Gridiron stars to kickoff the 2016 football season

Prep football preview for the Bellevue region is unveiled

Newport Knights running back Wesley Oswald

The 2016 high school football season has finally arrived. Below, the Bellevue Reporter takes a look at how the Newport Knights, Bellevue Christian Vikings, Sammamish Totems, Bellevue Wolverines and Interlake Saints will fare on the football field this fall.

Newport Knights

Last year: 2-7 (Didn’t advance to the playoffs)

Key players: Brandon Steinberg, QB; Kenny Lafayette, LB/RB; Derek Zeigler, LB; Alex Johnson, DL; Charlie Baumann, OL; Caleb Richardson, C; Wesley Oswald, S/RB.

The Newport Knights football team prides itself on controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.

The Knights feature a Wing-T offense, which calls for running plays close to 80 percent of the time. In the Wing-T offense, it is essential to have a player on the offensive line to make all the necessary calls and adjustments throughout the game.

Caleb Richardson is the go-to player on the interior line making those critical decisions.

“Caleb is a really experienced kid that is smart and heady,” Newport head coach Drew Oliver said. “He makes the right calls for us. That is a key position for making those calls and being a coach on the field.”

Knights’ signal caller Brandon Steinberg will be in his second season as the starting quarterback. Steinberg is a rare dualthreat quarterback who is adept at throwing the deep ball or scrambling for first downs with his legs.

“It is nice to have a veteran quarterback,” Oliver said. “He learned a lot on the fly as a sophomore last year. It was really a trial by fire.”

Team camaraderie is one of the Knights’ strengths on the gridiron.

“It is a fun place to be around. They really play for each other, which is the key,” he said.

The Knights have a unique schedule this season featuring six home games and just three road games.

“We got some good home cooking and our only three on the road are at Pop Keeney (Stadium) in Bothell. We are only playing in two different buildings this year, which is pretty nice,” Oliver said.

 

Bellevue Christian Vikings

Last year: 4-6 (Didn’t advance to playoffs)

Key players: Daniel Ficca, RB/S; Peter Besel, DE/OL; Christian Miller, DE/OL; Joe Helton, LB/WR; Trevor Paulson, WR/S; Mick Larsen, QB/CB; Brandon Parsons, LB/OG.

The Bellevue Christian football team has seen steady improvement since Todd Green took over the program in 2013. The Vikings have improved each season and feel they are on the cusp of a breakout year in 2016. The Vikings, who started the 2015 season with a 4-2 record before losing their final four games of the regular season, are excited about the opportunity awaiting them this fall.

“Our progress has been encouraging. Everyone in our program has been on the right track from the beginning — coaches, players, parents and administration and because of that we just keep moving forward,” Green said. “We’ve got a core group of returners that are locked on and we have a batch of new kids that are very hungry to contribute. It is a great mix.”

Green always has been the kind of coach who cares about just more than raw numbers. Wins and losses are undoubtedly important but they aren’t the only thing that count in his mind.

“The primary goal for us this season is to honor God and grow,” he said. “We believe that if we truly pursue great character, then that process will challenge us to become great teammates and the best version of ourselves. We expect to be very competitive and do well on the scoreboard this season, but that will be a by-product of us striving after a much deeper objective.”

 

Interlake Saints

Last year: 5-5 (Didn’t advance to playoffs)

Key players: Duncan Varela, QB; Naoki Harmer, WR; Zenon Moses, RB/S; Bryce Hardy, CB; Dylan Riel, WR/LB; Corban Lawlor, DE/OL; Ramakanth Anam OL/DL, Paul Cemarka, C; Lucas Varela, LB, Blake Hall, RB/S/CB, Myles Chandler, WR/DL; Elijah Barnes, S/WR.

Brian Hartline, who was hired in late spring to be the new head football coach of the Interlake Saints, went through spring practice sessions a few months ago and was optimistic about his team’s chances for success in 2016 during an interview in early June. The first-year head coach, who spent the past nine years as an assistant at Issaquah, came away from team camp later in the summer downright giddy about his team.

“One thing I saw at camp that I wasn’t totally prepared for was they are some of the scrappiest kids I have ever coached,” Hartline said. “I was really impressed by that. The kids are picking up things really quick.”

Interlake’s offense is led by three-year starting quarterback Duncan Varela and explosive wide receiver Naoki Harmer.

The Saints, who have 70 players on the roster including freshman players thus far, are embracing the switch to a new coaching staff after David Myers’ three-year tenure at Interlake ended in March 2015 when Myers move to Spokane. Hartline said his team has completely bought into the new regime’s mode of operation.

“The very first thing I said to the team in the initial first meeting was they needed to embrace the bumps in the road and to embrace change,” he said. “Change is really hard on kids. We are going do things differently than it had been done in the past. That is not a reflection of coach Myers, it is just how we are going to do things. It all came to fruition at team camp.”

 

Bellevue Wolverines

Last year: 11-2 (Lost in the Class 3A state championship game to Eastside Catholic)

Key players: Jack Anderson, TE; Blake Jones, RB; Mike Moran, S; Jack Enger, QB; Will Moore, LB; Justin Angelel, LB; Isaiah Ifanse, RB/DB.

For the second consecutive season, the Bellevue Wolverines lost to the Eastside Catholic Crusaders in the Class 3A state championship game in 2015. Prior to the previous two defeats, the Wolverines won the previous six state titles.

Bellevue graduated a bevy of talented skill players from last year’s squad, including quarterback Justus Rogers, wide receiver Tyson Penn, running back Ercle Terrell and cornerback Isaiah Gilchrist. Isaiah Ifanse, who scored a touchdown in last year’s Class 3A semifinals as a sophomore, will be one of the most talented players on the Wolverines offense in 2016. Jack Enger will replace Rogers at the quarterback position after backing up Rogers the past two seasons. Wolverines’ interim head coach Mark Landes is comfortable with Enger being the team’s signal caller. Landes was an assistant coach for the Wolverines the past five seasons.

“Jack Enger has shown great leadership in this role, as a tall player and big arm he should be exciting to watch this season,” Landes said in an email. “I put great value in hard work, teamwork and playing for each other. Offensively, we will have continuity in the system our players are familiar with. At Bellevue we want to develop our players to be the best they can both on and off the field. We want to be a team that plays hard on every play and one that gets better every week.”

 

Sammamish Totems

Last year: 2-7 (Didn’t advance to the playoffs)

Key players: Matt Castle, QB; Kekoa Loschky, DB; Sean Stansberry, RB; Devante Braswell, RB/DE; Yasin Anwar, RB/DB; Mario Earp, OL; Brandon Cisneros, OL.

In the season opener in 2015, Sammamish Totems quarterback Matt Castle went down with a knee injury in the first quarter of play, which required him to miss the remainder of the season.

The Totems signal caller is back at full strength this fall. Kekoa Loschky, who replaced Castle as the starter last year, is thriving at defensive back during early practice sessions and will back up Castle this season. Last season, the Totems had to forfeit three games due to a lack of players/injuries, but they don’t expect that to be an issue this season.

The Totems will be playing the majority of their games this season against Class 2A Metro League teams as opposed to Class 3A KingCo League. Despite playing the majority of their games against Class 2A Metro League squads, the Totems will still face their fiercest rival on the gridiron, the Interlake Saints, in the Crossroads Cup on Sept. 9.

 

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