Sports

Decatur wants to reload, not rebuild

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

To say the Decatur Gators were decimated by graduation would be putting it gently.

Last year’s senior class led Decatur to its first-ever postseason berth after finishing the South Puget Sound League South Division regular season with a 7-2 record. The Gators eventually lost to Evergreen (Vancouver) in the opening round of the state playoffs.

What that means is that second-year head man Bill Heglar and his coaching staff have their work cut out for them in the 2004 football season, which opens tomorrow night at Federal Way Memorial Stadium against cross-district rival Thomas Jefferson.

“We just don’t know what we’ve got yet,” Heglar said. “I don’t think the kids have figured it out yet either.”

Gone are two players who were both unanimous all-state selections a season ago in quarterback/safety Darin Harris and 1,000-yard running back/middle linebacker Kyle Bressler.

Harris is vying for playing time as a defensive back at the University of Washington and Bressler is gearing up for wrestling season at Oregon State University. Also gone are all-league lineman Chris Corey, Lance Witherspoon and Ryan Dowell, wide receiver/defensive back Nick Isaac and All-American punter/kicker Ryan Burks.

“That was a pretty good group,” Heglar said.

Decatur will be counting on talented sophomore quarterback Brock Gates. The 6-2, 175-pounder is a more prototypical quarterback, compared to the run-first, pass-second way Harris played during his three years as a starter.

“He’s just a quarterback type,” Heglar said. “He is real easy to coach and throws above adequate.”

Gates will be handing the ball off to tailback Rodney McCurry. Last season, McCurry was the Gators’ second-leading rusher behind Bressler with close to 700 yards. McCurry is only one of three returning starters on the offensive side of the ball for Decatur. The other two are wing back Taylor McCluskey and tackle Joe Benjamin. And making things a little more difficult for Heglar is the complexity of his Wing-T offense.

“We are still not sure what’s going to happen,” he said. “It’s going to be a crap shoot.”

Besides Gates, McCurry, McCluskey and Benjamin, Helgar will look to wide receivers Derrek Woodrin and Michael Oates and linemen Ryan Tober and Drew Shannon.

Defensively, the Gators are a little more set, especially at the three linebacker positions.

“That will be the strength of our team,” Heglar said.

Both McCluskey and Tober were all-league selections a season ago. McCluskey tallied five interceptions from his linebacker position and tied with Tober with 77 tackles on the year, including 16.5 in one game. Shonnon will occupy the other slot.

“We know that we have good linebackers,” Heglar said. “Other than that, we just don’t know. But I think we’ll be fine once we get going.”

Heglar sees Puyallup and Bethel as the teams to beat in the South Puget Sound League South, with Curtis and Spanaway Lake as sleepers.

“It’s going to be a good league again,” he said.

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

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