Returning young talent boosts Kamiak’s expectations | Football

2nd-year coach Thomas wants to see the Knights continue to make progress
By David Pan | Sep 04, 2019
Photo by: David R Pan Kamiak sophomore wide receiver Wesley Garrett prepares to catch a ball, while cornerback Damon Crouse closes in on him.

The Kamiak football team is looking to take a step forward.

How much is a question is yet to be answered.

Under then first-year head coach Bryant Thomas, the Knights battled through a difficult 2018 season.

Kamiak (1-8 overall) struggled to put up points on the scoreboard and to keep its opponents out of the end zone. The Knights allowed an average of 45.7 points per game, while managing to score just 7.8 points per contest.

Thomas is confident the program is heading in the right direction, given the talented group of players Kamiak is bringing back.

“The second time around the kids are more familiar with the expectations,” Thomas said. “We’re a year older. We’re a year stronger. There’re are still going to be some juniors and sophomores playing.”

Actually, there are going to be quite a lot of them.

With only a handful of seniors, the Knights are going to be young on both sides of the ball. What is encouraging to Thomas is that those young players possess solid football skills.

Thomas expects Kamiak will match up better against its Wesco 4A rivals this season.

The freshmen and sophomores who saw varsity action last season all have a better understanding of Thomas, his expectations and his schemes. The second-year Kamiak coach still expects the Knights to have some growing pains.

What he doesn’t question are his players’ skills and enthusiasm.

“They are able to compete. It’s going to be fun to watch them play,” Thomas said. “They’ll fly around. Are they going to make some mistakes? Yes. They are going to make some mistakes. Their intensity and effort and their understanding of what we’re doing is going to allow them to make up for their mistakes, which they weren’t able to do last year.”

Whatever growing pains the Knights experience will help them in the coming years.

“We’re so focused on the now that we don’t think about the future,” Thomas said. “But for me, as much as I’m focused on now, I’m also excited about our future because by next year we’ll have kids in the program who would have been playing for three years.”

As talented as the Knights are, they still don’t have a lot of varsity playing time.

“Our issue still comes down to experience,” Thomas said. “We still have a ways to go. We’re still going to be young, but we have a couple years under our belt. We’re not as big as we would like to be. But we’ve got good high school football players. We’re still a year away. Anybody who knows football knows that when you’re trying to build a program, you don’t do it overnight. It takes two or three years.

“But I like the direction we’re going because everybody is coming back for another year.”

Junior quarterback Nick Laman played in four games as a sophomore when Kamiak’s senior starting quarterback suffered a season-ending leg injury in mid-September.

“We learned a lot from that season – about what we need to do as a team to improve our strength and not get injuries,” Laman said. “That’s why we had a lot more people showing up in the weight room this summer and last spring.”

After focusing on the run game last year, Laman said the Knights will be mixing up the offense this season.

“We’re shifting that focus toward putting the ball in the air and getting downfield,” Laman said.

Laman is excited with a receiving corps that includes sophomore Wesley Garrett, junior Syrus Vannatta and junior Ben Ferrara. Garrett and Vannatta both bring speed to the outside and have good hands, Laman said. Ferrara, at 6-foot-4, is expected to play tight end and be a big target, especially inside.

“We have a lot of depth with our wide receivers, which is going to be good with the offense we’re putting in,” Laman said.

The prospect of facing older and more experienced teams doesn’t faze Laman.

“I think with our core group of guys that we have, we can go up against just about anybody,” he said.

The Kamiak defense also appears to be a much stronger unit.

Junior defensive back Jacob Sung said that the defense comes out with a lot energy and is fired up every day at practice.

“We’re getting to the ball real quick,” he said.

Junior Damon Crouse, who saw some time at quarterback last year, will be playing cornerback and focusing exclusively on defense.

“We feel like both offensively and defensively we have some pretty good weapons,” he said. “We can go after every team we’re going to play this year.”

The Knights’ mental approach to games is going to play an important role in the team’s success. Crouse wants to see Kamiak playing at a high level at all times.

“We’ve got to stay up,” he said. “Nothing can bring us down and make our energy low. … If something goes wrong, we’ve got to stay up and we’ve got to fight through it and preserve.”

Junior linebacker Jonak Varela sees a growing confidence among his teammates. The offseason work in the weight room played a major role in the preparation for the season.

“We’ve all come together and are really united,” Varela said. “We’ve just really bonded this year. The mentality of a group or a team can really show out in the performance.”

The Knights will have a good test in their season opener. Kamiak takes on Bishop Blanchet at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept 6, at Bishop Blanchet High School. The Braves, who shut out the Knights 40-0 last year, have advanced to the playoffs for six straight seasons.

 

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