Questions remain for Spartans as spring football kicks off
June 25, 2013
By Neil Pierson
Quarterback battle, roster turnover remain unresolved
Offseason training is crucial for most high-school football programs, but it seems especially true for the Skyline Spartans considering their first-game opponent.
Skyline will try to win its third straight Class 4A state title this fall, and in terms of preparing itself for the postseason, the Spartans couldn’t have picked a better in-state test for the opening week. They’ll face the defending 3A champion Bellevue Wolverines at the Emerald City Kickoff Classic on Sept. 7 at the refurbished Husky Stadium.
“You’re playing a team that, in some publications, was the No. 1 team in the nation last year,” Skyline coach Mat Taylor said about Bellevue.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t play last year because of our schedule. … I think the common fan will want to come out and watch the game just because they get into the new Husky Stadium for 10 bucks.”
Skyline hopes to repeat its prolific offensive performance of 2012 in which it averaged 51 points per game, but it’ll have to find ways to compensate for the graduation of several stars, most notably quarterback Max Browne (University of Southern California) and linebacker Peyton Pelluer (Washington State University).
While Taylor said he believes it’s important for this year’s team to respect and protect the program’s traditions, they’ll also have to find their own path to success.
“The bottom line is this team hasn’t done anything yet, just like last year’s team didn’t do anything” before the first game, he said.
The team is tight-lipped about its duel at quarterback. Returning senior Michael Cowin would’ve likely been the frontrunner, but he’s being pushed by the arrival of senior Kilton Anderson, a transfer from Naples (Fla.) High School who threw for 1,288 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior.
The two “will compete throughout team camp, and we’ll see when the time is right to name a starter,” Taylor said.
“They’re both dual-threat guys,” said Sam Mix, a team captain and likely starter at receiver and safety. “Kilton moved in, and that kind of gives them the sense that the starting job isn’t anyone’s right now, and both of them get a nice sense of competition.”
Skyline’s offense revolves around its passing game, but each of the top-seven receivers on last year’s depth chart graduated. That puts the onus on guys like Mix, Grant Evans, Cole Blackburn and Blake Sypher. Derek Loville, a junior, might be the most likely prospect for a breakout season.
“I could see him being a potential (NCAA) Division I guy going into his senior year,” Taylor said. “He’s got all the tools. He’s very, very gifted.”
While the Spartans’ offense often takes the plaudits for the program’s success, players like Blackburn are quick to point out the strengths of the defense.
Blackburn got extended playing time early in the 2012 season because of injuries and suspensions, he said, and he figures to be a fixture at cornerback this year.
“We really take pride in defense, always swarming to the ball … and always giving 100 percent effort,” he said. “We know if we’re out there and don’t hold other teams, we’re not going to win games.”
The program lost four senior linebackers, but the junior class that backed them up could be just as strong, Taylor indicated. Drew Lunde, Collin Crisp, Evans and Chandler Wong are all quick and athletic.
Cameron Saffle, a junior, may also factor into the linebacker rotation, and he’ll be counted upon to shore up the offensive line. He played tight end as a sophomore, but the Spartans are moving him to left tackle.
“The decision was made that he’s too important not to be on the field every play,” Taylor said.
The players are excited to start next season with a huge test against Bellevue, Mix said.
“Especially going against the wing-T (offense), it’s just all about discipline,” he said. “Just going in there and trusting your ability … and knowing you’re the better team. I don’t even have to think about that.”