Twenty-eight straight wins.
Consecutive state titles.
A No. 9 national preseason ranking from ESPN RISE.
The list of accolades keep piling up for the Skyline football team, prompting second-year head coach Mat Taylor to remind his players one thing — they can’t take anything for granted in the upcoming season.
“The most challenging thing as a coach is to just make sure your kids are humble, and they stay focused,” he said.
In order to keep their minds on the prize — a third straight state title — Taylor printed up T-shirts for all his players displaying targets on the back.
“It’s just something to be a reminder for the kids,” Taylor said. “Because of tradition, that’s why we kind of have a bullseye on our back.”
Quarterback Jake Heaps should help the team maintain a level head in 2009.
The senior, who is a perfect 28-0 as a starter, threw for 2,910 yards, 38 touchdowns and had only four interceptions last year. He also rushed for seven TDs.
“I just told my coaches how excited I am to coach him this year because he’s developed so much more from last year,” Taylor said.
Heaps, rated the No. 1 high school quarterback in the nation by many publications, announced in July he will play his college ball at BYU.
Several of his top targets from last season graduated, including Gino Simone (Washington State) Jake Knecht (Illinois State) and William Chandler (Washington).
There is one key returner to the no-huddle, shotgun spread offense, however. Kasen Williams, a 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior wide receiver has already received seven Division I scholarship offers.
While the rest of the receiver corps has minimal varsity experience, Taylor said he thinks the team has more depth at the position than they did last season.
“We feel really comfortable with seven or eight kids at that position this year,” he said.
Cooper Pelluer, a 6-foot-3, 218-pound tight end/receiver, is one of those players. The senior has also received Division I interest, and is someone Taylor considers a returning starter. Senior Tait Stephens, who was a back-up quarterback last season, will move to wide receiver. Senior Miles Edwards played receiver at O’Dea last year before his family moved to Sammamish in the spring. Other impact receivers include senior Connor Brandt, junior Michael Ford, senior Mitchell Kim and senior Jim Carnes.
Skyline is also loaded at the running back position, returning four players who saw time behind last year’s starter, Joey Evans. Senior Nick Washburn leads that group, rushing for 427 yards and three TDs. Tommy Aarts, Kai Jandoc, Nick Beauchamp and Evan Zeger will also see time.
Skyline’s defense, which only allowed 77 points in 14 games last season, will again be strong. The group is now under the direction of coordinator Steve Chmiel, who replaced long-time assistant Chad Barrett.
“He’s a fantastic communicator, he’s a great person, and he’s also a very, very talented coordinator,” said Taylor, noting his players have adjusted just fine into the new schemes.
Leading the group of returning defenders is senior linebacker Anthony DeMatteo. The defensive line will also be anchored by seniors Jase Butorac (6-foot-3, 280) and Michael Stead (6-4, 240).
Skyline opens the 2009 season Sept. 5 against Jesuit of Portland, Ore., during the Emerald City Kickoff Classic at Qwest Field. The Spartans follow with a league game against Ballard, then a home contest against the No. 6 ranked team in the nation, Oaks Christian from Westlake Village, Calif. The California team features quarterback Nick Montana, son of NFL great Joe. Actor Will Smith’s son is on the team, as well as Wayne Gretzky’s son, Trevor. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
Taylor knows the game will be huge for Skyline and the state of Washington, but he is not looking past week one.
“Everybody wants to talk about Oaks Christian, but we’re playing a very, very talented Jesuit team,” he said. “Talking to people in Oregon … (they) feel they’re as good as any team in Oregon. Having them first, we can’t really think about Oaks Christian at all.”
The season-opener against Jesuit kicks off at 5:30 p.m. It’s the fourth game of the day, and precedes Issaquah-Bothell at 8 p.m.
Sept. 5 vs. Jesuit (Qwest Field), 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 10 at Ballard, 7:45 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Oaks Christian, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 vs. Newport, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 vs. Garfield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 at Eastlake, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Issaquah, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 at Redmond, 7 p.m.