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Strong run game will help Kirkland Kangs build on 2012 momentum | Football Preview
Lake Washington High School was not known for its football teams during the past decade. But head coach Steve Supple and his players made strides last season in developing a new reputation.
The Kangs finished the regular season with a 5-4 record and represented 2A KingCo in the state playoffs. It was the first time in eight seasons that the program has finished the regular season with a winning record.
“It surprised a lot of people. But we have to push it further each year,” said Supple, who is the program’s sixth head coach since 2004. “I think the biggest thing is stability and consistency.”
That change is making an impact on the players.
“It set expectations for a new era in Kangs football,” said Wyatt Shelley, who will letter in football for the third time this season. “It is tremendously motivating and we don’t expect anything less.”
But Supple is entering his fourth season and continues to change the culture.
“We have to convince people that football is important at Lake Washington,” said Supple. “We have great coaches, great uniforms, great facilities and we are starting to win games. But we are still waiting for the population to come through.”
Depth is key in football. Being able to keep players fresh for every play and every series can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Supple knows with just 65 kids for three teams his management could be key this season. But the players are concentrating on playing as a team.
“We are trying to make the program more tight-knit and have more of a family environment,” said Shelley.
Supple said he would like to have 85 kids but is excited for the players he has.
“We are really thin on the line,” said Supple. “We are having to start them on offensive and defensive lines. They have to be able to run all night and we have to stay healthy.”
But a stringent conditioning program, speedy running back and good defense could help the Kangs return to the post season. That is a stark contrast to the recipe for the success of 2012 when the team had a bruising running game and a dynamic passer under center.
“We will be going into a lot of games with some young guys,” said starting junior running back Riley Simonson. “But one thing I have learned is that you can’t play scared.”
Supple has a lot of faith in his tailback, who has started four varsity games. He told Simonson that he wants his goal to be 1,600 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.
“Last year we had a downhill runner,” said Supple. “But [Simonson] is a one-cut-and-go kind of kid.”
Supple will also rely on his three senior co-captains Shelley, Nick Jahnke and Kris Singstad.
“Varsity is really hard,” said senior starting quarterback Nick Young. “There are some big guys and you have to be able to trust in your teammates.”
Young also has some experience as a starter but that came as a sophomore.
“We know what we did well last year,” said Young. “We need to use it to improve. But we also know what we did bad last year and we need to use that for even better improvement.”
If the team is to improve it has three key games during which it will have to play well.
“We start the season in Tacoma to play Foss and that will be a good game,” said Supple. “But the game against Cedarcrest will give us a better idea of who we are.”
The coach said that every team in KingCo is tough but the team must win against Sammamish.
“If we beat Sammamish we will be the 2A representative [in the playoffs],” said Supple.
The team will also host one of the best programs in the state during the past decade - Bellevue High School.
“I am looking forward to it,” said Blake Owen. “It is a privilege and an opportunity to compete. It will just make us better no matter what the outcome.”
Kangs’ football schedule
Sept. 6 at Foss (Tacoma) 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 Cedarcrest at home 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Mercer Island 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 Bellevue at home 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Liberty 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 Mount Si at home 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 Interlake at home 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Juanita 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Sammamish 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 Crossover or playoff TBD
All home games played at Lake Washington High School.
For more on the LWHS football team, visit www.hometeamsonline.com and search “Kangaroos.”