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Its that time of year again when a rough and tough collection of high school students put on the pads, helmets and blue and gold jerseys and prepare to bruise their bodies for the Bremerton Knights football team.
The boys, 57 in number, are looking forward to the Narrows League dogfight.
(The football field) is the last place in the world we can train gladiators, said first year head coach Mike McKnight, as he scanned over the upper field practice at Bremerton High School last week.
The boys were doing a stretching exercise called slow karaoke, which looked like a dance move from the breakdancing era.
A second later McKnight yelled across the field for attention.
Knights right here on three, he said.
The team sprinted toward him. Then they crouched and held their hands up like they were going to pounce on him.
When you are doing something, he told the team, no matter what you are doing, do it the best you can.
Thirty-two years after McKnight took an assistant coaching job at West Bremerton High School, he was chosen in late June to take over for former coach Shawn Perkins.
Perkins headed south to Vancouver, Wash., for the head coaching position at Mark Morris High School to be closer to family.
Even though Perkins, the Knights leader for the past four seasons, announced his decision to leave in the middle of March, it took three months for Athletic Director Larry Gallagher to narrow down a handful of candidates to former assistant coach McKnight.
Thus, the football team missed their annual spring training camp in Ellensberg Washington, and saw extremely diminished numbers in the weight room all summer.
With the loss of seniors like Narrows League Defensive MVP Tieba Bropleh (now at Western Washington), quarterback Aubrey Neal, running back Anthony Ragsdale and tight end Noah Garguile (now at the Air Force Academy), the Knights are still trying to regain their balance before the season starts.
We are trying to catch up, McKnight said. I didnt see these guys all summer.
McKnight is a staunch believer in the big picture beyond football.
I dont care about wins and losses, McKnight said. I care about these guys becoming young men. I think athletics teaches people they can do things that they didnt think they could do.