Even with a rookie quarterback, Capital just reloads, not rebuilds and aims for the football playoffs


Capital FootballBy Gail Wood

For the Capital Cougars, it doesn’t matter that they lost an all-league running, has a sophomore starting at quarterback and returns only four starters on offense.

Despite new faces in key places, Capital is still Capital. The Cougars, who reached the 3A state semifinals twice in the last three years, still expect to win. It’s their tradition.

“They believe that they’re Capital and they believe its their turn,” said JD Johnson, who has advanced to the state playoffs in all four of his seasons as Capital’s head coach. “The kids believe in the program. They put in the time.”

But besides tradition, there’s reason for Johnson to be optimistic, even with a rookie quarterback and a new starting tailback. The Cougars return an impressive offensive line, led by 6-foot-6, 230-pound Matt Cox and 6-2, 295-pound Tevyn Stevenson.

“Our strength is probably our offensive line,” Johnson said. “It’s probably the biggest group I’ve had as far as height and size. We’re young up front, but there’s some bright spots.”

Capital FootballCapital returns just four starters off last year’s explosive offense that helped the Cougars finished 12-1, just one victory from a state title. Gone off that team is Tyler Sundberg, who ran for a school record 2,475 yards last year.

This season junior Kai Van Sickle will be Capital’s go-to tailback. And Derrick Becker is the Cougars’ new quarterback.

Becker played on the junior varsity last year, waiting his turn.

“He runs the option well,” Johnson said. “He’s going to make mistakes. But he throws on the run well. He can run it.”

Van Sickle got his first big moment last year in the semifinals in a 45-18 loss against Kamiakin, taking over for an injured Sundberg.

“He’s had some big games for us,” Johnson said. “He’s fast. He runs hard.”

While Van Sickle is inexperienced, the Cougars’ offensive line is loaded. Four all-league players return in Cox, Stevenson, Jordan Randall and Baylor Hahn.

“In our style of running, it’s about getting a body on a body,” Johnson said. “These guys have done that. Our offensive line and our defense is good.”

The Cougars return only five starters on defense.

“But we’ve got plenty of kids who have seen plenty of time,” Johnson said.


Capital Cougars


Coach: JD Johnson, fifth season


Last year’s record: 12-1, lost in the 3A state semifinals


Assistant coaches: Arne Jensen, offensive coordinator.


Number of returning starters: 4 on offense. 5 on defense.


Returning starters: Tevyn Stevenson, C/DL, 6-1, 265, jr; Matt Cox, OL/DL, 6-6, 230, jr; Baylor Hahn, TE, 6-4, 230, jr; Darius Antalan, WR/DB, 6-2, 205, sr; Steven Malepeai, LB, 6-0, 240, jr.; Jordan Randall, OL, 6-0, 230, sr.


Top newcomers: Kai Van Sickle, RB, 5-10, 190, jr; Derrick Becker, QB, 5-11, 170, soph; Sam Hollingsworth, WR, 5-10, 185, jr; Ben Buma, OL/DL, 6-4, 280, jr; Nathan Hull, LB/FB, 5-11, 220, jr; Jeremy Reiner, WR/DB, 5-5, 170, sr.


Coach’s comments: The team’s strength is their mentality. They believe they’re Capital and they believe it’s their turn. These kids believe in the program. They put in the time in the off season. They put in the effort and learn to sacrifice a little. Our offensive line and our defense are good.

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