Sports Year in Review
January 3, 2011 · Updated 12:18 PM
The past year was an eventful one for Kitsap sports headliners who made waves on and off the field. From coaching switches to a high school prospect signing a big league contract, 2010 was a year to remember in Central Kitsap and Bremerton.
Vettleson signs with the Rays
Drew Vettleson turned heads and grabbed the attention of Major League Baseball scouts as a dual threat for the Central Kitsap High School baseball team last season. When Vettleson wasn’t throwing heat as an ambidextrous hurler, he was hitting for the fences as the team’s top slugger. It all paid off for Vettleson last summer.
The former Cougars outfielder and pitcher was selected No. 42 overall by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2010 Major League Baseball draft last June. He reached an agreement with the franchise in August for a signing bonus of $845,000. The signing capped off an impressive year for Vettleson, who led Central Kitsap to the Class 4A state tournament.
Vettleson won the Narrows League Bay Division Most Valuable Player award for a second straight season after hitting .490 with seven home runs and 29 RBI during the regular season.
Vettleson was the first Central Kitsap prospect to go pro since 2002, when 1998 graduate Todd Linden signed with the San Francisco Giants. Vettleson, who has no college experience, said during the draft that it will be a significant transition.
“It’s a huge jump,” Vettleson said in August. “It’s going to take some time for me to get comfortable, so I think I just need to keep my head on straight and not get down on myself.”
Vettleson has yet to play professionally, but he’ll get his chance next spring in the minors.
Schaaf competes at the Winter Olympics
Bremerton’s Bree Schaaf and teammate Emily Azevedo placed fifth in the women’s boblsed competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics at Whistler last February.
The duo finished with an overall time of 3 minutes, 34.05 seconds in four races, including a time of 53.40 in the final race. The Canadian team of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse won gold.
“We are having an amazing time in Whistler,” said Bree’s mother Terri last February. “The place is packed, with everyone dressed in their country’s colors. The streets of Whistler are a non-stop party with concerts and big screens running Olympic events all day.”
Schaaf is currently preparing for the 2014 Winter Games in Russia.
Knights go to state, find new head coach
Jarell Flora and Casey Lindberg were the perfect match for the Bremerton High School boys basketball team. Lindberg, who coached in his 11th and final season with the Knights, led the team to its first state tournament appearance since 1999. Flora anchored the up-tempo offense en route to an Olympic League title. Flora was also an all-state selection before committing to Seattle University on a full-ride scholarship.
But following its best season in more than a decade, Bremerton underwent a makeover, losing Lindberg and Flora in the process.
Lindberg is now the assistant principal at Kopachuck Middle School in Gig Harbor. Flora is a freshman guard for Seattle University, and has yet to play for the Redhawks.
Bremerton Athletic Director George Duarte handed over the reins of the boys basketball team to an assistant coach from a rival school last October.
Duarte hired former South Kitsap High School assistant coach Darren Bowden to lead the Knights this season.
“I know hiring an outsider like myself from a different school can be a tough transition,” Bowden said in November. “But I’m not going to come in and radically change everything.”
Despite the eventful turn of events for the program, Bowden said in November that the program’s new era was off to a good start.
“The transition has been great and the players have been very supportive and are handling the transition well,” Bowden said. “I’m looking forward to working with a lot of great kids this season.”
The news of Bowden’s hiring was unwelcoming for longtime Bremerton assistant coach Phil Olwell, who applied for the position after Lindberg resigned in June. Olwell resigned one week following Bowden’s arrival, citing disappointment with the district’s head coach replacement. He was also on the committee for the first round of interviews, but asked to be removed for the second round so he could apply.
“I went all in,” Olwell said in October. “It was getting late in the game and I wanted to keep this thing going.”
The Knights are 4-4 this season under Bowden. The team picked up victories against Klahowya Secondary School, Central Kitsap and Olympic high schools. Bremerton’s 3-3 league record includes a three-game losing streak two weeks ago to Sequim, Port Angeles and Kingston high schools.
Flora’s absence creates a gaping hole in the team’s roster, but senior Andre Coleman said in November he’s ready to take on a new leadership role in his final year with the Knights.
“I want to get my team back to the Tacoma Dome,” he said. “That’s something I’ll never forget, so we’ve got to take it one game at a time and play as a team.”
Olympic High remembers Eric Allen
Longtime Olympic High School football coach Eric Allen died in his sleep last March at his home in Key Peninsula after a 10-year battle with brain cancer. He was 44.
A social studies and physical education teacher at Olympic High School, Allen coached the football team from 2005 to 2008.
He took a one-year leave in 2009 to focus on his health. Prior to his arrival at Olympic, Allen coached 10 seasons at Lincoln High School in Tacoma. He is credited by his colleagues, players and students for not only revitalizing the Trojans’ football program, but also reinvigorating the Olympic hallways.
“He brought a new energy and exuberance,” Athletic Director Nate Andrews said in March.
Blake Johnson, a senior who played under Allen for two seasons, learned from his coach that life should be about people. He admired Allen for having a positive outlook, despite his health, and because he encouraged players to better themselves on and off the field.
“He went through so much, but he still loved,” Johnson said in March. “He definitely took the worst situations and made the best of everything.”
He is survived by his wife, Jill Allen.
Ashley Wagner skates for Olympics bid
Ashley Wagner, whose family lives in Seabeck, placed third at the U.S. Women’s Figure Skating Championships in Spokane last January, missing a berth to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver by one spot.
Although she fell to the ice on a botched triple lutz during the short program, leaving her more than seven points behind and in fourth place, Wagner delivered an error-free long program, or free skate, two nights later to climb to third.
The performance brought a sold-out crowd to its feet and left Wagner pumping her fists as she skated off the ice, grinning.
“I’ve shown myself that I have a ton of potential,” she said in January. “I know how much I can improve.”
Bremerton bids farewell to Les Eathorne
Bremerton’s winningest and perhaps most influential basketball coach, Les Eathorne died in July of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 86.
Bremerton had never seen a coach quite like Eathorne. He may be best remembered for winning 502 games in 41 seasons of coaching — 32 in Bremerton — but those who knew him could quickly recall his ability to motivate his players.
On the court he preached an up-tempo style of play, encouraging aggressive, relentless defense that forced the opponent into running and making hasty decisions.
Eathorne won more games than any coach in Bremerton history, winning two state championships in 22 seasons at East High School. He was the only coach in the history of the now shuttered school, where he won consecutive state championships in 1973 and 1974.
In December 2009, he coached the East team for an alumni game against West High School, leading the Knights to a 24-point victory on a night when the building was renamed Les Eathorne Gymnasium and Ken Wills Court.
The gymnasium named in his honor once again hosted the alumni game this week.
Disarray and hope for Eagles football
The past few months were truly forgettable for the Klahowya Secondary School football team.
Former head coach Lyle Prouse resigned from his position in November after two winless seasons and some of the student-athletes threatened walkouts. Prouse went 0-20 in two seasons with the Eagles, who currently hold the state’s longest losing streak at 22 games. During Prouse’s tenure the team gave up about 500 points a season, or about 50 points per game. Klahowya has since replaced Prouse with new head coach Dan Ericson.
Kennedy leads Bremerton High’s resurgence
Kyle Kennedy’s ground game lifted the Bremerton High School football team to its best season in eight years.
The senior running back had a breakout year in 2010, totaling 1,871 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in 10 games for the Knights, who finished the season 5-5. Kennedy earned a first team selection on the All Olympic League team in November after rushing for at least 200 yards in seven games last season.
Last week, Kennedy was named to the Associated Press All-State team as an honorable mention. Bremerton head coach Nate Gillam said in November he couldn’t be happier about Kennedy’s contributions in 2010.
“Kyle is not only a great football player, but also a great kid,” Gillam said. “I’ve never met a kid as good as Kyle with such little ego.”
Kitsap Pumas kick into gear
Despite falling short once again in the playoffs, the Kitsap Pumas came up big in 2010.
The team launched a professional indoor soccer team last September, joining the Professional Arena Soccer League for the 2010-11 season. The decision was a major stepping stone for the soccer club hoping to expand.
“It’s an experiment, so we’re going to have fun with it,” club Executive Director Ben Pecora said in September.
The Pumas’ pro indoor team includes 14 athletes on the roster and the season runs from August through April.
Meanwhile, the second-year outdoor squad lost in the quarterfinals of the Premier Development League’s Western Conference playoffs. The Pumas finished with the second-best record in the league.
The indoor team is currently on break until January with a 4-1 record. The outdoor club announced in December that they will host England’s Port Vale Football Club in an international friendly match in July, the first time a prominent European team has traveled to Kitsap for a competitive match.