Drilling late into the night under nothing but the bright stadium lights Auburn High School’s football team had its first practice of the 2017 season as the team looks to get back into tip top shape for the upcoming season.
“It’s the first practice so it’s hard to tell how the team is looking,” said coach Gordon “Gordy” Elliott, who is entering his 16th year with the Trojans. “We had good summer workouts. We got some kids back who have played quite a bit of football so we’re feeling good about that.”
One of those players is senior Joseph Fagan who had 119 carries for 962 yards last year. This impressive performance was the third most of anybody in the 4A North Puget Sound League and helped give Auburn the top rushing offense in the league with a whopping 2,563 yards in total.
“He’s worked really hard off season and this summer,” Gordon said of Fagan. “We expect to have a big year from him. He can really do things when he gets the football.”
Fagan also has high hopes for his senior year as he felt the team — as well as himself — is more experienced.
“We’ll see how I play this year. I hope I get over 1,000 yards,” Fagan said. “I’m more experienced. My line is more experienced.”
Alongside Fagan, Auburn also returns its next two-best rushers from last season — Cole Washburn (57 carries, 391 yards) and Ben Freeman (71 carries, 357 yards). It also has first-team all-NPSL lineman Jacob Kludsikofsky and second-team lineman Anthony King.
Part of that experience comes from learning from the mistakes of last season and working to be more humble after what was a strong start coming out of the gate.
Auburn began the season 5-0.
But then the schedule turned — the Trojans ran into Auburn Mountainview, Todd Beamer, Federal Way, Auburn Riverside and Curtis. Injuries piled and the Trojans ended the season on a five-game losing skid and fell short of qualifying for the district playoffs.
“We learn from more of our mistakes,” Fagan said. “We humbled down. I think that was our biggest downfall. We were too excited about being 5-0. That’s why we had our downfall. This year we’re a bunch of seniors.”
That camaraderie that comes from being a senior class who have been playing and growing together was evident during an interview. Fagan was ribbed by fellow teammates who would chime in to say “he’s the man; he’s the GOAT (greatest of all time)” as well as “he’s weak” and recount stories of how they had been in competition since first grade.
The focus from Gordon was on working on getting back to basics and adding more depth to a team that was hurt by injuries late in the season last year.
“The focus right now at the first day is just to get everything back and get the basics of our offense and defense in,” Gordon said. “We were kind of inconsistent last year especially late in the year when we started getting injuries.”
One of the other significant changes was a shift in offensive strategy.
After Elliott’s season with Auburn ended last year against his son-in-law, Curtis coach Chris Paulson, he then was able to add his other son-in-law, Aaron Chantler, who had been coaching at Gig Harbor. Chantler is now Auburn’s offensive coordinator and is adding his stamp to Elliott’s jet sweep offense.
“We’re not under center anymore,” Fagan said. “We’re in shotgun so that’s gonna be new.”
Auburn opens the season at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1, against Kent-Meridian in a 4A NPSL crossover game.
Chase Hutchinson: 253-597-8680