Skyline Spartans reload for championship run

August 30, 2011

By Christopher Huber

Max Browne, Skyline junior quarterback, looks for a receiver during practice Aug. 25. By Christopher Huber

It didn’t take long for the Skyline High School Spartans football team to bounce back from defeat at the 2010 state 4A title game.

From players’ reactions after the final buzzer sounded, the loss to Ferris stung.

Ultimately, it inspired the team to start preparing for the 2011 season earlier than ever. Players began optional workouts in January instead of March. And, coupled with the handful of team and 7-on-7 camps they attended, the Spartans seemed to exude as much confidence as ever during late August practices. That’s despite losing Kasen Williams, considered by many national publications to be last year’s top wide receiver prospect in the nation.

Skyline still will focus its attack around junior quarterback Max Browne, who in his sophomore year completed 294 of 432 passes for 4,182 yards, 50 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Browne, the latest of Skyline’s line of talented quarterbacks, has already received Division I offers from Washington, California, Wisconsin, Utah and Clemson. But the Spartans will also step up the running game from years past to potentially pack an even harder punch than its state-champ squads did under now-Brigham Young University starter, quarterback Jake Heaps.

“There’s a lot of new guys stepping up,” Browne said during a break at practice Aug. 25.

Browne was most impressed with the team’s cohesiveness and overall depth this season. Skyline returns 10 starters from last year, but also comes loaded with a new crop of contributors on both sides of the ball.

“We’re more deep than any other year Skyline has seen,” Browne said. “We don’t lose a lot.”

Browne will have some relatively large targets in his receiving corps in seniors Mason Gregory (6-foot-5, 210), Taggert Kreuger (6-2), John deVita (6-5) and junior Andrew Giese (6-2).

Taylor said the key to Skyline earning another KingCo Conference 4A title and getting back to state tournament is the team establishing the line of scrimmage and balancing the run and pass game. While pass-heavy in 2010, the Spartans will hit the field with plenty of power on the ground and in the air in 2011. Seniors Damien Greene and Connor Gilchrist return at running back with more experience, as well as with two juniors to back them up — Jack Valencia and Chase Premone.

2011 Skyline football schedule

  • Sept. 2 Liberty
  • Sept. 9 Bellevue
  • Sept. 16 at Lake Oswego, Ore.
  • Sept. 23 at Issaquah
  • Sept. 30 Redmond
  • Oct. 7 at Newport
  • Oct. 14 Henry M. Jackson
  • Oct. 21 at Eastlake
  • Oct. 28 TBA
  • Nov. 4 Playoffs
All games at 7 p.m.

Three offensive linemen, Ben Vavra, Joe Beattie and Austin Owen, return to protect Browne and create holes for the running backs. Vavra was a second-team all-KingCo selection last year.

Junior linebacker Peyton Pelluer, who earned all-league first-team honors last fall, and Greene, who earned second-team all-league honors as a corner back, will lead the defense. Pelluer led the league in tackles last season. Senior Jake Monroe and juniors Nick Sblendorio, Sean McDonald, Blake Young, Peter Stromgren, Devin Benford and Brandon Crandall will provide depth in the mid and back field. McDonald was a reliable placekicker last season and earned second-team all-league honors.

The Spartans have been one of the elite programs in the state for the past 11 years, winning five state titles. The expectations for the team are again high.

With some key 2010 players gone, Skyline might seem like a whole new team. But Taylor, in his fourth year as head coach, seemed confident about the team’s work ethic and skill level heading into the season opener Sept. 2 against Liberty.

“We have a lot of kids that are new to our offense and defense but they have picked things up beautifully and we are excited to see them play,” Taylor said.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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