MATT SCHUBERT’S PREP NOTEBOOK: Port Townsend football team has stellar defense

THERE’S AN INHERENT difficulty that comes with writing a preseason football preview.

Namely, nobody really knows what to expect.

The coaches might have an idea, but they are rarely willing partners in the sharing of information. As one once told me, “You don’t want to show your cards too early.”

Plus, there are so many variables involved — injuries and the strength of other teams topping the list — that it’s almost impossible to know where a team will stand until its players strap it on and start hitting someone wearing a different colored jersey.

So it is that we come to the Port Townsend (1-0 in league, 3-1 overall) defense.

Coaches and players alike thought it would be solid coming into the season but nothing near what it’s become four games into the season.

As defensive coordinator Tom Webster joked to me during a preseason practice visit, “You know what our goal is on defense? Hold them under 60 [points].”

The idea was that Port Townsend’s offense was going to be scoring a lot of points this fall, so the defense would just have to keep from getting torched.

Well, the Class 1A Redskins defense has done that and then some.

In fact, it has been the one carrying much of the load since an opening week loss to Coupeville.

Nearly midway through the season opponents are averaging just 11 points per game, including the 22-16 setback against the Coupeville Wolves.

They have forced 16 turnovers during that time, intercepting nine passes and recovering seven fumbles.

Webster began mixing up the Redskins’ defensive looks more after that — often employing a 5-2 front that frees up linebackers Mikhail Maduska and C.J. Johnson to make plays and places Brett Johnson at nose guard — and his unit has responded.

Teams have scored just 22 points in those three games, all wins, including just 10 between state-ranked opponents Chelan and Vashon Island.

“We have quite a few seniors that have been in the program for four years, so they are starting to mature and make plays,” said Webster, who has primarily been a 4-4 coach in the past.

“[The 5-2 front] causes some problems, but the whole idea behind anything is that if you can stop the run and get them in third-and-long, you can take a few more chances.

“I just like the way we’re playing right now. We’re playing with a lot of confidence.”

Maduska and C.J. Johnson in particular have been quite productive.

In Friday’s upset of seventh-ranked Vashon, the two combined to make 19 tackles while exploiting the gaps in the Pirate line.

Maduska added nine tackles to his team-high total of 33 for the season, while C.J. Johnson had 10 tackles and two quarterback sacks.

The latter total puts Johnson at five for the season, which is half the team total this fall.

“[C.J.] gets through the line,” senior captain and starting defensive back Cameron Robinson said. “He just gets right through, and our defensive backs seem to have no trouble covering anybody.

“And our defensive line, you can’t get anything by them. [Defensive tackle] Noah Bryant, he’s just everywhere.”

With games against offensive powerhouses Orting and Cascade Christian (this Saturday) still on the schedule, they are likely to be tested even more in the coming weeks.

Count C.J. Johnson as one who thinks the Redskins should be able to handle it. Why?

“It’s just a defensive team, I guess,” the senior said.

Now you tell me.

Narrows pilfering

Olympic/Western Cascade League, we hardly knew thee.

It appears the ramshackle 3A football league’s second season may very well be its last.

According to the Kitsap Sun, Narrows League athletic directors voted to expand and become a multi-classification league when latest round of reclassification goes into effect next fall.

It will do so by adding 3A schools North Thurston, Timberline, Yelm and Capital of the Western Cascade Conference (WCC), according to the Sun.

That would mean the multi-classification Olympic League’s four 3A schools — Port Angeles, Olympic, Bremerton and North Kitsap — would no longer have a partner for football.

The WCC and 3A division of the Olympic League combined for football only after schools were reclassified in 2008.

Prior to that, Olympic League teams played each other twice each season. Obviously, that wasn’t an ideal situation.

Yet it may very well be the lone option for the Olympic League’s 3A schools come the 2010 season.

Port Angeles School District athletic director Jeff Clark said its too early to know.

“When we have this reclassification and realignment there’s always all this pre talk, which is where we are now,” said Clark.

“It’s real premature, because we need to see the numbers first. There’s so many options that you kind of have to let everyone have their say . . . before it becomes clear what our best option is.”

Clark said that regardless of what happens for football, the Olympic League should remain intact for all other sports once everything shakes out this winter.

“I think there’s a lot of investment in keeping the Olympic League together,” Clark said.

“Whether there’s any changes as a result of reclassification, for example Bainbridge and Gig Harbor [joining], I don’t know. For the other spots I think there’s a pretty strong commitment to keeping the Olympic League together.”

Bruin volleyball

The North Olympic League looks to be a three-team race in volleyball this fall.

Technically, that’s been the case each of the last two years since there are only three teams in the league: Crescent, Neah Bay and Clallam Bay.

Yet it’s really been Neah Bay and Crescent, the seven-time defending champs, that have been the true contenders.

Go ahead and add Clallam Bay (6-0 overall) to the mix.

The Bruins’ six-deep roster didn’t lose a single game while going 3-0 last week and appears to be a legitimate threat to both 1B No. 6 Crescent (3-1) and Neah Bay (4-0).

Not bad for a team without a single sub.

“They have to work really well together and they have been so far,” said coach Michelle Klepps, whose Bruins have gone just 1-11 in NOL play the last two years.

“When you only have six players, you get very concerned about how well the team is going to work together and how they are going to move on the court.

“I knew they would do well this year, but I think they are doing much better than I thought they would do. It could be a little more difficult when they actually have to play five games, but the girls do pretty well about keeping up on the court.”

The Bruins’ first NOL test comes when the Red Devils visit Thursday.

________

Matt Schubert is the outdoors and sports columnist for the Peninsula Daily News. His column regularly appears on Thursdays and Fridays. He can be reached at matt.schubert@peninsuladailynews.com.

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