue Christian Vikings football team is ready to put together a breakthrough season in 2017.

Bellevue Christian head coach Todd Green, who has led the squad since 2013, is looking forward to the season opener on the gridiron on the first Saturday of September. Green said the Vikings offensive and defensive lines will be stronger than it has been in previous seasons.

“This group of kids are just a fantastic group of guys,” Green said. “I’m jacked. It is going to be a good year. The first [game] is against Cedar Park Christian. That is a good rivalry for us. The kids compete against Cedar Park Christian in other sports too. We got the right mindset, we have the right system and we have some talented kids. If we stay healthy, I think we can be competitive in a lot of games.”

The Vikings will be led by quarterback Mick Larsen this fall. Larsen will be in his second season as the starting quarterback.

Green believes Larsen is exactly the kind of player to lead the Vikings football program.

“He is careful with the ball and he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. He understands how important it is to not turn the ball over. He is a good captain because he encourages the guys around him and brings out the best in them,” Green said of his signal caller in June. “He is the type of kid who makes other kids player better. He just plays within himself.”

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