It is not a stretch to say Graham-Kapowsin High School football coach Eric Kurle won’t miss Todd Beamer High as a fellow member of the South Puget Sound League South Division.
And it has nothing to do with on-field success — Kurle’s team has won seven of eight career meetings, and he has never lost to the Titans since new coach Darren McKay came into the division in 2012.
But Kurle sees a change in culture at the Federal Way School District school. No longer is Beamer the run-roughshod-over team. In fact, the Titans — now members of the SPSL North — might be the ones doing the streamrolling.
“If they had stayed in the league, I thought it would have been them, Federal Way and us,” Kurle said. “(McKay) has turned that team around toughness-wise. They run that downhill (running-game) stuff, and most of the others do not face that.”
McKay is now entering his third season at Beamer. If his track record carries through, this could be the Titans’ first winning season.
In his first two seasons at Timberline High School in Lacey, the Blazers won a combined four games. And in his third season in 1997, they went 4-5, and were in position for a playoff berth until the final week of the season. The following year, Timberline went 5-4 — and peaked in 1999 going 8-3.
McKay went to Gig Harbor in 2000, and immediately posted a 5-4 season. The next year, the Tides finished 7-2, and tied South Kitsap for the 4A Narrows crown.
“Any time you take over a program that lacks physical strength, it takes three years to at least reach that strength level,” McKay said. “And that is what our style of football plays into.”
Beamer has the leading returning regular-season rusher in the 4A SPSL in tailback Brody Martinez. McKay has made no secret that he wants to run the football again, and again, and again in a two-back formation.
But responsible for blocking for Martinez — and setting a nasty tone — are three offensive-line leaders in Gabe Mojarro, J.J. Silao and Alpachino Uila.
Mojarro is the right guard, Silao is the right tackle and Uila is the left guard.
“J.J. is the bull. He is the guy who tends to set the tone. And he’s got a real nastiness to him,” McKay said. “Gabe is a wrestler, and the guy who does not give up, and has great conditioning. And Alpachino has had an incredible offseason, and now is built much differently.”
Silao also has built a reputation as not only a mauler, but once he has a defensive guy on the ground, he’s been known to whisper a few pleasantries.
“I am a respectful man, but if I lay someone out, they are going to know I just laid them out,” Silao said. “But there is a certain line I will not cross.”
Because he is undersized at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, Mojarro says he will try every trick in the book to gain an advantage against an oncoming pass-rusher.
“It is what I do — scrap and play a little dirty,” Mojarro said.
Then there is Uila, the team jokester who did not see as many first-team snaps in previous seasons as his other two teammates. A big reason for that was that he was out of shape.
“I was totally weak,” said Uila, who was given the Alpachino name from his father after “Godfather” actor Al Pacino. “I was big and slow. Now I am way better than last year. I never thought I would end up like this.”
This summer in scrimmages, Beamer’s core group of blockers tore through defenses. The plan is for that to carry over to the regular season.
“When other teams say their are physical, I don’t take that as disrespect,” Mojarro said. “It’s offensive. And it is a challenge to us.”