It nearly brought Emerald Ridge High School co-coach Troy Halfaday to tears.
It was in the summer at a camp at Eastern Washington University when 6-foot-2 wide receiver Andrew Boston was paired with a quarterback for a drill. But it wasn’t Logan Skoda, the Jaguars’ next starter.
Halfaday said Boston declined to do the drill without Skoda, who then came out of the crowd to work with him.
“It hits the soft spot in the heart,” said Halfaday, one of Emerald Ridge’s five co-coaches. “It’s rewarding because they get it.”
It’s difficult to recognize this year’s Jaguars.
They shocked the 4A SPSL South last season on their way to the league title before losing to Eastlake in the playoffs. But, heading into this season, Emerald Ridge lost its quarterback, running back, top two wide receivers and an All-Area defensive end to graduation, among others. That’s a lot of talent gone.
Yet, this year’s team could even be better.
“People are going to have to step up,” said Skoda, whose brother is a linebacker for Pacific Lutheran University. “In my opinion, we have the same amount of talent as last year. It’s just people are going to have to step up like everyone did last year and play as a team.”
Skoda looked sharp at Tuesday’s evening practice, as the sun set and Mount Rainier faded into the darkness. So did Boston, who mostly played as a sophomore last season at cornerback but could be a standout receiver this season.
“There were young guys last year so they got a little bit of time on varsity, but going into their junior year, they worked during the offseason,” Boston said. “I know I took the steps to get better. I’m hoping all the guys can step in with me and not miss a beat.
“I want to go to college for football. So for that I got to do the lonely work – work on my own, the footwork and the route running so I can have an explosive season. But with that, I don’t want it to just be me showing out, I want all my guys to get the rock, too, so we are winning as a team.”
Emerald Ridge’s players greet guests at their practice with a handshake and address them by sir or ma’am.
But Halfaday wonders if they can also get complacent. He got so frustrated with them Tuesday that he forced them to run sprints.
Then some more.
“That one didn’t count!” said Halfaday after he was unenthused with their effort after they had finished sprinting up the field.
“You’re a (defensive back). You run like a lineman!” he said before blowing his whistle to have them sprint again.
“When you start doing that, that intimidation factor, hopefully they have enough belief and trust in us as coaches that they know that we aren’t trying to hurt them,” Halfaday said. “But we are trying to press them and close that performance gap in a way that they can achieve greatness and excellence in a way that they’ve never done before.”
Besides, it wasn’t nearly as bad as last Friday’s “D-Day,” when they had to run a cross country trail, do push-up tests, burpees, partner wall sits, about an hour of gassers and bear crawls where their swimming buddy (a teammate) hangs on from their stomach.
Daniel Flaherty returns along the defensive line, and Emerald Ridge’s receiving corps, led by Boston, also features Chase McGuire and D.J. Resnik. The passing game looks like it could be the Jaguars’ strength.
“They believe in themselves and they trust on another,” Halfaday said. “That’s been the biggest thing for us as a whole program. It’s been built on the first seniors that walked on the field five years ago. Those leaders really established a culture here that allowed all these other guys to be vulnerable and develop these relationships on trust.”
The News Tribune will visit 17 high school football practices in the 14 days leading up to the first Football Friday of the season, breaking down some of the teams, players and storylines entering the 2015-16 season.
The tour will include three schools from the 4A Narrows League, four teams from the 4A SPSL, two from the 3A Narrows League, two from the 3A SPSL, one from the 2A Evergreen Conference, two from the 2A SPSL, one from the 1A Evergreen, one from the 1A Nisqually and one from the 2B Pacific.
Teams will be revealed each day, starting with the first day of official practices Wednesday, Aug. 19.
TNT PRESEASON PRACTICE TOUR
Practice preview: South Sound’s four most illustrious 4A schools enter new eras
Aug. 19: Timberline Blazers
Aug. 22: Kentlake Falcons
Aug. 26: Black Hills Wolves
Aug. 28: Yelm Tornados
Aug. 29: Clover Park Warriors
Aug. 31: Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds
Sept. 1: Eatonville Cruisers
Sept. 2: Charles Wright Tarriers
Sept. 3: Sumner Spartans
LEAGUE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
In-depth look at some of the top storylines, team-by-team breakdown, games to watch and predictions from the 4A Narrows, 4A SPSL, 3A Narrows, 3A SPSL, 2A SPSL, and 1A Nisqually, as well as capsules from other area small-school teams.
State football overview: Dual-threat QBs have Auburn Mountainview, Gig Habor thinking state
Preseason TNT All-State football team: Graham-Kapowsin’s Foster Sarell on of nation’s top 2017 recruits
3A Narrows: Is that Xavier Cooper? Or Wilson’s A.J. Ruffin?
2A Evergreen: Team capsules
1A Nisqually: Team capsules. Story Saturday.
Small schools: Team capsules