2017 Fall Sports Preview | A most dramatic debut: Spartans fall in football season opener

The Spartans had plenty of spirit and a full house of fans Friday, Sept. 1, but didn’t manage quite enough points in their first outing of the year to snag a win against the visitors from North Kitsap.

The Bainbridge High varsity football team suffered a 42-21 stumble in their season debut, playing catch-up from early on in the night.

While they did manage some cheer-worthy plays, the Vikings proved worthy of their reputation and maintained the lead throughout.

BHS got off to a rough start, trailing 14-0 by the end of the first quarter.

They came back well in the second, however, and outscored the Vikings, 7-6, to end the first half down a seemingly manageable 20-7.

The third quarter was a close one, with the Spartans trailing — but only just barely — 8-7. It seemed to many to be Bainbridge’s game then, with mounting momentum and a closing points gap spurring the Spartans’ offense.

In the fourth, though, the Vikings poured on the gas and took charge in a 14-7 performance, securing the win.

The stats leave Spartan fans much to be excited about, however.

Lead Spartan quarterback Gannon Winker, a junior at BHS, completed 13-of-24 passes to rack up 161 yards and two touchdowns.

Touchdowns were also managed by junior running back Max McLeod, who rushed 44 yards throughout the night, and sophomore wide receiver Franco Abullarade, who managed two receptions for 49 yards.

Sophomore running back Alex Ledbetter led the rest of the squad in rushing yards, chalking up 78 for himself before the finish.

Defense-wise, senior defensive backs Ethan Peloquin managed six receptions (for 87 yards) and Jacob Hogger finished with three (for 27 yards).

Adding to the offense: Returning kicker BHS junior Tanner Shattuck went 3-for-3, never failing to tack on the extra point after each touchdown.

Thus the BHS season began 0-1, with the island squad slated to next face off against Olympic, on the road, on Friday, Sept. 8 before returning home again to host King’s Way Christian Schools at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15.

This year’s homecoming game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 13, and is to be against Franklin High School.

Though they obviously did not set the ideal tone in this, the traditional debut outing against NK, Spartan returning Head Coach Jeff Rouser said the team had fully expected a rough ride against such a skilled opponent.

“I thought we were still in it in the third quarter,” the coach said.

“We wanted to win. Offense was moving the ball, which is good. The offense is a hell of a lot better than it used to be.

“We got to shore it up on defense,” he added. “We still can do some things on offense, too.”

The Vikings were an admittedly formidable way for Bainbridge to start the season, Rouser said.

“That’s a good football team. They’re going to probably win all their games again, I imagine.”

The Spartans were coming into the contest with a lack of players, it must be said. A slew of early season injuries had thinned the Bainbridge bench considerably by Friday’s kickoff.

“We were kind of decimated, we lost a lot of guys,” Rouser said. “We had no defensive backs to put in the game.”

Hopefully, he said, some question marks will disappear before the road to Silverdale.

“We’ll see where we’re at next week. We got some other guys that are injured that are coming back.”

Ultimately, the coach said the Spartans were taking it in stride.

“We’re OK,” Rouser said. “The game doesn’t really mean anything at the end of the day.

“It’s a nonconference game, and that’s a good football team.”

Nonetheless, this year may yet prove a definitive season for the island squad. There are a few things working in their favor.

The expected growing pains are lessened now, as it is Rouser’s second year in charge. He last season replaced longtime island football figure and former Spartan Head Coach Andy Grimm.

Team boosters have been working hard to increase the previously struggling program’s visibility in the community, too, and tryouts were reportedly attended by the expected number of hopefuls.

Also, a new league reconfiguration has seemingly set the Spartans up like never before.

The newly created third division within the 3A Metro League, announced earlier this year, seemingly promises to effectively level the football playing field for the Spartans, who have historically struggled to compete against the selective programs at Seattle private schools.

The creation of the Valley Division guarantees Bainbridge will no longer be forced to compete against such powerhouse private programs as Eastside Catholic, O’Dea or Bishop Blanchet early on, school officials explained. When the announcement was made, many heralded it as a chance to play on a more level field.

The Valley Division consists of Bainbridge, Chief Sealth, Franklin, Ingraham, Lakeside and Sammamish high schools.

A win against Lakeside proved the Spartans’ only football victory last season. They did not play against any other of their fellow members of the new division last year, though they did in the 2015-16 season, when they bested Ingraham 30-12.

The team finished out last year with a disappointing 1-11 overall record. In their final outing of the season — an unexpected, conciliatory, postseason appearance — the Spartans were defeated 43-14 by Roosevelt High on Nov. 4 in Seattle.

Rouser was plainly optimistic after Friday’s opener.

“We’re not backing away from anybody,” Rouser said. “I think we can compete better against the teams we played last year this year.

“Am I happy? No, I’m not happy with the result, but at least we fought.”

Leading the team from within this season are senior cocaptains Isaiah Bjorgen, Peloquin, Nathan Eaton and Jacob Hogger.

“They’re good leaders and they’re seniors, good players,” the coach said. “They’ve been on the field a lot.”

The support of the senior team members was something not always so present last season, Rouser said, during the inevitable getting-to-know-you phase of his first year in charge.

“I just think last year was a tough year. We came up with a new offense and the seniors had to deal with that. The seniors this year believe in the program. They’re good leaders. They’ve got another year under their belt.

“They’ve taken it on and they support our program.”