The Emerald Ridge Jaguars were agonizingly close to a playoff spot last year, but it wasn’t to be. The Jaguars finished 5-5 but weren’t able to reach the postseason for the first time in school history.
Team leader and star running back Ashanti Kindle said this fall will be the year.
“The No. 1 thing for us is to make the playoffs,” Kindle said. “We will make the playoffs this year. We have been working hard in the offseason and have been getting after it. Weight room, conditioning and our team chemistry is what we focus on so we can play as a team.”
This fall will be Kindle’s third straight season as the Jaguars’ starting running back. Despite having respect and notoriety on and off the field, Kindle doesn’t take his position for granted.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time, I still have to work hard to keep my starting spot,” he said. “Anything can happen at any time. I cannot slack at all.”
Emerald Ridge coach Adam Schakel said Kindle is the real deal on and off the field.
“He is going to be a huge factor for us this year, and not just for his physical abilities,” Schakel said. “He is the kind of guy who does everything he can for the team. He is always encouraging and is a great teammate.”
Kindle enjoys being one of the Jaguars’ elder-statesmen.
“I’m able to talk to my teammates without them getting down,” he said. “Our team just feeds off each other. We see each other working hard, and that pushes us.”
Kindle said he’ll cherish long after his high-school days the five co-head coach system Emerald Ridge has employed. Coaches include Schakel, Brian Anderson, Darren Erath, Torey Donovan and Troy Halfaday.
“I would never trade our coaches for anybody else,” Kindle said. “I love my coaches. They push us to work hard and get us to work harder than we think we can.”
Kindle is just as adept at gaining yards between the tackles as he is on the perimeter.
“Because of my speed, I can take it outside,” he said. “I run with power up the middle and am not afraid to stick my head in the hole. I like to do a little bit of everything when I run the ball.”
The Jaguars’ season opener will be against the Curtis Vikings on Sept. 5 at Sparks Stadium in downtown Puyallup.
“It is very exciting to open the season up against them,” Kindle said. “It just adds more fuel to the fire and makes us want to work even that much harder.
“We know what we can do this season,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it.”