By Martin Barrett and Joe Slye.
This Friday, September 9th, at 7 PM, the established Kennedy Lancers and the long defeated underdogs, the Highline Pirates face off — this is why Head Coach Deontae Cooper came to Highline High School — He believed that this City and the kids at Highline could be something special, capable of great things. It has taken four years and incredible work; building a first-rate coaching staff, raising the bar academically, and creating a culture of family and excellence. Coach Cooper has prepared the Pirates ready to play against the best. This Friday, they get that chance.
After many years, Kennedy Catholic Head Coach Sheldon Cross finally has a cross-town rival with the talent, coaching, and commitment to excellence that the Lancers have exemplified for over a decade. For the first time in his Head Coaching career at Kennedy, he has a quality cross-town rival worthy of being on the field with his squad.
Kennedy has not played Highline since 2014. In that meeting, Kennedy won 42-0. The prior years had similar outcomes. The match-up ended when the Seamount league folded.
“Highline has made great strides under Deontae; I congratulate him on turning things around,” Coach Cross enthused. He continued, “There is a lot of excitement around this game with the Kennedy Catholic players and now for the City. It’s great for the City of Burien to now have both football teams be competitive and successful.”
The Kennedy Lancers will be hungry after a disappointing 26-14 loss to a tough Eastside Catholic team. With some talented Division 1 college players on the team, including Offensive Tackle Micah Banuelos, who has committed to USC, and Tackle Ishmael Taliauli. The Lancers are stout and solid on the line. X Alexander is an intelligent linebacker who has a clear sense of where the ball is going and can get there fast. Highline will have their hands full in dealing with these 3 on offense and defense.
Coach Cross added, “In order to win Friday, we need to eliminate turnovers. We had 4 interceptions and 1 fumble against Eastside Catholic last week. Overall I’m satisfied with their performance — we outgained an excellent Eastside Catholic team, 277 yards to 267; it was the turnovers that stalled drives needed to score points and gain momentum.”
The Pirates are coming into the Battle for Burien after a 51-0 victory over the Steilacoom Sentinels, last year’s 2A South Puget Sound League champions. Leveraging speed, the Pirates consistently interrupted the Sentinel offense. But Kennedy is a bigger team with a solid line. For the Pirates to succeed, they must reproduce last week against more talent.
The Pirates bring their own offensive talent to the field as well. Marquawn McCraney has excellent speed and size at wide receiver. The trio of running backs is instinctive in finding holes. On offense, the Pirates will need to establish the run game to allow QB Ronan Rasmussen time to find his fast-footed fleet. The offensive line played well as a unit against the Sentinels in game one. They will have to do so again and take it up another level to manage the Lancer defense.
Pirate linebacker Yannis Togi has the quickness and a nose for the ball and likes to attack. Along with Charles Brown, they must be active to counter the horses of the Kennedy defensive line.
“I have great respect for Coach Cross,” said Highline’s Coach Cooper. He has a great program. The coaching staff and the talent they put on the field are excellent. They do some really impressive things, lots of movement. If we are going to win, we will need to be very polished. We cannot miss any assignments on defense. We cannot turn the ball over. We must minimize penalties.”
He added, “This is a great opportunity for our City, schools, and teams. This is one of the reasons I came here. What City can have two excellent high school programs around here? Only Burien. There is so much anticipation. Both teams are filled with competitors. Players know each other, have gone to school together and played little league together. It all adds up to a great match.”
Burien is buzzing with excitement and anticipation —coaches, players, and fans are hoping this will be the first of many games in a cross-town rivalry worthy of Burien, the Gem of the Sound.