LACEY – Nick Kosierowski was determined to play football in 2012.
In May, Northwest Christian High School, where Kosierowski will be a junior, canceled the upcoming football season because of low player interest. Kosierowski was a two-year varsity player and was one of only 18 players on the Navigators’ 2011 squad that struggled through a winless season in Class 2B.
That school administrators decided to cancel football for this season wasn’t a shock for Kosierowski, but “more of a disappointment that it was a reality now.”
“We already had a small team, and since we hadn’t done so well, interest had gone way down,” Kosierowski said.
Because Kosierowski lives within the North Thurston High School boundaries, he’s able to play football for the Rams. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound defensive back traded in his Northwest Christian school colors of navy, teal and white for North Thurston’s purple and white Wednesday as he joined the Rams for their first day of practice. Kosierowski is the only Northwest Christian student who opted to play at another high school.
Kosierowski said he has adjusted quickly, but admitted he was taken aback by the size of North Thurston’s program. With 80-plus players, it’s more than quadruple the size of NWC’s program, which was founded in 2006 under former coach Pete Fulton.
“This is a whole different level,” Kosierowski said. “There’s a lot of talent.”
A lot of North Thurston’s talent is in the backfield, led by seniors Brandon Belisario, Mo Manning, Ande Grantham and junior Hayden Maliska. Coach Rocky Patchin said it’s the deepest core of running backs he’s had in his 21-year tenure as coach of the Rams.
“Hopefully, we can keep guys fresh,” Patchin said. “Fortunately, we’ve got depth.”
Rayne Lemaster and Theo Cobbs have reason for excitement.
The two senior linemen – like the rest of their Hawks teammates – feel this will be a special year. There’s a new varsity locker room at River Ridge, in which coach Steve Schultz said it “looks like a varsity locker room,” and new uniforms and helmets. And the players want to make a big statement on the field, too.
“We’re going to surprise a lot of people,” Lemaster said. “A lot of people think we’re going to be the same River Ridge Hawks, but we’re not. We’re a lot more focused and motivated. We’re going to have a great season.”
Added Cobbs: “We feel really good about the season. This year is our last year on the field, and hopefully, we can make it to state.”
The Hawks were one of a few area teams to hold two practices. It was senior Adam Hubbard’s first time back on the field since his sophomore season. He sat out last year because of a concussion.
“I’m hyped,” Hubbard said. “I’m ready to hit someone.”
The Wolves were one of the first teams to get going Wednesday, starting at 8 a.m.
Coach Jack Zilla noted the boost in turnout – about 65 – on the first day, which is about a dozen more than the Wolves had on the roster last season. Zilla and his coaching staff got a good look at the conditioning of the players when the team ended practice with six “half-gassers.”
“We have a number of kids across the board who I would say are in better shape than in years past,” he said.
One player seeing action for the first time in a while was receiver Shayne Robinson, whose junior year ended with a broken foot sustained in the 2011 season opener.
A new era began at Rochester when its practice was led by first-year coach Chris Barnes. Barnes, who teaches physical education at Grand Mound Elementary School, was the team’s offensive coordinator in 2011. He previously was the running backs coach at Black Hills for five firstname.lastname@example.org 360-754-5473 www.theolympian.com/southsoundsports @megwochnick