High School Sports

Can a state-champion relay team make Curtis a state-champion football team? It’s worked before

Curtis football coach: 'We're built for speed'

Curtis' state-champion 4x100 relay team doubles as a talented football foursome. And it has the Vikings thinking big in 2017.
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Curtis' state-champion 4x100 relay team doubles as a talented football foursome. And it has the Vikings thinking big in 2017.

Chris Paulson said he’s never seen a team with this much speed. The fifth-fastest player on the Curtis High School football team might be the fastest on any other.

But Bob Lucey said he’s seen one.

“It reminds me of our 1996 team,” said Lucey, the hall of fame former Curtis coach, who is now helping out with the Vikings’ defense.

That team made Curtis a repeat state champion — despite graduating center and now-Eastern Washington University coach Aaron Best.

And that one, like this one, has four members of a state-champion 4x100-meter relay team who double as talented football players. Marlon Jones, Sabian Bryant, Taj Moffett and Izaiah Fields are all planning to start on both offense and defense for Curtis this season.

Fields broke Terry Tharps’ school record of 10.75 seconds in the 100 meters this past spring (10.55 seconds). And Moffett ran a 10.73. Tharps played on that 1996 state title team and went on to play receiver at the University of Washington.

“So far it’s been a lot of what we expected. We expected to be really athletic and really fast, obviously when you get those track guys coming out” Paulson said between the middle of two practices on the second day of the 2017 season.

“But it’s not just those guys. We have guys at every position who can really run. That’s who we are — we are built for speed.”

And Paulson saw a lot of that last year.

But then that schedule. Curtis started the season 0-5. But all five of their opponents ended up making the district playoffs: Graham-Kapowsin, Sumner, Olympia, Puyallup and Bellarmine Prep.

The Vikings ended the year on a five-game winning streak. It wasn’t enough to make the playoffs, but at least state-champion Camas is the only other 4A team in the state that can say it’s entering the season having won its past five games.

“It was obviously frustrating,” Paulson said. “But I think there’s a little buzz around the program after what we did to end the year.

“But if we were playing in a different league, I would tell you how great we are going to be. I think we have a really good football team, but those other teams are really good, too.”

Speed kills. But there’s a reason Usain Bolt never played in the NFL.

The difference is that these four 4x100-meter champions aren’t track guys — they’re football players who compete in track, Moffett said.

He’s been playing football since the first grade. And he’s always been one of the fastest on his teams.

“Typical track guys are fast,” Moffett said. “We’re fast, we’re skillful, we’re smart, we know how to play the game and we’re physical. That gives us an edge.”

Curtis’ problem is size. So Paulson has been harping on his quarterbacks — with junior Jordan Parker and senior Ethan Gilbert both getting reps — to get the ball out quickly to these weapons. Fields and Jones will line up in the slot and Moffett out wide. Bryant is the 4A South Puget Sound League’s second-leading returning rusher from last year behind Graham-Kapowsin’s Micah Smith. Bryant had 139 carries for 1,024 yards.

“We don’t have size, but we do have speed,” linebacker Carson Gregg said. “So we conditioned in the offseason rigorously so the teams we play when they’re out of shape, we keep running and we don’t stop. Our practices are always 100 percent effort, 100 percent tempo.”

They ended their first practice by running 56 plays in 18 minutes.

That’s fast.

“It’s not like we’re taking a track guy and trying to toughen him up,” Paulson said. “We just have really fast guys.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677, @tjcotterill