Olympia football players preview the 2018 season
Last year the Olympia High School football team lined up one of its better senior classes. The Bears had 20 total seniors on the roster, and 18 that started.
The team finished 5-5 overall and made the Class 4A district playoffs, losing to eventual state runner-up Woodinville.
Losing such an important class of veteran players might set back some teams. Not Olympia, which has been known over the years to rebuild and restock its teams.
“I think it’s the culture,” coach Steve Davis said of the program’s consistency. “We have some really good stability with our assistant coaches. Most of them have been here for over a decade. Ten of the 14 assistant coaches went to Olympia High School. For whatever reason, there’s a huge tie to come back. People see that and want to be part of that.”
This season, the Bears will have one of their smallest groups of seniors. Davis said there will be 12.
Behind those seniors though is a substantial junior class — 30 in all. A majority of those juniors will start, led by quarterback Nathan Hermann on offense.
Hermann (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) takes over from last season’s second-team Olympian All-Area selection Ketner Young.
Davis praised his new starting quarterback Thursday at the practice fields behind Ingersoll Stadium, and noted the junior passer’s ability to lead and hold his teammates accountable.
“He’s come along as well as any quarterback we’ve ever had in the 27 years I’ve been here,” Davis said. “I couldn’t be more proud of what he’s done. If a receiver runs a wrong route, he’ll let them know about it — in a good way.”
Davis, in his second year as head coach, expects the team to be in the hunt for the playoffs again. They’ll have to battle through one of the state’s toughest leagues in the 4A SPSL.
He and the players both understand the competition the team is set to face — like Graham-Kapowsin with Washington Huskies-bound quarterback Dylan Morris, and perennial league powers Sumner, Puyallup and Bellarmine Prep — won’t be easy.
But the Bears are going to treat every game the same, regardless of who is in front of them.
The balanced spread offense that Olympia runs is back again for this season.
The Bears will most likely have four juniors starting on the offensive line with one senior. Running backs Tyler Woods, a junior, and Garrett Iyall, a senior, are going to be a one-two punch in the backfield.
Woods (5-11, 205) is a powerful runner who invites contact, while Iyall (5-10, 180) is more elusive.
At wide receiver is junior Will Anderson, a speedster on the track. Anderson ran 50.86 seconds in the 400 meters at the 4A West Central District championships last spring, and competed on Olympia’s 4x400 relay team at the state meet.
On the other side of the ball, a pair of behemoths will be leading the charge for Olympia’s 4-2-5 defense. Juniors Randy Naegle (6-3, 315) and Kahalua Tuitele (5-11, 360) are set to be the starting defensive tackles.
Tuitele recently moved from American Samoa to Washington state during the summer. The 16-year-old began playing football in the sixth grade.
Defensive line coach Trevor Irish mentioned Tuitele’s agile feet, and said he was impressed by how quickly the junior lineman has picked up the Bears’ defensive scheme.
Key players that will be lining up behind those two beefy interior linemen are Iyall at free safety, Woods at middle linebacker and junior Ben Krasnokutsky (5-10, 165) at cornerback.
“I’m really excited to see what this new, young group can do,” Woods said. “I know a lot of people are going to be doubting our playing ability. We’re just going to come out and hit people in the mouth. We’re here to play, to hit people hard.”