The moment most student athletes have been waiting for all summer has arrived. They have put in a couple of weeks of practice and are preparing for the launch of the 2016-17 season.
And this year, things will look a little different for Sumner High.
The Spartans have left the 3A ranks behind them and will play in the South Puget Sound League 4A this season.
Sumner’s new league includes foes like Bellarmine, Curtis, Emerald Ridge, Graham Kapowsin, Olympia, Puyallup, Rogers and South Kitsap.
Head coach Keith Ross said the new league has not affected how the team prepares.
“We know it’s going to be a tougher league but we prepare to play football and do what we do,” he wrote in an email.
Even though Bonney Lake is in the Pierce County League 3A this year, the in-district rivals will kick off the season against each other. Game time is 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2, at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.
No matter when the Spartans and Panthers face off, whether it be the first or last game of the season, it doesn’t matter.
“It’s our biggest rivalry and we are excited that with all the league changes we can still make this game happen,” Ross said. “It’s a great game for our community.”
Looking ahead to the season, Ross said his biggest challenge will be replacing linebackers from last year. He said it is going to be tough to do.
On the flip side, he said the Spartans’ strength this year is in its skill players and offensive line.
“Nick Phillips is also going to be a valuable piece to our team with his kicking abilities,” Ross said.
Two key players the Spartans lost from last season are Josh Riley and Kolby Nikoliasen. The coach said both added a lot both offensively and defensively for Sumner.
“Josh was the second leading rusher on our team and Kolby led the league in takeaways on defense,” Ross pointed out.
A group of key players to keep an eye on this upcoming season, he said, are Ben Wilson, Conor Wedington, Luke Ross, Tyson Rainwater and Tre Weed, along with Phillips.
As a team, the Spartans “are excited about seeing how all the work in the offseason is going to payoff in the new league,” Ross said.