On the days he visits Emerald Downs, Matt Johnson has one foolproof key when he bets on horse racing:
Go with the horse dropping down in class.
That is kind of like his Foss High School football team, which departed from the now-disbanded 3A Narrows League to join the 2A SPSL for this upcoming season.
The Falcons went to work, opening their preseason camp Wednesday afternoon on the upper-campus field.
Although only 25 players were out in shorts and practice jerseys for the mid-afternoon practice, Johnson expects the roster size to eventually settle near 60 players once school opens.
You can consistently win games at the Class 2A level with just 45-60 players.
“We’ve got high expectations,” Johnson said. “It is life a fresh start – we painted the helmets white this year to simulate a clean slate.”
A clean slate was desperately needed.
Since the school’s back-to-back non-losing seasons in 2009, Foss has won a combined 12 games in six years.
One of those seasons was a 6-4 campaign in 2013 when Johnson was an assistant coach under his brother, Pat.
Last season, Foss went 0-10. It scored just 120 points. – and gave up a whopping 390.
But there are reasons for optimism with this group, which only lost five seniors last year to graduation:
▪ Junior Demetrius Crosby is a bona fide NCAA Division I recruit at wide receiver, and is expected see the football often – on offense and on special teams.
“This definitely could be a year where we surprise some people,” Crosby said. “Everyone thinks because we are Foss, we are going to bow down to everybody. But we are figuring to do big things this year.”
▪ All five members of Falcons projected starting offensive line joined the 1,000-pound club in the weight room.
Right tackle Carl Phillips, a junior, also figures to attract plenty of college attention. Left tackle Manu Lane is developing into one of the better linemen in the city. And center Jackson Potts – who placed fourth at heavyweight in last winter’s state wrestling tournament – is a team captain.
“Everyone is going to have to take into consideration each person’s needs to really mesh,” Potts said. “It’s going to be a lot of sacrificing everything that you want for the greater good of the team.”
*Quarterback Orlando Stumvoll started six games last season. Physically, he is more than mature enough to run the offense. And Johnson has noticed an improved command of the huddle.
Johnson has come up with a new motto for the 2016 Foss team heading into the season: “Go From the Outhouse to the Penthouse.”
And that penthouse?
“It smells nice,” Potts said.