Intriguing Apollos focused here-and-now, not expectations
9/14/2017 11:23 AM

Sunset not looking too far ahead with talented roster, but Apollos appear poised for playoffs

If there's a team that could separate itself from the muddleof similarly-talented Metro teams and possibly test Jesuit's grip on theconference crown, it's Sunset.

The Apollos are laden with playmakers at running back and wide receiver. Theiroffensive line is the most seasoned in Metro and got a huge boost in off-seasontransfer Tyler Ganoung. Sunset's coaching staff is one of the besttop-to-bottom in the league and remains consistently intact from year-to-year.That 3-7 overall record and fifth place finish in Metro in 2016 should be takenwith a grain of salt. Last season Sunset lost six games by 10 points or lessand four of those were by single digits including a gut-punching 28-27 6A firstround loss to Sprague.

With the most returning seniors in Metro, Sunset is close to the breakthroughit's chased after for the last handful of years or so.

Just don't talk to the Apollos about preseason expectations. Last summer,perhaps, Sunset got caught up in the hype and setting lofty goals. This yearit's nose to the grindstone and going from week-to-week.

"We want toget better every day," Sunset head coach Damien Merrick said. "Wefeel like if we do that and control what we can control, we'll let the cardsfall where they may. We have the right kind of kids in that they're team-first.I feel like last year we did ourselves a disservice putting all these goals outthere. We kind of lost sight of our main focus, which is getting better as anindividual and as a unit. To be honest, we haven't had one team meeting wherewe've talked about expectations as far as win-loss or records. We're taking itday-by-day."

Looking at Sunset's roster, specifically on offense, however, it's hard not toconjure up the possibilities of what's to come.

Ganoung has played primarily at guard — the same spot he started at as asophomore and junior at Prairie (WA) — but he can shift out to tackle. CenterIsaac Lovings was a third-team all-Metro selection as a junior. Junior HunterNewcomb emerged during the spring and play guard or tackle. Seniors Hayden Beanand Sam Carlson have extensive starting experience on the varsity level and canplay anywhere up front.

"The real important thing is gelling and doing the job together,"Merrick said. "No amount of individual experience can replace howimportant it is for those guys to be on the same page and know what each otheris thinking."

Seniors Gabe Leonard, Carter Webb, Nathan Kimball and Luke Schwartz will allsee time at running back and bring different sorts of running styles to thetable. As a junior, Schwartz played most junior varsity ball. But, againstSprague in the playoffs, Schwartz stepped up huge and enjoyed a breakoutperformance that he hopes to build upon this coming year. Kimball is more of adefensive player, yet he had an impressive outing in Sunset's scrimmage inlate-August.

Leonard is a big-play threat whenever the ball is in his grasp. A weapon in thepassing games because of his great hands and a shifty runner out of thebackfield, the senior was a second-team all-Metro running back in '16 and willplay on both sides of the ball.

"There's no doubt in my mind he's ready to have a breakout year,"Merrick said of Leonard. "He's put on a little bit of weight and is alittle thicker and stronger than he was. We're expecting big things fromhim."

Webb is a home-run hitter who didn't play football last year as a junior, butplayed varsity as a sophomore and exhibited the type of speed that can't betaught. A 200-meter state finalist last spring, Webb has stood out to Merricknot just because he's fast, but because he's morphed into a more physical backwho seeks out contact.

"He's become a football player who also runs track," Merrick said."He's stronger and sturdier and put on some weight, but hasn't lost a stepat all as far as his speed. He's running tough. He should have a big year aswell."

Senior quarterback Coleman Newsom is the triggerman for offensive coordinatorDominic Ferraro's fast-paced, spread offense. Though Newsom backed up long-timestarter Jason DuMont for two seasons, the signal caller has seen plenty ofvarsity action and started a few times as a sophomore. He's a smart, willingleader with an accurate right arm and a great grasp of Sunset's intricateattack.

"Not only does he know what he's supposed to be doing on a play, but heknows what all 11 players' responsibilities on offense, which isimportant," Merrick said. "I think he'll surprise some people withhis athleticism. He's got better escapability and pocket presence than peoplerealize. I think what's impressed me the most is his willingness to call kidsout in a good, positive way and hold some the receivers accountable if they'rejogging on a route or running the wrong route. He's done great."

Senior wide receiver Nick Cizik, juniors Trey Marchesi and Nick Halvorsen willsee time at slot. Seniors Joel Bieber, Kian Patton, Ryan Olson and ColeFontaine have all done a "great job" at outside wide receiver andwill rotate in along the perimeter. Senior tight end Coulter Layden and juniorsBen McMillan and Marve Nyembo are battling it out for the starting job.

With so many capable, potentially explosive playmakers chopping at the bit toget the rock, Ferraro should have a field day finding ways to put his topplayers in position to thrive. It's a great problem to have and one theoffensive coordinator did spectacularly at Westview in 2015 with a plethora ofoffensive weapons.

"We're going to have to get creative to make sure we get our best athletesenough touches," Merrick said.

Newcomb and Pasion will fortify Sunset's defensive line. Lovings and Carlsonhave played well at inside linebacker along with junior Kaden Williams. Kimballand Leonard are leading the fray at outside linebacker along with Bieber. Webb,Olson, Cizik and Jadon Folmer have stood out at corner with Schwartz andFontaine at safety.

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