Sports

Can BHS football overcome lack of depth?

Nate Gillam is crossing his fingers for good health.

The fifth-year Bremerton football coach had 60 players turn out, but many of them are either freshmen or have never played varsity ball, meaning the 2009 roster is shallow — very shallow at some positions.

“Stay healthy, quite frankly, is the obvious one,” Gillam said when asked what needs to happen for his team to be successful. “We’re thin, but the guys that we have are working real hard.”

The most glaring hole in terms of depth is at running back. Junior Kyle Kennedy, who rushed for more than 800 yards in 2008, returns as the starting fullback and senior Nick Thomas will shift into the starting tailback position. After Kennedy and Thomas, however, the Knights have no running backs with varsity experience. Kennedy is the lone returning starter.

“We’re real thin at running back,” Gillam said. “We’re going to, hopefully, rely a little bit on the receiving corps.”

Among those receivers are seniors Terrick McGhee and Charles Wilson and juniors Terance Jordan and Sabian Perrigo, none of whom started on offense last year.

Perrigo was battling with senior Billy Davenport for the starting quarterback position — and most likely will get live-game snaps — but Davenport has the nod for the Knights’ opener against Klahowya.

Davenport, who started one game at quarterback in 2008, is a converted wide receiver.

“He started doing pretty well at quarterback from a leadership standpoint, so we moved him into quarterback for that aspect,” Gillam said, adding Perrigo will play defensive back, probably free safety, in addition to wideout.

The starting offensive line is comprised of five new faces, including center Max Hayes, who moves up from junior varsity. A.J. Angle and Dan Rahm, both key contributors on the offensive line last year, graduated.

Gillam continues to work out the kinks with the newcomers.

“It’s tough, quite frankly, because we’re still trying to fit that puzzle together,” Gillam said. “The offensive line is something that takes a long time to develop. You just do the best job you can as a coach to find those five guys that work well together. They (the offensive linemen) aren’t as big as we’ve been in the past, but they are a little smarter and better athletes.”

Fortunately, Gillam said, most of the offensive lineman won’t have to play defense as well, something that can’t be said about specialty positions such as running back/linebacker and wide receiver/defensive back.

“We’re playing a little ironman football with a lot of these guys,” he said.

To compensate for the lack of depth, Gillam is preaching the importance of teamwork. He said the team has participated in a handful of “military-esque” drills, including lifting tires and heavy logs. The point of the exercises is to show the players that some challenges are impossible to complete without teammates working in unison.

The approach has been well-received and Gillam hopes to see the success spill onto the field.

“We’re focused more on a team building,” Gillam said. “That’s sort of our goal; to get these guys to understand they are only as good as the people around them and that the team is more important than the individual. I think that will help us move forward.

“We just need to make sure we understand the concept of team. We’ve had the best buy-in this year that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

The Knights, who finished 2-8 last season and are 4-36 under Gillam, beat Klahowya 16-10 in the 2008 season-opener.

Gillam said the first game will be a “test,” but it would take about three games for him to gauge how the squad stacks up to the rest of the league.

“We’re not too much worried about the other teams, we just want to do the thing we do correctly and everything will be OK,” Gillam said. “It’s just going to be a matter of staying conditioned and staying healthy.”

Today’s game is at 7 p.m. at Silverdale Stadium.

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