High School Sports

Blend of new faces, returning starters hope to lead Steilacoom back to state

Things are a little different for the Steilacoom High School football team this season as the team enters its third year under head coach Rich Lane.

There is no first-team all-league wide receiver LaJon Enis-Carter, nor is there first-team all-area wide receiver Marques Hampton, as both players graduated. But the man under center – junior quarterback J.J. Lemming – remains the same.

“The big difference this year is that even though the cast has changed, (Lemming) will be able to make better reads and won’t have to rely solely on athletic talent to make plays,” said Lane, who led the Sentinels to the district playoffs in 2015 and back to the state playoffs for the first time in four years last season. “There were things that we could call and it was just ‘hey, go over there and catch the ball.’ We don’t have that anymore.”

Lemming enters his second year as the starting quarterback after throwing for over 2,400 yards and 27 touchdowns during Steilacoom’s 8-3 season in 2016.

In order to gain chemistry with his new set of receivers, Lemming practiced with them throughout the offseason.

“I think we will have a balanced offense this year,” he said. “I think we have some athletes that are ready to compete. I really like (senior wide receiver) T.J. Page, but I think we have weapons all over the place.”

The chemistry in front of Lemming is still intact as all five of the starting offensive linemen will make their return, led by senior Parker Danielson.

Danielson, a two-way starter, says his job is to do whatever he can to protect Lemming from getting sacked.

“For me, it’s like this is my side of the field and I want to keep the opposing players away from it,” he said. “I know I’m doing my job and I know everyone else is doing theirs. We’re one big Sentinel family and we’re here to get stuff done.”

Danielson is also returning to a defense that can show versatility against almost all of the Sentinels’ opponents.

“The reason I like the 3-4 defense so much is that you can be in different packages based on how you set it up,” Lane said. “It just depends on how you set up for each team. Our kids are getting used to that now where it’s not what the coaches call, it’s how they play.”

Leading the Sentinels’ defense will be Jaymason Willingham, a junior who recorded 96 tackles, four sacks and an interception in 2016.

Steilacoom’s season will begin against the Stadium Tigers at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 1, at Steilacoom High School.