High School Sports

Successful football coach Mark Smith gets fresh start at Chief Leschi

Under the glaring sun with Mount Rainier in the distance, the Chief Leschi football team opened its 2015 season Wednesday with its first practice and a new head coach.

“Perfect day for some football,” new coach Mark Smith said.

Smith would know, as he guided one of the most successful Class 2B teams in the state at Tacoma Baptist for 23 years. And he’s trying to bring that success to Chief Leschi, which has won just one game in the past two seasons in the 2B level.

At Tacoma Baptist there was no football team before Smith showed up in 1991. He started the program and ended up making 15 state playoff appearances during his tenure.

Before accepting the job at Chief Leschi, Smith was the athletic director at Graham-Kapowsin High School for one year, but the opportunity to turn around a struggling program — one with a new stadium — piqued Smith’s interest enough for him to end up with the Warriors.

“When I was at Tacoma Baptist we throttled them pretty badly,” Smith said of his new school. “I just thought there had to be better talent around the area than what they showed, and I believe that there is. We just have to coach them up.”

The Warriors currently have around 30 players, and Smith said that by the beginning of the season they could have up to 40.

“It’s been amazing how many players have shown up,” said senior quarterback Sean Allen, who has played for the Warriors since his sophomore season. Back then, he said, the team would have 20 extra helmets laying around, but this year is different.

Smith said the community has shown excitement so far and that more than 200 people came to the Warriors’ spring intersquad scrimmage. He also said that he and his coaching staff have had two very productive meetings with parents.

Allen says he believes the team can be a lot better in 2015, and that Smith will be vital to the program’s success.

“For the short while I’ve known him I already feel like I can trust him with anything I go to him with,” Allen said.

Smith, meanwhile, knows success won’t come right away.

“Of course the success won’t come overnight,“ Smith said. “But I know that I can bring success to this team with my experience.”

The News Tribune will visit 17 high school football practices in the 14 days leading up to the first Football Friday of the season, breaking down some of the teams, players and storylines entering the 2015-16 season.

The tour will include three schools from the 4A Narrows League, four teams from the 4A SPSL, two from the 3A Narrows League, two from the 3A SPSL, one from the 2A Evergreen Conference, two from the 2A SPSL, one from the 1A Evergreen, one from the 1A Nisqually and one from the 2B Pacific.

Teams will be revealed each day, starting with the first day of official practices Wednesday, Aug. 19.

TNT PRESEASON PRACTICE TOUR

Practice preview: South Sound’s four most illustrious 4A schools enter new eras

Aug. 19: Timberline Blazers

Lincoln Abes | Video: Masaki Matsumoto on a mission

River Ridge Hawks

Chief Leschi Warriors

Aug. 20: Bonney Lake Panthers | Video: Panthers have pieces in place

Aug. 21: Federal Way Eagles | Video: D’Jimon Jones, Andrzej Hughes-Murray stepping up

Aug. 22: Kentlake Falcons

Aug. 24: Spanaway Lake Sentinels | Video: Big guys key for Sentinels’ season

Aug. 25: Emerald Ridge Jaguars | Video: Can new players bring ER similar success?

Aug. 26: Black Hills Wolves

Aug. 27: Stadium Tigers | Video: Don’t expect same 0-10 Tigers

Aug. 28: Yelm Tornados

Aug. 29: Clover Park Warriors

Aug. 31: Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds

Sept. 1: Eatonville Cruisers

Sept. 2: Charles Wright Tarriers

Sept. 3: 3A SPSL

Sept. 4: First Football Friday of the 2015-16 school year

LEAGUE-BY-LEAGUE PREVIEWS

In-depth look at some of the top storylines, team-by-team breakdown, games to watch and predictions from the 4A Narrows, 4A SPSL, 3A Narrows, 3A SPSL, 2A SPSL, and 1A Nisqually, as well as capsules from other area small-school teams.

4A Narrows: Olympia will compete for playoff spot, like always

4A SPSL: Coming Friday

3A Narrows: Is that Xavier Cooper? Or Wilson’s A.J. Ruffin?

3A SPSL: Lakes cousins Jaiave Magalei and Maika Magalei might as well be brothers

2A SPSL: Coming Thursday

1A Nisqually: Capsules Thursday. Story Saturday.

Small schools: Coming Thursday

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