Thomas Ford’s voice can be heard throughout Stadium Bowl at Stadium High School.
“All I care about is your effort! And that is (expletive) effort!” Ford shouted at his team during a recent practice, one that hadn’t started well.
Ricky Daley is more soft-spoken on the field, similar to how Ford is off it. But Daley’s players at Mount Tahoma know that when the first-year coach means business, he means it.
Daley kicked them off the field after a poor practice almost two weeks ago, though they stayed after the coaches left.
“That other side of him is the side we don’t ever want to see,” said Mount Tahoma offensive and defensive lineman Pati Tuiolemotu, who, like Daley, was born in Hawaii. “We don’t like that side.”
Ford and Daley were assistant coaches under Jeff Thomas at the University of Puget Sound before both earned the first head-coaching jobs of their careers at their respective Tacoma-area high schools — within weeks of each other — this past spring.
And their first tests as new coaches? Stadium and Mount Tahoma opened their seasons against each other last week, with the Thunderbirds winning 20-13 — their first win since 2011.
“Trust me, it felt good,” Daley said. “Not so much because it was my first game, but it was important because the team won — regardless of whether it was against Coach Ford. I would have rather it come against somebody else.
“But knowing we got that win against a coach as good as Coach Ford, it maybe says where our program is because that team is going to be dynamite.”
Thomas said he tried to do his best to stay neutral when they played each other.
“They are very, very similar human beings,” the UPS coach said. “Both are such good people who happen to coach football. They do this for the right reasons, so it’s rewarding watching them compete.”
FORD CHANGES FOCUS
When he was still a player, Ford knew he wanted to coach high school football. He is still fourth on Linfield’s career rushing list (2,333 yards) and holds the university’s record for most rushing yards in a single game (237 against Redlands in 2003).
But Ford takes over a program that’s as down as ever. Stadium has never appeared in the state tournament, and has a 20-80 record the past 10 years (no winning seasons).
Ford was hired in March and said he was disappointed when he saw only 15 players in the weight room and that there was no training program. Ford’s younger brother, Tracy, is the strength and conditioning coach at Bellevue, so emphasizing training and changing the culture was priority No. 1.
“We are going to coach them hard, but we are going to coach them the right way and we are going to teach them,” Ford said. “As you saw me yelling and screaming at guys, I’m telling them what to do instead of screaming at them just because they aren’t doing it right. We don’t want to just be dog-cussing at guys and telling them what they are doing wrong — we are going to coach them.”
Senior offensive and defensive lineman Andre Scott said that’s exactly what the team needed.
“I was part of the interview process and we interviewed nine different coaches,” Scott said. “Everyone in the room thought, ‘This is the guy. He is a perfect fit for Stadium.’ ”
MENDING MOUNT TAHOMA
Daley had a much different problem at Mount Tahoma. The team had to forfeit its season opener against Stadium a year ago because it didn’t have enough players eligible.
“A lot of discipline issues, a lot of grades. We have about 16 kids on probation,” Daley said. “The first thing I did when I came in was I said we have to put them in a study hall. We can pump all the weight we can, but if we aren’t eligible, then that does nothing for us.”
Thunderbirds junior quarterback Adrian Allen said he considered transferring before he met Daley.
“I’ve actually known him for a while because he played (arena football) with my uncle for the Everett Hawks,” said Allen, whose uncle, Aaron Rambo, is currently the cornerbacks coach at UPS. “So when Daley came, I just told myself, ‘OK, I’m going to stay.’
“We’ve been more disciplined this year, we’ve been more respectful. The past few years, I feel like we didn’t even care. We were disrespecting everybody, even our own coaches. And I was one of them.”
KNEE PADS TO SPARE
Daley said he can sense the change at Mount Tahoma, even if at first he had to borrow knee pads from Ford to have enough for Mount Tahoma’s preseason jamboree.
And if they have it their way, they will never play each other again.
They plan to do so in the offseason, instead. They said they would like to combine their teams in fall camp, Daley taking his team to Stadium and Ford taking his to Mount Tahoma.
They remain good friends. Daley and his wife have five-month-old twins, and Ford’s daughter is just barely older.
“After he got his job, he just kept reinforcing me that, ‘Hey, you are going to get the job man. There is no better guy out there,’” Ford said. “It was really cool to have him in my corner. He said, ‘Hey man, if I can get hired, you are going to get hired.’ It was kind of the running joke we had going.
“So as ticked off as I was that we lost and made so many mistakes, I was still excited for him to get a win in his first game because I know he would have been excited for me had the roles been reversed.”
Daley joked that he was glad Ford didn’t apply for Mount Tahoma’s job.
“I can’t wait for him to win his league and we get to see his team play in the Tacoma Dome one game and then we play the next game,” Daley said.
“I’m glad I beat him now while I had the chance.”