Burien Bearcats whole team picture - all the divisions - 76ers, 89ers, Pee Wees, Bantams, Seniors, plus the cheerleaders, are smiling bright.
Slideshow: Bearcats ready to pounce on football foes
By Ed Shepherd
Burien Bearcats Junior Football is practicing, and, things looks like, once again, the Seniors division will lead them, as they await their Northwest Junior Football League opener on Sept. 6 weekend.
The coach of the Seniors is John Howard, who teamed with George Jackson and Milton Chatman for many years very successfully.
But last year was different. No Jackson coaching. And, not so coincidentally, no championship. The Seniors for the last decade delivered more trophies to the Bearcats than any other division of the youngest 76ers to the 89ers to the Pee Wees to the Bantams and Juniors.
And, not only that, but the Bearcats Seniors, with championships littered throughout the last 10 years, probably have more of those than any other division of the whole NJFL, which includes teams from places like North Seattle, Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds, Mulkiteo and Shoreline.
"We didn't win the championship last year. We got to the playoffs, but we lost there," said Howard. "We didn't have George (Jackson). He went to coach a semipro football team, the Renton Ravens."
But Howard thinks this crop of Seniors division Bearcats' players is ready to go and although its a young Seniors team, that's OK, as he and Milton Chatman will be working things together this season with Howard now the Seniors head coach and a new coach, too -- Joe Harris -- helping out.
"This Seniors team is young," said Howard. "That's good. I got these boys back for the next two or three years. We are looking strong like always."
Chatman is Howard's excellent, knowledgable, well-respected defensive coordinator, who really knows the game. The defense is what this Bearcats Seniors team prides itself on. And that's not to take anything away from the offense, in all those championships, as Howard was offensive coordinator to Jackson's head coaching before this year's new post. But defense has been a tough thing to crack in past seasons for other teams facting the Bearcats. So it's good to hear that this team is going to be strong with offense, likely, this season, starting with some good experience at quarterback with Cardan Sadettan at the helm.
"We are a right-handed football team," said Howard. "A lot of teams are left-handed. But we have a left-handed quarterback."
What that means is that Sadettan can do things that other quarterbacks can't do nearly as well, like throw across his body on the run one way, delivering the football the other way.
"You can break to the left and still throw left," said Sadettan, who can pitch strongly, too, and has been an All-Star pitcher for past Pac West Little League teams.
And, as for Chatman and Howard, Sadettan said, "They want us to work hard, and not embarrass them. Give them payback for what they do to help us."
Defense will be led by AJ Morris, a middle linebacker that Chatman's high on despite Morris not having played a single down in organized football before.
"First year playing any sport for me," said Morris. "I didn't have enough money to play."
And what does Chatman do for the team defense?
"He's going to make you good no matter what," said Morris. "He has confidence in his players."
Morris spoke more than just that good stuff, too, wanting his teammates to know that there's things that need improved on from a scrimmage game earlier in the month.
As a linebacker on defense, Morris is near the cornerbacks who are shadowing the offense's wide receivers as they race routes downfield. Morris gave a word of wisdom for those players playing defense with him.
"We just need to all help the cornerbacks stay at home, and help the defensive line get sacks," said Morris. "The last game (practice scrimmage) they were running across the field and not staying home (in position)."
Chatman spoke like a true champion, like he is, when asked what this season is going to be like compared to .500 record regular season one and playoff bump earlier than usual.
"Win, win, win," said Chatman, who, to note, is always going around to all the divisions and asking players what they're going to do this season, like the Bantams coach he started speaking to with all that coaches players listening in.
"You going to be good this season," said Chatman, walking by Bantam's division coach Don Piper.
"We are going to be better than good," said Piper.
"Alright. Alright, that's good, that's good," said Chatman.
But, that's the bar, the Seniors, they're the ones that all these Bearcats divisions want to be like. That spans over a decade now for this franchise organization that's run by team president Lyn Higgenbotham.
The Bearcats look is different this year, too, with neon green socks pulled up high and tight, looking a lot like the Seattle Seahawks, in that way, and, to complement their customary navy blue and gray jerseys and pants.
"We are looking pretty good," said Howard. "Look at all the new uniforms."
From the Bearcats, one can pretty much pick any of the remaining four divisions to guess who's going to do next best this season, based on past success. Note: there is no Juniors team, not enough Bearcats for that age group/weight class.
And, so, the 89ers, 8 and 9 year olds, with some a year older or younger because of weight allowances, are coached by Greg Duff, and, they get the next mention. Duff, by the way, has been active in Burienpolitics, having run for city councilman and other things, too.
But, on the subject of football, Duff didn't talk records much and winning and all that stuff, focusing, instead, on what he is going to be preaching and teaching this 89ers team.
"You probably haven't heard this before from a coach, but the very first thing they know is that their coach loves them," said Duff. "But, I'm a tough coach,too. I demand respect from them for their coaches and for each other."
Duff mentioned a story then.
"The kids have to run laps during practices, and, I saw one kid fading out one time," said Duff.
The kid was not wanting to run but Duff just asked one simple question.
"Why am I having you run laps," said Duff.
"Because you love me," said the kid.
And, that kid quit fading and started running, one can guess, remembering that Duff was not just talking about things. He was doing things, they were things to show the love to these kids.
A few players Duff made note of were Ian Clark, the team's quarterback on offense and a linebacker on defense, Jude Medina, a tight end and safety, and, one more. Kayla Piper, a girl lineman.
Story about her too from Duff.
"Kayla came up to me and said, 'Coach, I want to play football.'" said Duff. "I asked her, 'Do you like to hit boys?'
"Yes, I do," came Kayla's response.
And, Duff put her on the team and she's doing great, helping these boys see her for the kind of player she is. And the kind of player Piper is will rub off on all these teammate boys of hers.
"She has heart," said Duff.
And, of Clark, Duff said, "He's a smart player. He thinks ahead of time where the ball should go."
And, of Medina?
"He's passionate about football," said Duff. "He lives football day and night."
Duff really likes coaching these kids, who has a grandson on the team.
"These kids are like my own," said Duff. "And, 76ers coach says the kids feel like his own, too."
And, that's who is next to be talked about of the Bearcats, the 76ers, coached by Blake Bennett.
Bennett was made coach of this age group almost by involuntary volunteerism, sounds like.
"The first day of practice they threw me out there," said Bennett.
Bennett, too, puts a lot more emphasis on winning as he noted that the 76ers didn't win many games last year, like about one, but...
"But that's not what I'm out here, to just win," said Bennett. "We will show them the fundamentals and the kids will do well."
That's what Bennett wanted to emphasize, that the kids are 6 and 7 year olds but are doing so well behaving and minding him.
"I say, 'Eyes on the coach.' and everyone puts their eyes on me," said Bennett, who has his oldest of four kids playing Bearcats footbal now. So the younger ones will be coming up to play Bearcats football, too, in all likelihood.
And, Bennett wanted to note why these kids are "giving me a really good effort every time we do things out there."
The ones who made the kids answers the 'why' question above.
"These kids good attittudes and paying attention is a reflection of their parents and how they take care of their kids," said Bennett.
Saying a few names of his team, Bennett mentioned his son, Laybe, who will be quarterback. And, also Antonio Barrientes, a running back. And, Bennett did not want to forget to mention Cyrus Bantingan
"He's already a leader of our team," Bennett of Bantingan.
And, Bantingan is a lineman, both protecting the quarterback on offense and doing his favorite thing on defense, which is what?
"Get some sacks," said Bantingan. "Tackling the quarterback."
Bantingan spoke of his teammates and that they are friends and have fun playing games together.
"Flyers Up," said Bantingan of one game. "One person throws the football to a bunch of other players trying to catch it."
And, Coach Bennett?
Bennett says that phrase, 'Eyes on the coach,' and Bantingan was asked if the players listen well to him when he says that.
"Yes," said Bantingan. "Because I see them."
Bennett likes this organization, the Bearcats, it's well run and the sharp new uniforms, and, everything going well under Higgenbotham's franchise leadership. But, there's always more to be done, as Harris, the Seniors player explained he couldn't play football in the past because it was too expensive.
"This is a good organization," said Bennett. You think the players just go out and practice and play football but there is a lot going on behind the scenes. It takes a lot of folks efforts to make it all go. Donations are something the Bearcats can always use. People should go down and watch the games, our home games are at Highline Stadium and you can watch all four of our divisions play in the same day."
So, who's left to talk about, how about the Bantams, who are coached by Don Piper.
Last season, it was not good, Piper was coach and he really emphasized that 'coach' was what the team was with. One coach. It made things tough.
"We only won one game last season," said Piper. "There was a lot of coaching turmoil, I was the only coach. Now, this season, we have four coaches."
What will the coaches be helping these kids do?
"We want them to focus on the technicalities of the game, but most of all it's about fun," said Piper. "I got an older boy in high school, that's when the fun goes away, it becomes work."
And, as far as players that will make a difference and change that record around to the winning side, hopefully, first mentioned is Piper's son, Riley, the team's quarterback.
"He knows where everyone is supposed to be," said Piper. "You will see him lining people up . He's been a quarterback since he was seven."
And, Najee Williams is a running back and safety that Piper wanted to be made known.
"He's an instinctual player," said Piper. "He has the fastest feet on the team. And, he's a sure tackler on defense."
And, Taylor Pilgrim is another highlighted.
"He's the youngest on the team but also the heaviest,' said Piper. "He's going to be nose guard. He's going to run the ball as well."
What does Taylor want to do most for this season?
"Make a touchdown," he said.
And, also to note, linebacker, Blaine Patten, and, running back, Sullivan Steele, running back and linebacker.
"Both are sure tacklers," said Piper, noting Patten is 'the strongest tackler on the team."
Riley, Piper's son, added, that the team is with good camaraderie and last year there were bad things going on.
"A lot of fights on the team last year," said Piper. "We are a team this year, we are not fighting."And, last but not least, the 89ers are coached by Gordon Langile.
The kids are very excited, things are going great, super great.
Langile then called out to the kids at a recent practice as they all stopped and answered in the middle of doing a drill.
"How do you guys feel," he shouted.
The kids exclaimed, 'Super great.'
"How," Langile repeated.
"Super great,' they all said in unison once again.
"Very excited about the season, we have 24 kids out, and, including two girls, Aliyah McFalls and Alexis McFalls.
They been knocking the boys around. So that's pretty awesome."
Alexis explained her take on this mostly boys' sport.
"I'm having fun because I get to hit cameron," she said. She noted, for some reason, she thinks he's weird. But , in a good way, hopefully, because there is no other way for saying that to be good.
And, the boys, in general what about hitting them?
"It's fun," said the young lady.
And, Lamont Richardson gave his say on this sport of football.
"It's fun,' he said. "I get to take all my aggression out that I can't take out at school," he said.
And, so it is, and, has been said, Burien Bearcats football is alive and well as the whole five divisions got together at the end of the last practice before Jamboree for a big team picture in their cool, new, uniforms.
And, so it's just time now for the season to get going and for these Bearcats to just go do their best and why not do what Seniors defensive coach, Chatman, said was his way of looking at things: win, win. win.
Photo gallery for this story