The Bainbridge High School varsity football team is undefeated.
Having claimed a decisive 14-3 win against the visitors from North Kitsap in their first outing of the season on Friday, Sept. 6, the island squad walked away with a flawless 1-0 record and possession of the prized Agate Cup trophy for the next year.
As well as a whole lot of spirit, too.
It was a historic win, reportedly the first time since 2011 the Spartans have bested the Vikings in this, their traditional first-game face-off, a beloved local sports tradition.
Though technically a non-league game, BHS Head Coach Jeff Rouser said Friday’s win was a huge step for the team and would skyrocket their morale and confidence as they prepare for true Metro competition.
“It’s huge, beating North Kitsap,” Rouser said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with them for the rest of the year, but it can’t do anything but help us.”
The top Spartan was quick to heap praise on the island squad’s rivals.
“They’re a class act,” he said. “That team’s a class act. The coach is a class act, [NK Head Coach Jeff] Weible has taught me a lot of things and they have dominated on this side of the water.”
The big win began rather slowly.
Under the expectant collective gaze of a packed stadium, the Spartans and Vikings alike muddled through a scoreless first quarter Friday before the guests ultimately got on the board first (3-0), with about nine minutes left in the half.
It was, however, a short-lived lead.
“Our first couple positions, we weren’t executing and then we got going,” Rouser said.
“These guys got confident. We found our groove and we started pushing, and they’re just not used to doing that against North Kitsap.”
The Spartans did indeed push. They answered back and then some soon after, and they entered the second half up 7-3.
The third quarter was likewise slow going score-wise before BHS put up the game’s final points and guaranteed themselves the win in the fourth.
All told, the Spartan offense managed 182 yards (121 rushing yards).
Senior star returner Alex Ledbetter more than lived up to expectations in the team’s debut outing.
He scored both touchdowns and was the Spartans’ rushing leader with 54 yards to his credit.
Senior Charlie Hughes ran for 33 yards and senior Franco Abbularde, 18 yards.
In passing, Ledbetter went three-for-six and racked up 69 of the team’s 71 yards, and he even put in a strong showing on defense, making four tackles and a tackle for loss.
Senior John Devlin was the team’s receiving leader (57 yards), and Abbularde amassed an additional 13 yards.
Senior Quinn Millard came through with two conversions.
Riotous celebration promptly ensued in the wake of the final buzzer, replete with the customary dousing of the coach in icy water and team photos with the trophy.
Coaches and players alike continued offering boisterous kudos and congrats to specific Spartans as they marched triumphantly off the field, and long into the post-game cheer session back in the locker room.
Amid a night of stellar showings, though, Rouser heaped special praise on the Spartan defense, which was clearly firing on all cylinders in the NK game.
“Defense dominated,” Rouser said. “[Assistant] Coach [Todd] Harder has done such a hell of a job. Last year, we had our problems and we knew it. We went and got focused on defense this year and said we’re not going to let that happen.”
And it didn’t.
Devlin again leapt to the head of the pack, leading the d-line with two sacks, a fumble recovery, two tackles for loss — and four additional tackles.
But it was fellow senior Spartan Sio Peato whose name was on everybody’s lips.
Peato — dubbed “the human wall” by Rouser during the postgame locker room celebration — seemed to be everywhere at once Friday. He racked up five tackles for loss and two blocked passes.
“This may have been, and I heard it from everybody, the other coaches too, the most dominating performance by a lineman — ever!” Rouser said. “I mean it was killer. It was amazing.”
“Sio rose,” Harder agreed. “He rose.”
Additionally, two juniors chipped in some terrific tackling, too.
Cal Breen managed four, plus one for loss, and Brian Taylor had one tackle for loss and a fumble recovery.
Despite some perhaps overly cautious calls on the part of officials, Rouser said the game — which saw a heated vocal buildup both on- and off-line in the weeks and days leading to kickoff — was a clean one.
“They were calling flags left and right,” he said. “I’m not going to [complain] about it, but I think those refs were ridiculous — on both sides. We didn’t get a disadvantage or advantage.”
Overall, however, Rouser said the team was satisfied and ecstatic, and planned to celebrate, briefly, before turning to their next challenge.
“First game, we got a bunch more to go,” he said, “but it’s a hell of a way to start.”
The Spartans will play their next game on the road against Olympic High School on Friday, Sept. 13, and are slated to return home to host Interlake at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20.