Aversano looks to lead Spartan gridders -- Football preview

BHS gridders on the practice field. - ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo
BHS gridders on the practice field.
— image credit: ROGERICK ANAS/Staff Photo

For better or worse, they’re not the new kids on the block any more.

When the Spartan gridders went 7-3 overall their first time out in Metro League – and made the state 3A playoffs for the first time since 1996 – it caught the competition by surprise.

This year, they won’t be sneaking up on anybody on the other side of Puget Sound.

As the 2002 football season commences on Sept. 14 with a non-league game against Squalicum of Bellingham at Spartan Stadium, Bainbridge will be among the favorites to challenge for the Metro League title – alongside defending champion Rainier Beach and perennial powerhouse O’Dea.

Though Bainbridge lost 12 starters – six each on offense and defense – from last year’s playoff team, they return players at key positions to keep them in the hunt.

“We have a good team going into this season,” said Andy Grimm, starting his fifth year as coach of the Spartans. “Our junior group is very talented. We’ll be able to be competitive again.”

Bainbridge’s main strength will be its offensive line, where they return four starters – all seniors with at least one year of experience. Guards Peter Mandell and Chris Pierce each will be third-year starters, while tackle Jarred Hinton and Mick McCallum have a year’s experience under their belts. Senior Matt Wauters is projected to join them at the other tackle.

Like last year, they will be opening holes in defenses for Andy Aversano, a second-team all-Metro selection at fullback. The 5-10, 190-pound senior rushed for 968 yards and 13 touchdowns on 188 carries, and was the primary weapon in the Spartans’ winged-T offense.

This year, Aversano will be a marked man by Metro defenses, but Grimm is ready for that.

“Lots of opposing defenses would stack the box as a primary way to stop us,” Grimm said. “But I think we’ll be able spread things out, and make them stay honest.”

Spreading the field means passing the ball, but the passing game may be a work in progress. Last year’s starter, Clayton Hallum, graduated, and junior Joe Picha moves up from the junior varsity to start. His receivers are projected to be seniors David Underwood, Liam Corey, Pat Frandt and junior Zach Townsend.

On defense, Bainbridge allowed 220 yards and 15 points per game last year, and five starters from that squad return.

Mandell at defensive end, and Pierce at defensive tackle, both first team Metro selections on defense, combined for 130 tackles and 13 sacks last year. Mark and Matt Wauters round out the front four.

The secondary also looks to be a strength, with seniors Corey and Derek Houston at the corners, and junior Mike Ersser at free safety.

An area of concern is the linebacking corps: even though Scott Burkland and Spencer Evans return at the outside positions, Grimm says the outside positions are still unsettled.

This year, the Metro League re-aligned their 12 remaining teams – Ballard moved up to the KingCo 4A Conference – into a private- and a public-school division for football, with Bainbridge placed in the private-school division with Bishop Blanchet, Eastside Catholic, Lakeside, Seattle Prep and O’Dea.

Their matchup with O’Dea on Oct. 11 at home looms as their biggest game of the year. Last year, O’Dea defeated Bainbridge 12-7 at a muddy West Seattle Stadium.

“O’Dea is the team to go through; they always have been,” Grimm said. “That certainly is the game this year, along with Seattle Prep. Those two are really big.”

With a year of Metro play under their belt, Grimm believes the Spartans will be competitive against the best Seattle has to offer.

“We have the experience being in close games, and we’re not swayed by any intimidation factor,” Grimm said.

“It gives us the opportunity to compete for the playoffs.”

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