FOOTBALL PREVIEWS '10: New-look Kentlake ready to rise

Changes are afoot on the Kentlake High football field. New coach? Check. New quarterback? Check. A playoff berth? That's yet to be determined. But first-year coach Chris Paulson, who has taken over the program from Mike Shepard, believes the Falcons have a legitimate opportunity to advance to the postseason this fall for the first time since 2003.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Thursday, September 2, 2010 8:11pm
  • Sports
First-year Kentlake football Chris Paulson and the Falcons hope to advance to the postseason this fall after falling a game short in each of the last two years.

First-year Kentlake football Chris Paulson and the Falcons hope to advance to the postseason this fall after falling a game short in each of the last two years.

Changes are afoot on the Kentlake High football field.

New coach?

Check.

New quarterback?

Check.

A playoff berth?

That's yet to be determined. But first-year coach Chris Paulson, who has taken over the program from Mike Shepard, believes the Falcons have a legitimate opportunity to advance to the postseason this fall for the first time since 2003.

“I'd like to believe we have a playoff football team,” said Paulson, who went 4-6 last year at Mount Rainier of the Class 3A Seamount League. “We have a junior class that is as talented as any I've ever seen. We're really optimistic as a coaching staff. We hope they're ready to make some noise this year.”

Paulson's optimism is understandable. He inherited a program with considerable talent, one that was slowly on the rise under Shepard, who posted a 14-26 record in four years at the helm.

The Falcons missed the playoffs by a single victory in each of the last two seasons. In a year when the South Puget Sound League North Division will have plenty of parity — that is, outside of consensus favorite Auburn — there's no reason to think the Falcons can't make a move upward.

Of course, moving might be one of Kentlake's biggest aids this year, specifically that of new quarterback Caleb Saulo, who transferred to the school from Mount Rainier shortly before Paulson landed the head coaching position.

“I guess everything happens for a reason,” said the 6-1, 210-pound Saulo. “It's good. Not many people get to stay with a coach that they like.”

Paulson has plenty of reason to like Saulo, a first-team All-Seamount League selection at quarterback and inside linebacker last season. Saulo rushed for 383 yards on 87 carries, and completed 43 of 102 passes for 583 yards.

“He's a kid who's going to be fun to watch,” Paulson said. “He's talented. He knows our system. It has changed a little bit just because of the personnel, but he has fit in really well with the other kids.”

Saulo, however, isn't alone among Kentlake newcomers expected to make an immediate impact. Joining him is Nuu Vaifale, a 6-foot, 209-pound sophomore running back/defensive back who also called Mount Rainier home a year ago. Vaifale rushed for 424 yards and four touchdowns on 55 carries last year, and was an All-Seamount League selection on special teams.

Paulson is hoping the influx of talent can help replace the numbers posted last year by standouts Tyler Wright and Latrell Dukes, who were Kentlake's top offensive players. Wright, who has moved on to Central Washington University, did it all for the Falcons, rushing for four touchdowns, catching four more, and serving as the team's kicker, punter, wide receiver and, at times, running back.

Dukes, who spent one year at the school and who has since transferred out, rushed for 576 yards and four touchdowns last year.

Wide receiver and special teams extraordinaire Austin Pernell, a three-sport standout at the school, could be filling that void in a hurry, Paulson said.

“He's the best athlete walking the hallways at Kentlake,” Paulson said. “He's a kid who needs to have the ball in his hands, so that's been a big emphasis for us (during the preseason). He's outstanding on punt returns and, when the ball's in the air, he's almost got an extra gear to go get it.”

For all his ability, Pernell is keeping things simple heading into the season. The 5-10, 175-pound junior, who can run the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, isn't envisioning posting grandiose individual numbers or hoping to get the ball a certain number of times per game.

Instead, Pernelle has one goal in mind. And it involves the entire team.

“All I'm worried about is making the playoffs. That's all I want because we haven't been there for a while,” he said.

KENTLAKE FALCONS: AT A GLANCE

• Coach: Chris Paulson, 1st year.

• Last year: 4-4 in SPSL North, fifth place; 4-6 overall.

• Type of offense: Spread Bone.

• Offensive returners: Austin Pernell, jr., WR, 5-10, 172; Nick Kramlich, sr., RB, 5-10, 177; Tyler Jewett, sr., OL, 6-5, 263.

• Type of defense: 3-3.

• Defensive returners: Nick Kramlich, sr., DB, 5-10, 177; Sam Brooks, sr., LB, 6-1, 196; Ryan Archibald, jr., DB, 6-1, 171; Zac Cowan, jr., DL, 6-3, 218; Tanner Lucas, jr., LB, 6-0, 209; Jesse Wells, jr., LB, 5-10, 200.

• Top newcomers: Caleb Mathena, so., RB/DB, 5-11, 170; Caleb Saulo, jr., QB/LB, 6-1, 212; Breton Medina, jr., QB/DB, 5-11, 163; Nuu Vaifale, so., RB/DB, 6-0, 209; Trevor Baldwin, jr., RB/DB, 5-8, 164; Kile Minnis, jr., OL/DL, 6-0, 222.

• Outlook: A lot has changed at Kentlake since last year. Gone is coach Mike Shepard, along with last year's top playmakers Tyler Wright (Central Washington University) and Latrell Dukes (transfer). That said, first-year coach Chris Paulson, who was at Mount Rainier a year ago, has brought some buzz to the program and expects this group to challenge for a postseason berth right away. If that's going to happen, Saulo, a first-team all-league quarterback at Mount Rainier last fall, is going to have to make an instant impact. The Falcons also will need to get ample production from returners Pernell, Kramlich, Jewett, and Archibald as well.

• Key game: Kentlake will play host to Kentwood on Oct. 8 at French Field in a Week 6 showdown that could make or break the Falcons' postseason hopes. In each of the past two seasons, Kentlake has stumbled down the stretch when a playoff berth was in reach. A victory against over Kentwood, a team Kentlake hasn't beaten since 2003, would be not only a huge mental boost to the Falcons, but also would put them in the driver's seat for one of the playoff berths from the North.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentnews.us.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://kentnews.us/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Sports

t
Too hot to play sports? High temps challenge Kent Parks Department

Four days of events canceled July 6-9 at Wilson Playfields where surface temps soared to 120 degrees

Gio Moimoi drives to the basket for Kentridge. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Summer league spotlight: Kentridge and Kentwood boys hoops

“It has been a night and day difference from year one to now.”

(Screenshot)
U.S. men's national soccer team has time to turn it around. Can they?

After getting ‘grouped’ in Copa America, the U.S. needs to find momentum heading toward World Cup.

Skylar Diggins-Smith conducts the offense against the Sparks. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Storm pour it on in the fourth, wash out Sparks

Seattle used a huge 10-0 run late in the fourth to take control over Los Angeles.

Federal Way Memorial Field. Photo provided by Bruce Honda
Federal Way Memorial Field to host high school boys soccer tournaments

Class 2A, 1A competitions to move to Federal Way from Renton for 2025 to 2028

2024 Kent News Athletes of the Year are Ella Wick and Ethan Loghry. Pictured left to right: Kent News sports writer Ben Ray, Ella Wick, Ethan Loghry, and Brian Smith, Kent School District Director of Athletics and Activities. Photo provided by ROBBY MULLIKIN
Kent School District and Kent News's 2024 Athletes of the Year

Kentlake’s Ethan Loghry and Ella Wick take home top awards.

Kentwood and Kentridge players go at it for possession. Ben Ray / The Reporter
NPSL All-League Soccer Teams: Kentwood's Logan Hasting is POTY

Other Kent School District athletes make the list.

Hazen’s Illia Biezak leaps over the bar. Ben Ray / The Reporter
State track and field: Liberty boys, Kent-Meridian girls place inside top four in 3A

Cassie Atkins (FW) continued to dominate, has now won five titles in three years.

t
Auburn Riverside softball wins state championship

Ravens win first fastpitch title in school history.

Steve Raible auctioning off a Seahawks football from 1983.
Seahawks legends inspire South King County youth at breakfast

Scholar-Athlete Breakfast in Auburn features Steve Largent and Steve Raible.

Sofia Mottern-Salinas gives a yell after getting the rally going against North Creek. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Kentwood fastpitch rallies at state, but misses out on trophy

Kentwood went 2-2 in the state tournament, falling to Emerald Ridge and Puyallup on final day.

Gabby Greenwood gives a yell after her home run against Graham-Kapowsin. Ben Ray / The Reporter
Kentwood falls in district championship, named five seed for state tournament

Kentridge makes second day of district tournament for first time since 2016.