With a new head coach at the helm, Tacoma Baptist football is hungry to win a state title this year after a strong run last year that came up short.
The team was 10-1 in its first year playing eight-man football. The Crusaders’ playoff march ended in the quarterfinals at the hands of eventual champion Neah Bay,a loss that only strengthened the team’s resolve.
“Hopefully we can push it a little further this year,” new head coach Steve Stone said. “If I don’t have winning a state championship as a goal then I’m probably in the wrong business.”
Stone was named head coach in May. Tacoma Baptist Head of School Brad McCain said at the time “Steve brings a passion for the game and a desire to continue building on the success our team experienced last year.”
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Stone has nearly two decades of experience with the program. He replaces Tim Rasmussen, who stepped down to move to Texas.
“I was the defensive coordinator last year and I’ve coached as an assistant coach here at Tacoma Baptist High School for about 17 years,” Stone said. “I coached with Mark Smith when he was the head coach here for a number of years.”
With a year of eight-man experience under the team’s belt, Stone is confident they can go further — but it won’t be handed to them.
“I think we’re looking pretty good. We have a lot of work to do,” Stone said. “We have some good returning players.”
One of those players is PJ Talen, the SeaTac 1B MVP last year. The senior is ready to improve on a terrific season in which he passed for 1,259 yards with 19 touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 1,401 yards and 20 touchdowns without a fumble lost.
“I’m trying to just make quicker decisions with throwing the ball more and quicker decisions on my reads,” said Talen, a three-sport star. “Just all around just be quicker.”
Talen also anchors a defense that allowed 16 points per game. He recorded 93 tackles, 3 interceptions and three fumbles recovered.
Talen expressed confidence in his new coach and the team’s experience will pay off.
“I think he [Stone] saw a lot of things and he’ll prepare us really well,” Talen said. “We were new to it last year so I think we’ll be a little bit better prepared this year.”
That focus on preparation is a philosophy strongly shared by Stone.
“We have to prepare, you know, every day. We have to be prepared to take the field,” Stone said. “My philosophy here is success on the field only happens if you’re having success off the field. If you’re successful off the field then it’ll translate.”
The team will look to translate that preparation into success in their opening game at 2 p.m. Saturday at Crescent High School.