PORT TOWNSEND — Rivals recast as teammates and friends. That continues to be the theme for the second go-around for East Jefferson, the Port Townsend and Chimacum athletics combine.
And Rivals will serve as the new nickname complete with a red and blue color scheme for the neighboring school districts’ athletic teams.
“Rivals, I think it’s going to be really cool,” new East Jefferson football head coach Tony Haddenham said. “I’m not sure what the mascot will be, but calling us East Jefferson is the right move. We are what the name says.”
Haddenham, a longtime Chimacum football assistant, also served on the East Jefferson staff as an assistant during the winter/spring season.
“I’m glad we did it [combine]. Both teams needed numbers, and we have them,” Haddenham said of a turnout that is right around 40 players. “The kids have been welcoming to each other. Myself as a Chimacum teacher being welcomed as a football coach by the PT kids and faculty has been really cool. They are meshing and gelling well, and we saw that in the last couple of weeks of the mini-season.”
Put together quickly to boost declining athletic turnout that pre-dated the pandemic, East Jefferson athletes and coaches struggled to get on the same page early but did improve over the course of the short season, including a 14-0 loss to perennial Nisqually League champ Cascade Christian to close out the season.
Haddenham said he would be keeping the 4-2-5 defense the team introduced last winter.
“Defensively, we will run the same 4-2-5 we ran last season, but hopefully better,” Haddenham joked.
“I’ve got 1,001 defensive backs on the roster, so it’s a matter of getting the right kids on the field. And we have enough kids to platoon them in and out.”
And the team will still run the football but out of a different formation than the compact flexbone.
“Offensively, kind of a newer offense, we plan to run some spread formation and run the football with some run-pass-option, and the hope is to score a lot of points,” Haddenham said.
Senior Lonnie Kenney started at quarterback and safety last season and has the inside track
“He’s learning pretty quick, and [sophomore] Cash [Holmes] is picking it up really fast,” Haddenham said. “And Rhian Popp is kind of right there with them.”
Senior Anson Jones returns at fullback, and senior Logan Massie along with junior Trevor Wilson will get carries at running back.
Other backs/receivers include Tanner Haddenham, Gerald Lindsey, Nathan Nisbet and speedy Jerome Reaux Jr.
Cade Martin will get time at wide receiver and defensive back while Austen Hammer is looking like a prime linebacker candidate and will also see time as a running back or receiver.
East Jefferson is light along its lines.
“We are limited in lineman numbers. We have about eight or nine, but we are hoping some more can be added when they are able to turn out,” Haddenham said.
“Chris Fair is back out and will be our nose guard and probably play center or tackle for us. Marshall Graves, Lars Wakefield, Beau Manuel, Sean Jones and Ricky Vega — they’ll all play on the lines.
Haddenham does have 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior Siaumau Aseuga at defensive end and tight end.
And maybe one of those 1,001 backs can be converted to playing lineman?
“We do have depth in both backfields, so that will be a strength for us,” Haddenham said. “I’ve already told the team that linemen win games on both sides of the ball, so it will be a matter of finding guys to fit those spots.”
Haddenham had a long sit-down with former head coach Patrick Gaffney.
“We talked for two or three hours about football and what needed to happen,” Haddenham said. “I’ve always wanted to coach, and I’ve had opportunities in the past to apply for a head coaching job, but I’m also a family man and had a young family. And now we have a junior in college, junior in high school and a fifth-grader, and the timing is right.”
Summer activities included morning weight-room sessions at Chimacum and afternoon lifts at Port Townsend. Haddenham plans to add more summer training going forward.
“My goal for next year is to get them to a couple of camps, individual position group camps or a team camp like at UPS, PLU or the one at Central [Washington], if they have it.”
And East Jefferson will be a full-time Nisqually League member in football this fall, one of three public school programs in a league dominated by private schools such as Cascade Christian and Life Christian.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.