Sports

Dream began a year ago, continues to grow

Last December as Kentwood and Pasco met for the 2001 Class 4A state championship a group of Oak Harbor football players gathered to watch the game on television. As the Conquerors won the big trophy the Wildcat players came to a realization, “why not us?”

“We all just kind of thought the same thing,” senior wide receiver Kyle Veach said of that night almost a year ago. “We all said we wanted to be there, where those two teams were, and we hit the weight room and started running immediately.”

That pumping of iron and legs has the Wildcats in the door of the state championship playoffs for the first time in 20 seasons.

The work ethic in the off season has paid big dividends. A stronger group headed to team camp in the summer and saw their confidence grow with each opponent they faced in Wenatchee. “We had a real successful camp in the summer,” junior defensive end/running back Nate Metcalf commented. “We saw a lot of teams that we knew were good and played well against them. That really built our confidence.”

And that time lifting, running and playing at camp built on an-already good team chemistry. “That’s the key to our team,” Veach said. “We have been close and tight knit.” And it’s been a life-long closeness, Veach noted. “Six of us grew up on the same block and have played football together since we played in youth league.”

Metcalf also spoke to the chemistry of this group. “Last year we had different groups that hung around together. This year it’s just one big group. We get together more, have pre-game meals together. That carries over to the field because you know guys will put out for each other as friends.”

Senior running back and linebacker Cody Parker also spoke to the closeness and family-like familiarity that exists among this team. “Chemistry is the thing that wins us games. We’ve been playing together a long time. We all know each other very well. If someone yells at you a little in a game you don’t get upset because you know that guy who is yelling at you is your friend and you know he’s trying to help you.”

This group of Wildcats has thrived on being the underdog. In pre-season polls they were picked to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the WesCo North with only an outside chance of making it to the playoffs. About the underdog role Veach smiled. “We love it!,” he said. “When we read the predictions before a game and the Seattle and Everett newspapers are predicting we’ll lose 21-14, or whatever, it motivates us to go out and play hard and prove them wrong.”

Like every team there are statistical leaders but the balance has been a key to the success. “We have a whole bunch of pretty much equally talented players,” Parker noted. “We don’t rely on just one or two guys to get it done, we’re strong as a team,” he added.

It’s the sum of all the parts that has led to the success.

They have also noted the effect their success has had at school and around town. “There are a lot more people involved this year, lots of posters around school and a lot more support,” Metcalf commented. “That didn’t happen nearly as much last year.”

Veach, as quick with a one-liner as he is with the football in his hands, panned Thursday aftenoon, “I’m almost afraid to wear my letter jacket any more.” But as quickly as he shared his wit he also reflected on what the 2002 season has meant to him, saying, “I”ve never been so proud to be on a team like this. Who’d a thought?”

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