SNOQUALMIE – Mount Si football once held the distinction of having the last natural grass field in Kingco 3A. That distinction, came crashing down with the demolition of the old grandstands at the Mount Si field and subsequent destruction of the track to make way for a new stadium last month.
Further changes include two teams leaving Kingco 3A – Skyline and Cedarcrest – giving the league a new look for the 2004 season and possibly renewing optimism about the outlook for Wildcats’ football.
Leading the charge for his 13th season is head coach Charlie Kinnune. Kinnune understands what it will be like to be homeless for the upcoming season but knows it’s an obstacle that can be overcome.
“I think back to my senior year at Issaquah with a remodel of our stadium,” said Kinnune. “We went 12-0 and didn’t play a single home game. In fact we played out here [at Mount Si] and I made a touchdown. The only touchdown of my career. We were playing against Columbia River High School and as a linebacker I intercepted a pass. I caught the ball and saw the end zone and ran like the dickens which wasn’t real fast.
“I got tackled by what seemed like the whole other team on the goal line and the referee said I made a touchdown,” Kinnune added with a smile.
The Wildcats, despite a talented group of seniors last season, went 3-7, which was an improvement over the 1-8 season in 2002. This season Kinnune is setting the realistic goal of finishing with a winning record and thinks he has the talent to do it.
Leading the charge will be the men in the trenches. For the offensive and defensive lines there are several standouts.
Jake Pearce (Sr. 6’0″, 199 lbs.) and Chris Connor (Sr. 6’1″, 230 lbs.) will be vital to both sides of the ball. Pearce also will play linebacker. Eric McCammon, (Sr. 6’4″, 242 lbs.) and Zach Bowen (Sr. 6’1″, 195 lbs.) will also be factors inside. Bowen and Pearce are both captains for the upcoming season.
“Pearce had a great summer and will be a returning offensive guard and linebacker for us,” said Kinnune. “Zach has had an outstanding summer as well and we have moved him from offensive guard to tight end.”
“We need to give it our all since it’s our last season,” said Zach Bowen.
Added Pearce: “We need to bring the team a little closer together because the last couple of years the teams had clicks and stuff and this year we are a lot tighter. We need to lead by example.”
For the skilled positions, longtime Valley football player Adam Rothgeb (Sr. 5’11”, 158 lbs.) will split time in the backfield with relative newcomer Brandon Yakaboski, (So. 5.10″, 165 lbs), Cody Hyatt, (Jr. 5’9″, 170 lbs.) and Eric Forslin (Jr. 6′ 0″, 197 lbs.) Forslin also is the only junior among the team captains.
“We’re working together a lot more than last year,” said Rothgeb. “We focus just as much off the field as on the field and we always seem to be upbeat.”
“We think that if we can run the ball effectively we can be a more overall effective offense,” said Kinnune. “I think we can get a little bit more of a horizontal stretch. I think we are a little more athletic at every position with speed and size at the wide receiver spots and a little bit better speed at the running positions. With that speed it allows us to do different things, it takes some of the pressure off the offensive line as far as holding blocks.”
With the running game and the passing game, the Wildcats will have more options in its arsenal.
“We have to be able to put ourselves in a predictable situation because if you are predictable then you can be unpredictable,” said Kinnune.
Playing receiver this season will be two Friday-night veterans in Erik Tierney (Sr. 6’2″, 190 lbs.) and Kyle Meuli (Jr. 6’2″, 180 lbs.) Both receivers have great focus, and Tierney will serve as a captain.
“Last year we had the pass and they were laying back waiting for us and when you look at the games we won last year we were able to run the football,” Kinnune said.
Alex Grazda (Sr. 5′ 11″, 180 lbs.) also will be thrown into the mix at the receiver spot as well as defensive back.
“Our receivers are really good and the running game is coming along,” said Tierney. “Our line is opening big holes for the running game as well. We seem to be a lot more positive this year, nobody is saying negative things and bringing the team down, so the leadership is better.”
The key unknown this year is at the quarterback position. With the departure of three-year starter Alex Smart to Eastern Washington University, comes three new faces ready to take on the challenge Friday nights.
Tyler Littlejohn (Jr. 6’2″, 200 lbs.) is battling at the quarterback position along with Rollin Smith (Jr. 6’2″ 165 lbs) and Ian Atkinson (So. 5’8″ 149 lbs.). Littlejohn started against Eastside Catholic last Friday in a preseason game.
“Tyler is the bigger stronger athlete, more successful at the three step game the quick passing game – the stand in there and gun it down game,” said Kinnune. “Rollin Smith is a little bit quicker and he can get out on the perimeter. His strength is play action on our sprint out. Atkinson is really good at getting the team in and out of the huddle, leadership is his strength. The option game is his as well.”
As of the Valley Record’s deadline, Atkinson and Smith were both out due to injuries with return dates unknown.
“We are inexperienced at quarterback,” said Kinnune. “Our quarterback does more than hand the ball off. They read defenses, throw the ball, hand the ball off, change plays so it’s an important position. I think you will see us maximize each quarterbacks strengths and minimize their weaknesses. We won’t have to be patient, it will allow us to pull them out, put a new guy in there then coach up another quarterback and get them in there.”
Finally, at the kicker spot will be returning player Chris Brown (Sr. 5’10”, 200 lbs.)
Defensively Mount Si has D.J. Johnson (Jr. 6’3″ 233 lbs.) and Seth Merritt (Jr. 5’9″ 190 lbs) inside to plug holes in the line along with linebackers Pearce, Forslin and Hyatt.
“We have a defensive front that, when healthy and eligible, will be tough to stop,” said Kinnune.
Past Mount Si teams have had to deal with adversity, which many contribute to a lack of leadership among players. This year the coaching staff of the Wildcats took steps to help players become leaders and recognize leadership. The coaches developed a leadership survey after taking classes in the subject. The survey focused on characteristics of leadership and characteristics of individual players.
“We have had the quiet leaders in the past and they served a purpose but we need some loud leaders,” said Kinnune. “Its time for us to get guys that will step up and basically stand up for something that might be unpopular but is right. We made this leadership a real important part of it.
“If anybody is sitting back there wondering what we are all about here at Mount Si high school we are about giving kids an opportunity, they either take it or they don’t,” he added.
One characteristic that won’t change at Mount Si is smash-mouth football.
“We are really into being physical that is what Mount Si is all about,” said Kinnune. “No matter what the score is at the end of the game, the score in your head is that Mount Si is going to knock you and we are going to knock you all game long to the last buzzer.”
Mount Si started its schedule last week with a 19-0 win over Eastside Catholic in non-league competition. Eastside Catholic was one win away from their league championship last year.
Then the Wildcats tangle with the Red Wolves of Cedarcrest for the annual Valley Cup and trophy. Then its against Ellensburg in the last of their preseason games. Then the team is into their regular season schedule with powerhouse opponents like Bellevue, Liberty and Issaquah all looking for a league championship. But never count out Newport, Sammamish or Interlake.
All home games will be played at Issaquah this year. The Mount Si booster club will be holding tailgating event