Lancers wide receiver, AJ McGrew, going for the ball, with Trevor Hoffman, defending, at a practice at Kennedy High School.
Slideshow: JFK enters season of potential
By Ed Shepherd
Potential equals the ability to do exceedingly well.
Kennedy Catholic's football team experienced a season not quite as good as most seasons past, but still finished with a playoff appearance.
It expects to be right back in the hunt again this year and, potentially, go farther -- a lot farther.
"We have the potential to do really well, but potential can get you fired," said Bob Bourgette Sr., in charge of Kennedy's football program the last 19 years, 17 of which include Seamount League championships. "We have everyone back and haven't had a team this big in quite awhile."
The Lancers' potential last season wasn't as strong, with only four seniors on the roster, two of whom started. And early non-league losses hurt, to Mount Si, 35-12, and Roosevelt, 38-14, and the one after that to Ballard, 28-21, at Highline Stadium that Bourgette Sr. called a "heartbreaker."
When a team has potential and loses three non-league games to open, potential gets hit, hard. The hunt looks over. But when the Lancers faced the regular season, they did their customary dissection of the Seamount League.
They won, 34-6, over Evergreen, 32-24 over Hazen, 41-27 against Foster, 20-10 over Renton and 51-0 over Highline.
Then came Lindbergh, a team that beat Kennedy for the Seamount crown in 2009 and would do it again in 2013 with a 38-14 win.
So that loss put the Lancers into a 3A first round playoff game against Seattle Prep that they lost, 28-21.
But that was last year's Lancers, and Bourgette Sr. knew coming in that things could be a little tough because of the lack of senior depth on the roster. And, yet, the scarlet, white and navy clad kids made the postseason, a goal of any team, really.
"I was really proud of our kids," said Bourgette Sr. "But we only had four seniors, and two were non-starters. This year I have 18 seniors. They discipline themselves. Every single one of them has been coming to the weight room this summer. And, kids come from Des Moines, Federal Way, Auburn, Renton and West Seattle. So a lot of different areas. And a lot of these kids work, too, during the summer."
So, that commitment to training in the offseason speaks of the "potential" word, but Bourgette Sr. just doesn't know what he's going to get until the season starts, until the non-league game against Franklin rolls in on Sept. 6 at 1 p.m. at Highline Memorial Stadium.
"Like a dog hunting, you don't know if it will run or retrieve," he said.
But these kids look like they can do it.
Really doing it would be like the team of Lancers' eight years ago, having went to the championship in 2006 and losing in overtime via the "Kansas tiebreaker" rule, where each team gets the ball to start at the 25-yard line. Bellevue scored while Kennedy's QB fumbled the ball away and the Wolverines pounced on the ball and the title. The idea of Kennedy winning a first title was shot down.
Players, in practice, talk of this being Bourgette Sr.'s last season coaching the Lancers, a tenure that includes never having lost more than three games in a row in his 19 seasons as head coach. And that this season's play is not going to be about them, nor about the outstanding coaching staff that surrounds Bourgette Sr. like, his son, Bob Bourgette Jr., Donny Moore, Paul Arnold, Cory Jones, Dino Josie, Don Hoffman, Rico Peretti and Dan Murray.
The season's going to be about their coach.
"Probably, this is coach Bourgette's last year," said Ben Josie, a 6-foot, 215-pound guard/center and defensive end and one of the 18 seniors on the Lancers.
Bourgette Sr. called him the team's "smart player." He is the ASB President, and a 4.0 student.
"He's put a lot in at Kennedy," said Bourgette Sr.
Alex Lesar at 6-3, 230 plays tackle and defensive end and is an Air Force Academy commit.
He called Bourgette Sr.'s potential departure, "My motivation."
And Manase Kamoto, who coach Bourgette Sr., called "very quick, very powerful" and named as being looked at by the University of Washington and Washington State University for D-1 college ball, said, "Got to be perfect."
So that's some kind of respect for their coach, by these seniors, who were asked, "What about that loss to Lindbergh?"
"That will set the tone," said Lesar.
And Josie added, "I don't remember the final score, I erased that memory."
And what's different from last year to this one?
"The tempo, dead, no one wanted to be out practicing a lot," said Kamoto.
"A lot more commitment and starters than last season," said Lesar.
And 6-4, 190 senior Jake Thurber, who will be battling at quarterback with a sophomore, Ben Gaoteote, and played wide receiver in addition to quarterback last season said, "We came out flat last season. This season, we know we are going to be good. Confidence is big."
"We have a lot more expectations for ourselves," said Josie.
This team's potential just seems to be there in word and coming deeds, on the gridiron, and maybe Josie nails the attitude best.
"If we didn't strive for greatness, we would be mediocre at best. We need to know we are going to go far," said Josie.
Bourgette Sr. is doing his best to bring these players to the precipice of that past kind of greatness, to reach that potential of 2006 against Bellevue and years around that time, too, where the Lancers, like in 2005, lost to Ferndale in a semifinal.
But, quickly, a little more about the word potential and what the Lancers did in 2006 against Ferndale, a team that won the state title the previous season.
From the Seattle Times on Nov. 11 of that year: The Lancers (11-0) also snapped Ferndale's state-best win streak at 24 games on the strength of Washington-bound running back (Nate) Williams, who surged for 146 of his game-high 202 yards and a touchdown in the second half."
The Lancers have been to the state semifinals six times, but never won the title.
And, another "P" word that's important to keep in mind is practice. That is something that Bourgette Sr. often lets his coaches do a lot.
There's a reason for that, too.
"My coaches, at first, when I was starting out coaching 20 years ago, got bored," said Bourgette Sr. "I had a meeting with them my second year and they said, 'Hey, we might as well not be coaching.' So I started giving them responsibilities and they are held accountable."
Bourgette Sr. was watching his other coaches work in between the players, three, four, five, six, or so of them, in a scrimmage, but was right there in the thick of things, too, but from a distance.
"More depth," Bourgette Sr. shouted from the sidelines.
"The QB has to drop back an extra step, and get more depth behind the line of scrimmage so he has a runway to get that ball off," said Bourgette Sr.
"Snap," Bourgette Sr. then shouted.
Explaining, he said, "The ball has to go back, snapped, not floated. They (centers) aim it and if they arc the ball, it goes back too slow and that throws everyone's timing off."
And Bourgette Sr. knew he would be remiss if not mentioning the coaching staff that helps him run his practices like clockwork.
In a recent scrimmage of offense vs. defense, Bourgette Sr. burgeoned with words about his coaching staff.
"They watch their positions and their positions only," said Bourgette Sr. "And, if the player/players are not doing well, they correct them right there. I have total faith in my coaches."
It's just been a great relationship with Bourgette Sr. with some of his coaches having been with him decades, not years.
"The core of people I have here I've had for 20 years," said Bourgette Sr. "They've been through the program and I know them and they know me. In order to have a great program, you have to have great assistants."
Bourgette Sr. would take these coaches with him for a manhunt, knowing they would be there if he needed them, in a most dire situation.
"I trust them with my life," said Bourgette Sr.
What ties it all together?
"They love Kennedy Catholic and they want to contribute, and I can't get enough of those kind of people," said Bourgette Sr., who pretty much takes on any coach that wants to be in the program, even players from recent Kennedy teams like 2013 graduate Dom Peretti, talking to the offense recently in a practice. And Brandon Block, a recent former player, too, like Peretti, works with the team.
So bring on the season, bring on Lindbergh, bring on the playoffs, because the Lancers are ready to bring it.
And Bourgette Sr. mentioned a few of the "big" players, including Kamoto, who it should be noted is 6-0, 305. Also a guard and tackle, playing offense and defense, is Eddie Benge at 6-1, 257.
"I know his weight because I watched him get weighed," said Bourgette Sr. "He was getting too heavy but has been working really hard in the weight room."
A running back, Pierce Thompson at 6-0, 190 is related to Jack Thompson, the Washington State University record-setting quarterback dubbed, "The Throwin' Samoan", in the 1970s who played in the National Football League from 1979-84.
Nate Randall is a 5-8, 165 running back who was mentioned along with running back Tony Sprague.
"All are going to get playing time," said Bourgette Sr.
And junior Keannu "Nunu" Royster (5-8, 160) sports athleticism and could further add depth in the backfield.
"He's a game-breaker," said Bourgette Sr. "Basketall player, point guard. He's as quick as they come."
Ramsey Bauer is another core player returning.
"He was quarterback, and, moving to wide receiver and running back, too," said Borgette Sr.
And Gaoteote, the quarterback already mentioned, potentially battling with Thurber for the starting spot.
"He was a freshman QB," said Bourgette Sr. "And when we went 0-3 to start the season, he came in as a freshman and got us our first win. He didn't have one mistake, or one turnover."
And more key returners would include 6-1, 190 Liam Dahlke at linebacker, who Bourgette Sr. said will play both ways, being also a tight end.
James Merrill, a 5-8, 150 senior, is another.
"Don't let his size fool you," said Bourgette Sr. "I don't care, just get the job done. You can have a big dog on the porch but he has to be able to bite you."
Sebastian Ferraro is a 6-2, 245 guard and defensive end who has a cracked bone in his foot so Bourgette Sr. is keeping him out.
So the season is being brought in shortly and Bourgette Sr. is ready.
"Very optimistic about the season," said Bourgette Sr., speaking loads about that "P" word, potential. And, it's because of what these kids did last season, getting experience, and did in the weight room, not just the seniors showing that summer commitment to come in to lift iron either.
"Everyone is doing it. Every kid worked out every single day this summer in the weight room," said Bourgette Sr. "I love their attitude. This team is talented, big, and, works hard."
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