Sonora senior fullback/linebacker Serge Kiriluk wanted to become a better football player in 2013. He wanted his team to get better.
The only way to do that he figured was to step up and take matters into his own hands.
“I was upset in film session last year, we have film session every Monday, and we were having terrible sessions with people screwing around and not paying attention,” said Wildcat head coach Bryan Craig. “I said, ‘OK, we’re just gonna start running instead of watching film.’ ”
Kiriluk heard that and, like the rest of the team, is no fan of extra running. He also knows film study is where advantages can be gained over an opponent.
The following Monday, Kiriluk met his teammates at the door.
“He started giving seat assignments to those walking through the door,” Craig said. “Even the seniors, he was only a junior, and he was telling them, ‘No, you’re gonna sit over there because you’ve been a distraction.’ Right there you knew you had a leader.”
“Film is a big part of preparation and a lot of kids just sat around in groups last year and talked and talked,” Kiriluk said. “It was a fun time for them and they weren’t getting any better at all. We weren’t getting better as a team. So I took all the talkative kids, separated them all on different sides of the room. And it worked surprisingly.”
Maybe not surprisingly, the Wildcats went out that next Friday and won their first game of the season after five straight losses. In that game, Kiriluk got his first three carries of the season — all went for touchdowns in the 49-0 demolition of East Union.
The next week Kiriluk scored again and then the following week, he scored the decisive touchdown with 4:44 left in a 21-20 victory over Kimball at Dunlavy Field that kept the Wildcats’ playoffs hopes alive.
A week later, against Friday night’s opponent Oakdale, Kiriluk made it four straight games with at least one touchdown, a streak that is ongoing.
When Kiriluk handed out the assigned seats, he was thinking about performing captain-like duties, it just came natural.
“At the time I was just doing what I thought was best and what we needed,” Kiriluk said. “Now, It’s definitely gonna happen like that the rest of this year.”
Kiriluk is a captain this season, voted into that position by his peers along with seniors Bryce Sanguinetti and Lane Mierop and junior Sammy Page.
“It means a lot to have people looking up to me and I want to be a leader,” Kiriluk said. “I’ve been doing this my whole life.”
All four captains will hold hands and walk together to the center of The Corral in Oakdale on Friday at 7 p.m. for the coin toss to begin the 97th meeting between the longtime rivals.
The Mustangs have beaten the Wildcats eight straight times and own a 60-31-5 series advantage. But after a few years of one-sided losses, Sonora narrowed the gap last season in a 28-21 loss.
“I feel really confident,” Kiriluk said of facing Oakdale. “We’re gonna play really, really tough against them. We’re gonna be the toughest team they face all year I think. But last year was a grind and it’s gonna be a grind this year. Whoever is tougher is probably gonna win.”