Yes, the Spartans have fewer players this year. Yes, many players are having to learn multiple positions. Yes, the team has instituted a new and more rigorous strength and conditioning program. Yes, they lost some good players to graduation.
No, none of that is worrying Spartan Head Coach Andy Grimm.
“These guys are going to have to gut it out,” Grimm said of his team prior to the season’s first game.
“There are a lot of guys who are having to play both ways, offense and defense, and special teams,” he said. “We’re going to be really tired and we know that. We’ve tried to sprinkle in a little extra conditioning.”
That extra conditioning came in a slightly new kind of strength training program which began over the summer, and is headed by volunteer coach Tracey Chris, the Spartan strength and conditioning coach, in partnership with the Northwest Strength Lab.
“I’m confident in what we’ve got,” Chris said. “The kids have kept their discipline and their focus, and we’ve been stressing that.”
The new conditioning program consisted of a more-structured weight training program, and even some special events off the field as well.
“We’ve had them pulling a mooring line and even flipping big tires,” Chris said.
Chris explained that he and the other coaching staff have also been working with the players on the mental side of the game.
“The boys have been working on the intimidation side,” Chris said. “Being loud and getting in the other team’s head, even before the game starts.”
Grimm said that the methods have differed this year, but the goals remained the same.
“It’s a combination of full-body strengthening and injury prevention,” Grimm said. “We do he best we can to strengthen the kids up because football is a contact sport, it’s a violent game.”
The Spartan’s season opens at 7:15 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at Central Kitsap High School. The team has proven a difficult opponent in the past, a fact that Grimm is very aware of.
“They jumped us early,” he said of last year’s first game against Kitsap.
“Once we settled down I think we played them pretty well. They’re a good quality 4A team. For us to be successful on the score board we’ll have to be error-free on offense, control the ball, we need to get two to three turnovers from them and play well on special teams,” he said.
With the first home game slated for Friday the 13th, Grimm isn’t counting on good luck to see the team to victory. He cites player dedication and a passionate coaching staff as two of the best things going for the team this season.
“That’s mostly the reason why we’re coaching, because we can’t get away from it,” Grimm laughed.
“You get an opportunity to give back to the kids and all this stuff, but I think all of us have that drive to be back out there. There’s something about being on the field and Friday night and atmosphere and all that. That’s why we’re all back. It’s fun to see kids grow and execute a play and see them get excited about what they’re doing,” he said.
Tackling the specific details of the upcoming season, here are Grimm’s insider thoughts on a few critical areas.
The not-so-Grimm Outlook:
On the quarterback:
Considering the Spartans ended last year with several promising up-and-coming QB candidates, the selection of first string QB this year was an even more crucial decision. Filling the shoes of Paimon Jaberi this year is Connor Teddy.
Teddy, a senior this year, was forced to sit out much of last year’s season due to an injury he sustained just days before the first game. According to Coach Grimm, before that he was a front-runner for the position, even as a junior.
The second QB is Kyle Kackson.
On the go-to rushers:
Grimm names senior Taylor Wilson, sophomore Sam Wysong and senior Kyle Jackson as his expected top-rushers this year.
On the top returners:
The Spartans top returners this year are seniors Paris Amore, Ryan Comstock, Ryan Eaton, Jarett Grimm, Jackson Larkin, Garrett Johnson, Nich Miner, Mitchell Stahl, Connor Teddy and Taylor Wilson. The top returning juniors are Casey Brink, Ben Fisher, Gareth Grindeland and Max Thomas.
On the top newcomers:
Grimm names some of the new players to watch as juniors Aaron Christiansen and Max Wickline, as well as sophomores Cole Pugliano and Sam Wysong.
On the top losses to graduation:
“In college in this year at a small college level you got Paimon Jaberi playing at Willamette,” Grimm said. “Jay Terry playing at Santa Barbara Community College, Matt Stone is playing at Eastern Oregon University and Alex Coplan is playing at Saddleback Community College. So there’s four kids out there who are getting to play beyond high school.”
On coaching his own children:
“It’s been about seven or eight years with at least one of my kids in the system,” Grimm said. “I’ve had both of my sons play. They play the position I coach, which can be touch on a coach so I what I really rely on is my staff to make sure that either one of my kids is the best kid for the job, if anything I’ve probably been tougher on them. You have higher expectations for your kid, and that can be fair or unfair for the kid, but I think they respect me more for that.
On his overall coaching philosophy:
Coach Grimm says that his emphasis has always been on sportsmanship, safety and enjoyment. “The kids have been working hard, you want them to go out and execute at the highest level,” Grimm said. “We’re going to make mistakes, there’s no question. If you’re going to have mistakes then you get them out of the way the first two or three weeks before you get into league play. I think we’re pretty good now where we’ve got the kids, position-wise and keeping people healthy. Hopefully we’ve got all the ammo to give it a run in league play.”
On his division projections:
If Bainbridge was out the picture, Grimm predicts the teams-to-beat this year being Eastside Catholic, Blanchet, Seattle Prepatory and O’Dea High School.