As Steve Botulinski walks along the scorching turf at Mount Si High School’s football field, dawning a shirt that already has this season’s schedule on the back, it is hard to imagine a more perfect candidate to usher in the new era of Wildcat football.
At the team’s opening practice Aug. 17, Botulinski, a 15-year assistant coach and three-year starter for the Wildcats in his high school days, became the first new head coach for Mount Si football in three decades.
He replaced the revered Charlie Kinnune, who retired with a 176-121 record this past year after leading the team since 1992.
“I’ve been in the Valley my whole life and it means the world to me. It’s a dream come true,” Botulinski said. “I want to do everything I can to build off what [Kinnune] started and take it to the next level.”
Luckily for Botulinski, Kinnune left him a star-studded roster looking to improve on a successful but unsatisfying finish last season.
During the regular season, the Wildcats finished with a 5-4 record, good enough for fifth place in the always competitive KingCo League Conference. However, they saw an early exit in the WIAA state playoffs, falling to Puyallup, 34-14, in the first round.
“It was a good year last year, but not quite where they wanted to be,” said Offensive Line Coach Tom Collins. “They’ve been working really hard this offseason.”
If you ask nearly anyone, the strong point for this team is undoubtedly its offensive line, which features two players who already have college offers.
“Everyone’s returning except one guy – but the replacement’s a dog – so i’m not too worried,” said Heath Ozaeta, a senior tackle and defensive end, who has committed to play at University of Oklahoma next year.
“We got the size and the speed and we’ve all been together for a while now,” he said. “We work as a unit and I think we’re going to do great things this year.”
Ozaeta will be joined on the line by senior offensive tackle Lucas Freitas, who has already received an offer to play of Eastern Washington University next year.
“We’re excited for what we have this year. We have a fantastic running back and quarterback,” Freitas said. “”I think Mount Si is gonna be a team to watch. We’re gonna impress a lot of people.”
The two linemen will be protecting quarterback Cyrus Turley, a first year varsity starter, who said he is excited for the opportunity to lead the team and raise everyone up.
“We’re coming out learning a lot of new offense and whole new coach staff. Already having spring camp behind us we’ve learned a lot,” Turley said. “A lot of the guys are getting it quickly which is huge for our team. It’s gonna be a fun year.”
In his first year, Botulinski is focusing on getting the little things right. Whether it’s running between drills or committing to an enthusiastic cheer at the end of practice, Botulinski wants to emphasize that the small stuff matters.
“It is all about accountability,” he said. “When you let the little things slide it turns into big things you don’t want… we are really trying to build a culture that’s sustainable and also really positive and inviting.
We’ve got 120 guys out here and I think they’re ready to go.”
The Wildcats will host the intra-squad Scarlet and Gray game, where they will honor Kinnune on Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. They open the season at home at 7 p.m. on Sept. 2 against Silas High School.
The full schedule can be seen below.
Wildcats schedule:Aug. 26, 6 p.m., Charlie Kinnune Scarlet and Gray Game.
Sept. 2, 7 p.m., vs Silas.
Sept. 8, 7 p.m., at Spanaway Lake.
Sept. 16, 7 p.m., at North Creek.
Sept. 23, 7 p.m., vs Skyline.
Sept. 30, 7 p.m., at Issaquah.
Oct. 7, 7 p.m., vs Woodinville (Homecoming).
Oct. 14, 7 p.m., at Eastlake.
Oct. 21, 6 p.m., at Chiawana.