East Pierce County high school football players have prepared themselves for the fall sports season at training camps during the past two weeks.
The football season kicked off Aug. 21, and teams will compete in their first games of the regular season this weekend.
Here’s a breakdown of how they should fare this fall:
Head coach: Gary Jeffers, fourth year
Last year: 4-7, lost to Skyline in a winner-to-state, loser-out playoff game
Key players: Levi Jordan, WR; Trevor Whitney, RB; Quinn Rawson, OL/DL; DJ Winter, LB; Brendan Illies, QB; Nolan Meyer, OL/DL; Trent Nivala, OL/DL; Matt Voss, LB/DL; Colton Buse, OL/DL; Matthew Palmer, RB/LB.
In the past two seasons, the Puyallup Vikings threw the ball 70 percent of the time. This year will be drastically different.
Puyallup’s strength is in on its front lines. Nolan Meyer, Matt Voss, Trent Nivala, Colton Buse and Quinn Rawson are athletic players who can create penetration defensively and also plow holes for the running game.
“We have a lot of depth on the offensive and defensive line,” head coach Gary Jeffers said. “The majority of those guys are seniors. We will have a six- to eight-man rotation to keep those guys fresh.
“Our goal is to be more balanced this year,” Jeffers said. “We have really strong leaders. We have the potential to be a very physical football team. We’ll find out how physical we can be and if we’re ready in Week 1 against Todd Beamer.”
Jeffers said this year’s team has the ability to win many games.
“The pieces are there,” he said. “If we stay healthy and play the way we are capable of playing, we have a pretty decent shot at having a great season.”
Head coach: Gene Bowen, 10th year
Last year: 6-5, lost to Federal Way in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs
Key players: Grayson Madland, QB; LaGrant Pegram, WR/DB; Lucas Trahan, OL; Austin Hardin, RB; Hunter Dinsmore, OL; Josh Routt, LB; Devon Chavis, DB; Garrett Van Sligtenhorst, LB; Mikael Ruffin, LB; Shawn Hansen, LB; Andrew Lettiere, K; Kyler Ooley, WR; Riley Steliga, WR; Josh Ng, NT; Tyree Fort, RB/KR; Tony Winters, TE.
Rogers senior quarterback Grayson Madland is what every coach dreams of when they look for a team leader.
Madland, who split time at quarterback with Stefan Van Horn a year ago, has been leading his team in the right direction during early season practices.
“Grayson’s experience is showing, and he is not taking it for granted,” Rams head coach Gene Bowen said. “He is one of the hardest workers in the weight room and on the field, is well respected by his peers and is making some great plays right now.”
Going into the spring, the biggest question mark was in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Bowen said the linemen are looking good during two-a-days.
“We are going to be a little bigger up front, so that will be nice, but the plus side is that some of our linemen are very quick off the ball right now,” Bowen said. “We have a good tempo at practice. The guys are responding well to the challenge.”
Offensively, the chemistry between Madland and senior wide receiver LaGrant Pegram has been the talk of camp.
“They’re in midseason form,” Bowen said. “It’s great to see the work they have put in start to pay off as we open our practices.”
The Rams will open the season against the defending South Puget Sound League South Division champion Federal Way Eagles Friday night at Sparks Stadium.
EMERALD RIDGE JAGUARS
Co-coaches: Adam Schakel, Brian Anderson, Torey Donovan, Darren Erath and Troy Halfaday, fourth year
Last year: 5-5, didn’t advance to the postseason
Key players: Ted DaSliva, LB; Jake March, DB; Cody Anderson, CB; Josiah Celestine, LB; Wainright Clarke, DL; DeAndre Cloud, DB; Zach Vaita, DB; Ashanti Kindle, RB; Goy Mal, QB; Ryan Knowlton, QB; Landon Jones, WR; Michael Ciocco, OL/DL; Michael Overhulse, OL/DL; Brett Rankin, WR.
The competition for starting quarterback between seniors Goy Mal and Ryan Knowlton has raised the level of competition for the Jaguars.
At press time, the coaching staff still hadn’t named a starter for Emerald Ridge’s home opener Thursday night against the Curtis Vikings at Sparks Stadium.
“We could not be more proud of the quarterbacks, who are competing for the opportunity to start at quarterback,” coach Troy Halfaday said. “Goy and Ryan are demonstrating how to positively compete with the attitude of making one another better. They are being evaluated with every opportunity presented to them, and it will continue into the season. They are aware the evaluation will not cease when a starter is named. This competition is making our whole team better.”
The Jaguars finished last year strong with three straight wins to finish .500.
“It is always difficult to talk success on the football field, since most people gauge success to be on the scoreboard on Friday night,” Halfaday said. “Our success has been truly defined between Monday and Thursday. We spend too much time developing positive relationships to allow a scoreboard to dictate our success. Yes, we play the game to win, but often fate has a lot to do with the wins and losses.”
Halfaday said the Jaguars are excited about featuring senior running back Ashanti Kindle.
“Ashanti’s desire to put the team first has been his priority,” Halfaday said. “He has worked extremely hard in the weight room to be prepared for a tough league where there is no easy game. He has consistently demonstrated excellence on and off the field, and his performance during team camp earned him the respect of his teammates. He will be an integral part of the offense and is playing for something greater than himself.”
Head coach: Keith Ross, 12th year
Last year: 9-3, lost to Lynden in the Class 2A state quarterfinals
Key players: Austin Striplin, OL/LB; Brandon Tuilaepa, RB; DeJon Lynch, RB; Chase Torgison, QB; Eli Hofto, NT; Taylor Radniecki, C/DL, Triston Wedington, WR; Troy Salisbury, DL; Victor Padilla, DL; Nick Farman, DL; Zach Sommers, DL
The Spartans return a majority of their starters from a squad that advanced to the Class 2A state quarterfinals last November.
“Expectations are high,” Sumner head coach Keith Ross said. “We are staying focused and are just going for it all. We have had some amazing practices these first two weeks. We didn’t have to introduce any new kind of system. We’re just fine-tuning things across the board. We’re absolutely loaded across the board and have the most skilled team I’ve had in the past 15 years.”
Offensively, third-year starting quarterback Chase Torgison and running backs Brandon Tuilaepa and DeJon Lynch will lead the Spartans. Torgison is throwing well and has overcome a summer water skiing accident that resulted in an injured right elbow.
“The last couple of weeks of summer, he wasn’t able to zip the ball like he normally had,” Ross said. “When Chase got into that accident, that was pretty scary for all of us. We wouldn’t be the same team without him. He’s back now and looks great in practice.”
Defensively, middle linebacker Austin Striplin, safety Tuilaepa and feisty defensive lineman Victor Padilla will lead an experienced bunch.
“It is possibly the best defense we’ve ever had here at Sumner,” Ross said. “Teams aren’t going to be able to run the ball on us very well.”
Ross said Striplin is “unblockable” and Tuilaepa will be a force in the secondary.
CHIEF LESCHI WARRIORS
Head coach: Kirk Willis, first year
Last year: 0-8, didn’t advance to the postseason
Key players: Drake Taraya, OL/DL; Emilio Dumais, OL/DL; Solo Augkhopinee, WR; Darrion Arl-Lovejoy, QB; Jonathon Berys, RB; Eric Thayer, WR/DB; Roberto Marrufo, OL/DL
The Warriors are looking to rebuild after a winless season.
Kirk Willis, who served as an assistant for the past five seasons under former coach Sauni Savini, is in his first year as head coach of the program. Willis said Savini is one of his best friends.
“I have coached with Sauni for 14 years (five at Chief Leschi, nine at Christian Faith),” Willis said. “I was honored he wanted to hand over the reigns to me. When the head coach looks at you and tells you that you are ready, that is really special.”
Willis said there are 22 players on the roster. He’s also added assistant coach Jeff Kirbus, who has more than 30 years of coaching experience in football and basketball. Kibus previously coached at Evergreen Lutheran.
“Jeff brings a lot of energy to the program,” Willis said. “He has already built a great relationship with all of the kids. We’re excited about having him on our staff.”
The Warriors will run the ball about 60 percent of the time, Willis said.
“Our strength is going to be in our skill players,” he said. “Solo (Augkhopinee) is going to open some eyes at wide receiver. He is long, savvy and smooth.”
Both lines also will be key, Willis said.
“We have to play well in that area, and we have guys who are working hard,” he said.
Willis said the Warriors will be one of the most well-conditioned teams in the SeaTac League.
“We’re not going to be the team that is tired at the end of the game,” he said. “I believe in conditioning. We will be ready to play five quarters every single game. We focus on teaching the right fundamentals and conditioning.”
CASCADE CHRISTIAN COUGARS
Head coach: Randy Davis, 10th year
Last year: 7-3, lost to Kings in a winner-to-state, loser-out district playoff game
Key players: Jaelin Goldsmith, QB; Nathan Roosedaal, WR/S; Mason Tobeck, TE/LB; Damon Davis, LB; Robert Terhune, WR/PR; Jackie Wood, RB/DB; Hunter Murfitt, OL/DL; Hunter Austin, FB; Riley Ramos, RB/DB
Cascade Christian will be looking to return to the Tacoma Dome for the Class 1A state football playoffs after the Cougars missing out on the festivities last season for the first time since 2008.
The Cougars return several talented players, including third-year starting quarterback Jaelin Goldsmith and free safety Nathan Roosendaal.
Goldsmith has put on 15 pounds since last season, head coach Randy Davis said.
“Jaelin is so much stronger,” Davis said. “He has worked really hard in the offseason and has gone to many quarterback clinics. Our receiving corps is a lot stronger and more experienced this year, and that is going to help quite a bit.
The Cougars return the majority of their starters on offense.
“It’s a good thing to have so many returners,” Davis said. “That is for sure. Last year, we were young, and we had a lot of teaching moments that took a lot of practice time. This year, we have a veteran squad, and guys are picking up stuff fast right now. We’re really getting after it.”
Defensively, the Cougars boast linebackers Mason Tobeck, Damon Davis and safety Nathan Roosendaal.
“The goal is to always get to the (Tacoma) Dome,” Davis said. “We follow the old adage ‘one game at a time’ in every way. We feel pretty good about our team this year.
“The proof is in the season and making the playoffs,” he said. “We have a long way to go until then.”