The Wolves ended a 21-game losing streak with a 31-14 victory Friday against the Rogers Rams.
PORT ORCHARD — Tears flowed freely and unapologetically from South Kitsap’s football players as the Wolves finally shed a nearly three-year losing streak, 21 games in all, beating the Rogers Rams 31-14 Friday on an emotional night from start to finish.
The dedication and renaming of South’s home field at Kitsap Bank Stadium to Ed Fisher Field brought out alumni from the last 40 years. Fisher himself was on hand with his family to take part in the ceremony and witnessed a team that looked plenty like the teams he coached from 1974-96 that were perennial state playoff powerhouses and the 1994 4A state champion.
Oh yes, the game lived up to the grit, power and fight the Wolves showed for several decades and felt like an Emmy award
“It’s Hollywood, Port-Orchard style,” head coach Dan Ericson said post-game. Ericson took over the program in the offseason and brought with him the “Be The Change” motto that his players have embraced from day one.
“A lot of people are a part of it. The coaching staff’s unbelievable,” he said. “We’ve had tremendous support in the community. The parent group, 100-plus kids. How about these seniors? I’m their third coach in four years and they’ve bought into everything I’ve told them and I’m happy they get to experience this.”
Ericson said they wanted to be the more physical team and run the ball between the tackles and hit big plays in the passing game. But it was the defense that kept the Wolves in the game as the offense worked out its kinks.
“It felt like the second quarter we were on defense the entire quarter,” Ericson said. “Guys played tough. They had some explosive players and we had to keep them in front.”
“We battled,” Ericson continued. “It wasn’t easy. I’m proud of the kids. It’s hard to win. You do things to sabotage yourself when you’re not used to winning. So, that’s awesome.”
“Hey, recruit the hallways,” Ericson smiled.
Bayne went 8-of-15 for 170 yards with three touchdowns, two to Davis who had four catches for 108 yards, and 15 tackles on defense — many of which were near perfect takedown-style wrestling tackles.
Canton also had two interceptions, and nearly a third, and Davis had an interception as the defense also recovered two Rogers’ fumbles.
Bayne didn’t need much convincing to strap on the shoulder pads.
“I just want to be part of something special,” he said. “These dudes work hard every day and it’s something great to be a part of.”
Bayne said he connected with the Be The Change slogan.
“We really bought into that, all 48 playing the full game,” he said. “Everyone on the team did a great job.”
As much as went right for the Wolves, there were also the mistakes that could have been much worse. South failed to run the ball into the end zone just an inch from the line, a fumble on a Rogers squib kick allowed Rogers to keep possession, and a fumbled punt after forcing a 3-and-out hurt the Wolves but didn’t knock them out.
South gave up a quick touchdown to Rogers in the opening drive of the first quarter as Cameron Beck scored on a 35-yard rush after getting past the initial tacklers near the line of scrimmage. Beck ran toward the right sideline and was gone in a flash with 9:24 left to give the Rams a 7-0 lead after the PAT.
Following a pick by Canton, South’s offense got to the doorstep, literally an inch from the end zone on four downs, but fell back after gaining a first down to the 10. SK went for the field goal, and the kick was good, but it didn’t count as an official wasn’t in position and had blown the whistle. South tried again but a botched snap ended with Rogers gaining possession.
The Wolves didn’t leave it to chance their next chance. Bayne found Guzman-Estrada, a first-year football player, for SK’s first points of the season on a 31-yard touchdown with 28 seconds left in the second quarter to send the game into halftime tied at 7-7.
Rogers got the ball to open the third but went 3-and-out.
South took the lead for good when Bayne found Davis down the middle and deposited the ball right into Davis’ hands. Davis, the state hurdles champion and 100
“Deyondre’s awesome,” Ericson said with a smile. Davis returned to football after initially deciding to focus on his track career his senior season. “We had a strong recruiting year. He can have 10 catches for 250 yards and three touchdowns. He’s really good.”
Rogers cut into the lead on a pass from Saxon McCornack to Beck for 61 yards to make it 21-14 to end the third.
Chase Peterson’s 29-yard field goal put SK up 24-14 and was followed by an exclamation point, TD-scoring drive when South’s Bayne once again connected to Davis on fourth down for a 28-yard grab with 2:46 left.
Rogers got the ball back with just under 2:45 to go in the fourth but the Rams’ last pass on fourth-and-10 fell incomplete and South’s sideline erupted in joy knowing the win was assured.
Bayne’s final kneel as the clock ticked down to zeroes was followed by players either falling to the field in relief, leaping for joy or running to their teammates as tears and hugs flowed.
Junior lineman Adam Kennedy, all 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, was unashamedly in tears following the win, hugging his teammates and celebrating with classmates and family on the field.
“I’m so happy! We’ve been working so hard, so hard the last couple of weeks just to get this win and we’re going to continue it,” he said, “we’re gonna do it.”
This is the second time Ericson has stopped a long losing skid as a head coach in Kitsap. In his first season with Klahowya, Ericson’s Eagles won their second game of the season to end a 24-game winless skid.
Ericson credits his coaching staffs as well as the players who bought into the system.
“The power of positivity, I think,” he said. “You just have to come in with a new attitude, fresh look at things. This place is beautiful to me. I’ve said that from day one. It’s big. It may be a little old, but it’s beautiful. There’s a lot of things going on here and the kids decided to believe.”