Kent-Meridian Royals look to go beyond .500 | HS Football

They came a long way last year. No more the soft spot on everyone’s football schedule, the Kent-Meridian Royals instead became a formidable roadblock. Still, they were far from satisfied.

  • BY Wire Service
  • Friday, August 29, 2008 12:33pm
  • Sports

They came a long way last year.

No more the soft spot on everyone’s football schedule, the Kent-Meridian Royals instead became a formidable roadblock.

Still, they were far from satisfied.

“I felt like we accomplished a lot. But we can accomplish much more,” said senior Va Lagotala, who plays fullback on the offensive side of the ball, and nose guard on defense. “We may not have the size, but from my experience, we definitely have heart. We have the ability to do what needs to be done.”

What the Royals got done in 2007 under first-year coach Trevor Roberts was their first .500 league season since 1995. Rather than getting buried in the South Puget Sound League North Division cellar and falling out of contention before midseason, they stayed in the playoff hunt right down to the finale against Kentridge.

Now, despite graduating more than 20 seniors – including 10 all-leaguers – Kent-Meridian wants to prove that it really is the real deal.

“We were potentially in every ball game. What hurt us was our own mistakes,” Roberts said in looking back. “But going 5-5, doing something the school hadn’t done (in a long time) was a pretty big thing.

“Going into the Kentridge game (in the North finale) and going in at halftime just 7-0 (down), the scoreboard ultimately didn’t go our way,” Roberts said, as the Chargers ultimately prevailed, 28-0. “But the kids started to feel like they belonged. They continued to understand what it took.”

What it will take this year in a North Division that has gotten significantly tougher with Auburn and Auburn Riverside rejoining the 4A ranks will be several new names stepping into the spotlight. They’ll have to replace such departed standouts as defensive all-league first-teamers Andre Moore and Johnny Wilson.

“We lost a lot of good players but we also gained a lot of quality talent,” said senior Isaiah Walker, an offensive tackle and defensive end. “We were good at bringing the team together last year. Just from the start of the season during practice, we strived for excellence, and it showed on the field.”

Among the quality talent that K-M gained is Artise Gauldin, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior running back and cornerback who was a first-team All-SPSL North defensive back at Kentwood last year.

“It’s a program coming up. We hope to make the playoffs this year,” Gauldin said. “The talent on this team is endless. You can just tell with every single person right by you.”

During several years when the Royals not only struggled to win, they struggled even to be competitive, talent wasn’t necessarily the problem – “You ask any coach and they’ll tell you we’ve always had the talent,” Roberts said.

However, a revolving door of coaches and systems left that talent constantly changing directions. Last year was another change with Roberts taking the helm. But he quickly sold the team on his direction, and this fall, the program has grown to about 90 players – and everyone knows which way they’re going.

“The kids had been through so much … it wasn’t an easy thing for them to do, just the constant letdown,” Roberts said. “For them to believe in the system we installed and the philosophy of striving for excellence helped (our way) snowball and kind of build.”

The finer points of X’s and O’s notwithstanding, senior fullback/linebacker Chravis Fuimaono figures the secret to K-M’s continued forward progress is no big secret at all.

“We just need to stay on task and go hard every practice,” said Fuimaono, who’s 5-10 and 210 pounds.

Just as the Royals are no longer a breather on the schedule, neither is anyone else in the North Division. Defending champion Federal Way, along with Auburn, which went to the 3A state playoffs last year, generally are regarded as the favorites. Kentwood, Kentridge and Tahoma are perennial postseason candidates, and Auburn Riverside made it to the 3A regional round last fall.

But Logotala isn’t setting his sights on any one of them.

“I don’t like to pick a team (as a favorite),” he said. “Just play every down, and as long as we have fun, we should be able to do whatever comes our way.”

ROYALS AT A GLANCE

• Coach: Trevor Roberts, 2nd year.

• Last season: 3-4, tie 5th in SPSL North; 5-5 overall.

• Offense: Multiple.

• Defense: 5-2

• Returning players (Year, name, position, height/weight): Sr. Isaiah Walker, OT/DT, 6-4/235; Sr. Nathan Smith, OG, 6-2/260; Jr. Va Logotala, NG, 5-7/215; Sr. Chravis Fuimaono, LB, 5-10/210; Jr. Thomas Reinhart, OLB, 6-1/190.

• Key newcomers: Sr. Artise Gauldin, HB/CB, 5-10/180; So. David Jones, QB, 6-0/190; Jr. Ronald Molere, WR/DB, 5-10/185; Jr. Saiipele Siafuafu, OL/DL, 6-1/235.

• Outlook: Most teams graduate 20-plus players and talk about rebuilding. Not only is that word nowhere to be found in K-M’s camp, there seems to be a quiet confidence that the Royals can do even better than last year in spite of losing some top talent. No one here is a household name yet, but that could change quickly. Some young ones definitely will be getting their chances. “When we reload with young kids, that hurts your depth. Our sophomore class is really going to have to step up to do that,” Roberts said.

• Can’t-miss game: The Royals open at home on Sept. 4 against Auburn Riverside. These two teams are similar in that both are on the way up and no longer are the breather on anyone’s schedule. While season openers are important to everyone, the winner here could go far in setting a tone for a run at the postseason. The annual Taylor Trophy game against Auburn is Sept. 19 at French Field, with K-M out to snap a nine-game losing streak in that rivalry. The other circle-the-calendar contest will be the following week, Sept. 26 at Tahoma. The Royals pulled off a 14-8 upset last year.

LAST FIVE YEARS

YEAR RECORD

2007 5-5

2006 3-7

2005 2-8

2004 0-10

2003 0-10

SCHEDULE

DATE OPPONENT

9-4 vs. Auburn Riverside

9-12 at Kentlake

9-19 vs. Auburn

9-26 at Tahoma

10-3 at Kentwood

10-9 vs. Spanaway Lake (NL)

10-16 vs. Jefferson

10-24 at Federal Way

10-30 vs. Kentridge

Home games and all Kent opponents at French Field.

All games 7 p.m.


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