Sports

Gators, Harris primed for SPSL championship run

By CASEY OLSON

When Rik Haines retired to move to Florida last spring, he didn’t leave the Decatur football cupboard bare. In fact, Haines’ successor, Bill Heglar, returns several players from last year’s team, which was one win away from making the playoffs in the South Puget Sound League South Division.

“We are looking pretty good,” said Heglar, who has coached at Sumner, Interlake, Bellevue and Seattle Prep. “They are getting along pretty well with the coach. I don’t think it will take too much time. We have done this before.”

It doesn’t hurt that Heglar has a senior quarterback to lean on during the transition. Darin Harris comes into the season as one of the prized recruits on the West Coast. Offers are pouring in from big-time programs like Washington, Colorado, Washington State, among others. Last season, Harris was the definition of a two-way threat. The senior quarterback was responsible for 1,856 yards of total offense during the 2002 season. He ran for 1,238 yards from the quarterback position, which placed him third in the SPSL South behind two half backs. He threw for 618 yards and had a total of 19 touchdowns — 14 on the ground and five through the air.

“He just flies around from sideline to sideline,” Heglar said. “It is nice to have him around because he makes up for a lot of mistakes. He is as good of an overall athlete and I have seen.”

Recruiters agree. Harris is listed as the 31st-ranked “athlete” in the United States by rivals.com, a recruiting service Web site.

“He just has a great attitude, work ethic and it doesn’t hurt that he is a great athlete,” Heglar said.

Harris will be handing the ball off a lot in Heglar’s Wing-T offense. Receiving a bulk of those runs will be fullback Kyle Bressler and a stable of halfbacks.

The Gators got some bad news over the summer when last year’s starting tailback, Tracy Ford, transferred to Bellevue to play his senior year. He is living with his mother.

The favorites to replace Ford include a pair of juniors — Zenus Jackson and Rodney McCurrey. But Bressler will make up for the inexperience. The senior 195-pounder ran for 672 yards last season and is also the Gators’ best linebacker on the defensive side of the ball.

The Gators bring back several starters on the offensive and defensive lines. Seniors Lance Witherspoon, Chris Corey, Barry Driskell and Ryan Dowell all weigh over 240 pounds and should flourish in the deceptive Wing-T, which includes only eight running plays with variations.

Production should also come from senior wide receiver Nick Isaac, who was the Gators’ leading pass catcher a year ago.

“This early in the season the defense always seems to be ahead of the offense,” Heglar said. “The defense is flying around pretty good. But a lot of our kids are going to have to go both ways.”

Hurting the Gators could be the fact that they are not playing in a jamboree or any type of practice game before their opening weekend matchup with Curtis on Friday night in University Place.

“I think there might be a lot of offsides calls and maybe some balls on the ground in that first one,” Heglar said.

Bethel, last year’s SPSL South champions, should be the team to beat again in 2003. ‘

“We are really concentrating on Curtis to get it started,” Heglar said. “But Bethel will be tough and the Puyallup coaches are talking like they have a good ball club.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymiror.com

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