What to watch for as prep football season nears its start

August 19, 2014

By Neil Pierson

High-school football practices open Aug. 25, and the first games of the 2014 season will follow on the weekend after Labor Day.
The Class 4A KingCo Conference could be a more difficult gauntlet than ever for the Eastlake Wolves and Skyline Spartans. The conference has whittled down from 11 teams to nine – Ballard, Garfield and Roosevelt were reclassified as 3A schools, and Mount Si moves up to join the 4A schools.
Here are five things to watch for when the new season opens Sept. 5:

1. Is Bothell the team to beat?
When Skyline head coach Mat Taylor declares your team a possible preseason No. 1 in the state, it’s time for others to pay attention. Bothell has some strong recent history to bolsters its claim – state appearances in seven of the last eight seasons, including runner-up finishes in 2006, ’07 and ’09 – but the onus will be on quarterback Ross Bowers, a Cal-Berkeley commit, to prove he’s ready to win the big games.

2. Will Mount Si
toughen things up?
Football fans had to smile a bit when the state’s new classification figures were announced, and Mount Si was bumped up to 4A. The Wildcats have a veteran coach in Charlie Kinnune, who has taken his program to the state playoffs for six consecutive seasons.
If they can match their opponents’ depth – they’re still one of the smaller 4A schools – don’t bet against a seventh straight trip, especially with steakeaters like Chris Schlichting, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound lineman.
3. Can Eastlake replace Lewis brothers’ punch?
Drew and Troy Lewis were vital parts of Eastlake’s 2013 season, which ended with a trip to the state quarterfinals and a 9-3 record. They were a dynamic backfield tandem, combining for more than 2,100 rushing and receiving yards, and 32 touchdowns. The eye-popping star power may be gone, but the Wolves still have the dependable Richard “Blue” Thomas (2,107 passing yards, 18 TDs) to get the ball to their skill players.

4. Is Skyline’s Loville the top target?
Skyline wide receiver Derek Loville has some serious pedigree – his father, Derek Sr., was a star running back at Oregon in the late 1980s – but he’s making his own path to the next level. His coach said he’s capable of catching at least 70 passes – doubling his junior-year total – and his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame makes him a difficult matchup for most defensive backs. The Spartans have a proven rushing attack with Chandler Wong and Rashaad Boddie, which could help Loville get more one-on-one opportunities.

5. Which game will be the most fascinating to watch?
There are a lot of options when it comes to the potential KingCo Game of the Year. Week 1 features a couple of enticing games – Skyline at Issaquah, and Bothell at Eastlake.
The plateau rivals are clashing in the final week of the regular season when Eastlake goes to Skyline on Halloween night. But the conference race typically hinges on the Skyline-Bothell winner, and the Spartans get to host that clash Oct. 17.

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