Last season was a trial by fire for a young Newport Knights football team that finished with a 1-8 record.
Sixth-year head coach Drew Oliver is heading into the new season with a more experienced team. Because the team was so young last year, they will be returning a handful of juniors and seniors that got ample playing time last year.
“(Last year) some of them played before they were ready,” Oliver said. “This year, we’re more experienced but still relatively young.”
One of the key components for the Knights offense will be senior Nolan Rouse, a 5-11, 165-pound quarterback that will fit into its option-style offense.
“In our offense, you gotta be an athlete and make plays with your legs,” Oliver said. “Rouse can do that.”
The Knights lost some close games last year, including one-possession losses to Inglemoor and Issaquah. This year, the team will rely on its experience to hopefully win those tight games.
Two of the many juniors that are bringing experience over from last year are Nathaniel Chang, a 5-5, 150-pound running back and cornerback, and Nirun Turner, a 5-8, 165-pound running back and strong safety.
Opening up gaps for the running game will be junior Jackson Slater, a 6-3, 285-pound tackle. Oliver said Slater is an anchor on the offensive line, a key position for the run-heavy Knights.
While results are important and he hopes to see that improve, Oliver said he prides himself on being a “character coach.” Oliver focuses on developing outstanding people, not just outstanding athletes.
Oliver hopes that if the team buys into the system and works hard, the victories will follow.
“It’s an exciting chance to bring the program where we want it to be,” Oliver said.
Sept. 6 home vs. Rainier Beach, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 home vs. Bellevue, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 home vs. Mercer Island, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Skyline, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 home vs. Issaquah, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Inglemoor, 7 p.m. (Pop Keeney Stadium)
Oct. 18 at Eastlake, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 home vs. Mount Si, 7 p.m.