Two years ago, when the South Whidbey football team went 0-11, Coach Mark Hodson was making plans.
“It wasn’t fun but we knew we had the seeds of a very good team,” he said. “We just needed a little time.”
Last year things improved to 3-7 but the team wasn’t there quite yet.
In Friday’s home opener against North Mason, the Falcons thrashed the Bulldogs 48-14 but still no one was taking anything for granted.
Not the players.
Certainly not the coaches.
“We have hard games ahead as league play begins — at home against Lakewood on Sept. 14 — but you could say this year’s squad is different,” Hodson said.
There are two reasons for the change in attitude and performance. Back then, the seniors on this year’s team were starting on varsity, learning even as they faltered one week to the next.
“We’re reaping the benefits of that 0-for-nothing year,” Hodson noted.
Second, the boys have been honing their football skills since school let out, first at a full-contact camp June 24 at Western Washington University, then a mini-camp in July and a lot more since.
“We’ve played a ton of football since June, maybe five weeks, a half season,” the coach said.
Another aspect is balance.
In 2006, Falcon running back Rob Knight had 264 carries for 1,452 yards (an average of 5.5 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns plus three two-point conversions. Knight ran for more than 200 yards in three games and more than 100 yards in five games.
The defense played a key role in winning those three games with 449 total tackles from 30 different players, 38 tackles for a loss, 17 quarterback sacks, 29 fumbles recovered and five interceptions.
It was lots of yardage on the ground, but not much to show for it on the scoreboard.
With Knight, defensive star James Jones and quarterback Danny Parra graduated, it’s time for the Falcons to move on.
Balance on the ground and in the air will be a keynote for 2007.
For example, against North Mason, the first touchdown came on a pass from Kyle Hoch to Nick Tenuta, another on a sneak around the left by Hoch, then a pass to Hunter Hawkins.
In the third quarter, quarterback Hunter Rawls ran in the ball then threw to Robert Boenisch for the final TD. Kicker Juan Fernandez went six-for-six on extra points for the night.
The Falcons have altered the defense somewhat, according to defensive coach Damian Greene. Andy Davis and Rob Andersen now coach the offense with Hodson while Bruce Knight, Don Elliot and Leo Langer are Greene’s assistants.
“Although we are running a 3-5 defense, we still focus on getting the ball back so our offense can score,” Greene said. “And, that’s exactly what happened on Friday night on the first three defensive, and offensive series.”
As for the Cascade Conference, Hodson has no illusions.
“Cedarcrest and Archbishop Murphy are bringing strong teams back and they’ll be the ones to beat,” he said.
The Red Wolves went 5-3 in the conference, 6-3 overall last year, while the ATM Wildcats were undefeated in the conference and finished 11-1 overall.
Over the weekend, Cedarcrest overcame a British Columbia team, Sands High School 48-0, while Archbishop Murphy snuck by California’s Archbishop Riordan 21-14 in overtime. ATM is currently the top-rated team in the league.
“The Red Wolves have an upperclass-heavy team and ATM is always a powerhouse,” Hodson said.
Mainland media have already pegged South Whidbey as third in line.
“Not bad for a team with a 3-7 record. Word gets around,” the coach said.
On Friday Hoch and Rawls had equal time at quarterback and both played well. “That was our game plan but the game got away quick. We’ll start with Kyle; he was comfortable in the pocket and he’s a senior. Hunter has two more years.”
If it’s an embarrassment of riches, no one is complaining.