SeaTac Sharks Bantams head coach Ken Turner Jr. talks to his players.
SeaTac Sharks going in for the kill in Junior Football
What’s that sound?
It’s a shark. Sharks!!!
Sea-Tac Sharks, that is. The little to big-size guys running around on the Tyee High School park grass fields, of the wonderfully done new place out there for all to enjoy from skateboarders to soccer players to baseball lovers. And, yes, Junior League Football players!
Junior Football League (JFL) football is something that has been jawed about greatly about the Sharks through this franchise’s start all the way back at the beginning of this decade.
“We’ve been in existence eight years and we’ve won a championship on every level in that time,” said Ken Turner Jr., who coaches the Bantams division. From the youngest 6-7 year-olds, this football starts with 89ers, then Pee Wees, then Bantams, then Juniors, and, finally, last but certainly not least, Marshall Jones’ territory, the Seniors.
Jones is the Tyee coach at the high school level and he has done great things for the Junior Football League too, getting the Des Moines Rams’ JFL franchise a championship back in 1999. Jones has also been an assistant coach in Federal Way for the Thomas Jefferson Raiders before running the show for the Seamount League’s Totems.
What is so good about Jones and what good has he done besides a decade ago of good championship caliber JFL coaching with the Rams’ Seniors level there? Well, for starters, his team won the championship last year, beating the CD Panthers 7-12.
“He’s blunt, and honest, if you are doing something wrong,” said Marshall Jones, Jr., his son. “He knows how to approach you. If you are having a bad day, he knows what to say to you.”
That’s from his son, and sons, as we all know, can be tough on their dads, or not. Jones Jr. is ‘not,’ and he is not alone. A Jones program is fun.
More from his son gives clues of how a championship program is secretly built from the ground up.
“What position are you going to play,” was asked Jones Jr.
“There are no assigned positions yet,” he said.
The first game is a couple weeks away, with a jamboree a week before that, and still “no assigned positions?”
“No, no one knows where they are going to play yet,” said Jones Jr. “Even if you are playing in a certain spot, it don’t mean you have it.”
What is good about that?
“Everyone learns to play a lot of positions and no one has a sure spot. It makes everyone play harder,’ said Jones Jr.
What’s fun about this football under Jones Sr.?
“Everything,” said Curtis Andrews.
There were a sizeable number of players listening to Jones talk about this game called football that is played in between lines some 100 yards long and some 50 yards wide. Nate Pardo was one size listening to Jones Sr.
How big are you, Nate?
“5-10 and 220,” he said. That is good size alright, maybe one other player out of 15 or so bigger than that Nate kid.
What’s so good about this game?
“I don’t know,” said Pardo.
Are you guys going to be good like last year?
“Yeah,’ he said.
“The players,” he said.
Carl Kemp, who played under Jones Sr. at Tyee and will be a junior this fall, is assisting Jones Sr.
Why do it? You could be doing so many other things at this time in your life?
Having fun with the kids?
“Oh yeah,” said Kemp. “I’m having a blast. It’s fun to see the kids improve, especially the rookies. And I like the way they understand things. It’s nice to be a part of something, but I just enjoy helping younger players come up and play. Just like someone taught me, I enjoy helping them.”
What about Jones Sr.?
“He’s taught me a lot,” said Kemp.
Kemp played for the Rams JFL 2-3 years ago and helped them to be competitive.
“Even though we didn’t do very well, we improved,” said Kemp. “We were lacking a little bit of discipline.”
And the Sharks got it here.
“I see great discipline out here,” said Kemp as players were asked by Jones to go do 10 push ups whenever they either let a running back get by them in a 10x10 square grid with cones, or, vice versa, where the tacklers didn’t make the play.
“Yeah, I made it through,” said Jones Jr. “I--
Dad cut him off, “You made it through, but you ran high (didn’t lower shoulders) through the tackles. Get over there and give me 10.”
Another comment from Jones Sr. came when a runner in the 10x10 grid drill did not get wrapped up by the two tacklers coming at him and got away.
“Both of you guys converge,” Jones Sr. said to a couple of the tacklers in the 10x10 grid tackle drill of the running back. “Keep the leg-drive going.”
With Jones Sr. coaching, this will be a good team whether they win or not, because it’s going to be a team that knows what is expected.
There are other good ones that love this game and love helping coach kids, like Turner Jr. mentioned above. He is coaching the Bantams, and he was the defensive coordinator last year for this Bantams division that won the championship. And the year before that and the year before that.
“We have won the championship in our division the past three years and so have the 89ers,” said Turner Jr.
Turner Jr. was putting out his offensive guys in a recent drill and the pointing continued until all the quarterback, wide receiver, running back, wide receiver, tight end, offensive guards and tackles positions were all filled.
“I put you guys out here because I expect you to cover your area of responsibility,” said Turner Jr.
His assistant, Darnell Cola, was out there helping out too, telling coverage guys on defense to “stay on your side,’” and Turner Jr. was listening and agreeing. Cola was really showing proof why this team will likely be good this year as, clipboard in hand, he still was in motion showing players how to do things.
The team’s top returners include the quarterback, Keelan Robinson.
“He throws the ball,” said Turner Jr.
Does he also run spectacularly?
“Oh yeah, he knows how to play every position, he has very good football sense and natural instincts,” said Turner Jr., whose son, Turner III, is at running back and linebacker, and Victor and Vaughn Daggs also at running backs, also lead this team as captains.
The line captains are Le Le Savelio and Manase Komoto.
“They are very good blockers,” said Turner Jr., who coached with the Pee Wees a couple years helping get them to the playoffs four years ago and two years in a row after that helped the 89ers win a couple championships.
He was having fun out there, and it showed.
Another division will be the Pee Wees. Small little guys that are having a lot of fun, like, say Lee Ennest.
What’s most fun?
“Tackle,” said Ennest.
“What about ‘British Bulldog,’” said the head coach, Jason Cooper, listening in.
British Bulldog, what’s that coach?
“You better ask Lee,’” said Cooper.
Lee was happy to respond to this team’s favorite drill “game” of doing what?
“You have a person in the middle,” said Ennest. “If people get tackled they have to go in the middle.”
Cooper then entered into the conversation, “The goal is to not go in the middle and by the end of the drill everyone is in the middle.”
Have you ever been the last one, the one that stayed out of the middle, Lee?
“No,” he said, frowning a little. But, admittedly, there was determination in Ennest’s voice.
“This is my first year,” said Ennest.
What about your coaches?
“They are not mean,” said Ennest.
What are you doing out there?
“Catching the ball, be a good catcher,” said Ennest, who is a wide receiver.
This football sport can be tough too. Catching the ball is not easy, especially at this young age group that will mostly be led by the strong running of quarterback Andrew Dalton.
Ennest will be out there for sure and he will be experiencing growing pains, and more, like equipment pains.
“I’m not that good. My shoulder pads make it harder,” said Ennest.
Dalton is good, said coach Cooper.
“He’s really smart. He knows the plays, that’s why he’s the quarterback,” said Cooper, who returns six players off last year’s team that went 5-3. Cooper has coached this level for three years now.
The Juniors division level will be coached by Curtis Delgardo, who’s quarterback will be Derrick D’Marye.
“He’s a veteran running the offense for us,” said Delgardo.
The Juniors look to improve off last year.
“We were one game from going into the championship,” said Delgardo. “During the season, the team that barely beat us by four or six points in the playoffs blew us out in two games. So we improved a lot.”
The 89ers are the last group to mention and they will be coached by Reggie Witherspoon.
This is just one big happy group playing, as Turner Jr. pointed out, playing really successful football.
So what’s it all boil down too? Fun.
Yes, and just getting into doing something that means something in life for now and later.
“We can all come together as one,” said Jones Jr. “No one is alienated. Everyone gets to have fun, gets to play at the same time.”
Games will be on Saturdays mostly at Foster High School and it’s nice stadium.
The Sharks will play against teams from the Rainier Beach area and North and South of the Rainier district as well as Renton, CD (central district of Seattle), the Des Moines Rams and West Seattle.
For more information on the Sharks, see their web site – which features a fun, moving surprise – at www.seatacsharks.com.