Gridders bulk up for fall campaign

Summer break means morning workouts for Spartan football hopefuls.

It’s early – well, early for any kid during the summer – as the Spartan football team racks up the iron in preparation for the fall season.

Determined not to repeat last year’s disappointing 3-7 record, the Spartans have taken to the high school weight room four mornings a week with renewed vigor and playoff aspirations.

“We know it’s the dog days of summer and there’s a lot of other stuff these kids could be doing, but they know it will pay off and they’ll see it in September,” Spartan coach Andy Grimm said.

This summer’s “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” program has arguably been the most well-attended since off-season training began under former coach Neal White. The current program started in June and will go until the team officially turns out for the season in mid-August.

Each 8 a.m. session brings in 30-55 players from the 100-strong program; each tracks his hours and progress.

Most who turn out are younger, which reflects the program’s strong influence among freshmen and eighth graders. For the coaches, it is encouraging to see off-season training started at an early age; for the players, it is worth the effort, and the results are obvious.

“We are getting a lot stronger than we have been in the last few years,” said Josh Truan, a junior and two-way lineman for the Spartans. “Some of the lifts have jumped over 100 pounds in two months.”?

Players concentrate on low-repetition, high-weight training, followed by conditioning and an occasional half-hour dedicated to practicing plays.

The Spartans have been complementing their strength training by practicing their prowess in execution, joining a seven-on-seven peninsula scrimmage league. On Tuesday evenings, a line-less Spartan team takes on rotating rivals Bremerton, Sequim and North Kitsap, in a workout for backs and ends.

“We’ve been doing really well in those. We’re definitely the best team out there, skill position-wise,” Spartan quarterback Grant Leslie said.

Others returning to the skill positions are hard-hitting backfielders Zach Kornfeld and Angelo Ritualo. Senior Tyler Hannon has also shown some game face over the summer, and will make his blue-and-gold debut as a receiver.

A strong returning backfield and promising passing game will allow the Spartans to diversify their Wing-T offense.

“We have Leslie, who was All-League last year, and we feel we have guys who can catch, so we’ll be doing some more play-action this season,” Grimm said.

However, this summer’s training is essential in helping the Spartans where they need it most, on their overextended and underweight line.

“We were a little disappointed last year in terms of our record, and that had to do with the offense and defensive lines not being that strong,” Spartan assistant coach Mike Roe said. “There is a lot of inexperience, and we need some of the sophomores and juniors to step up.”

The chance to their potential comes early, as the Spartans take the gridiron against their cross-bridge rival, the North Kitsap Vikings, Sept. 3, at NK.

Last year, the Vikings pummeled the Spartan line, running for 359 yards on the night and cruising to a 45-19 victory.

Although there are consequences for missing sessions in terms of playing time, the drive is self-motivation. Senior Andrew Kok is following his own training routine when his job schedule conflicts with the morning sessions.

“Last year, the kids came to us and told us they wanted to do better and set some goals as far as playoffs, and that shows in strong participation,” Grimm said.

The players don’t mind that their classmates are sleeping in this summer.

“It’s a little nerve-racking thinking, ‘oh man I gotta get up again.’ But it is a good way to start the day right,” Truan said. “And when I’m done, I go home and sleep.”

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