Lineman pushing the tackling sled with line coach, Ryan Tate, riding the apparatus while blowing the whistle during a practice at Foster High School.
Foster expects improvement
By Ed Shepherd
Foster is going in the right direction despite a 2-4 Seamount League record last season.
That change is apparent by the way the Bulldogs played better the second half of the season than the first, including playing their best against the better teams, giving both Kennedy and Lindbergh scares.
Wins, almost. That's according to Bulldogs second-year head coach Matt Leonard, whose team lost 21-15 to Lindbergh, a team that beat Kennedy 38-14, last season. And, also, Foster lost to Kennedy 41-27, but the Bulldogs were biting until the very end.
"We were close, within a touchdown, driving on offense, with under a minute to go, and then we didn't convert on fourth down," said Leonard. "We had an opportunity."
Lindbergh won the 2A Seamount League last season and Kennedy won the 3A Seamount, both going to the state playoffs. So that's some solid competition for Foster to be that close to beating. And the word "build" is what Leonard wants to construct into focus for his players and coaching staff this season.
"We want to build on last season," said Leonard. "We have all the talent in the world. It's about commitment in the school work, and attention to the details on the field."
Anything Leonard would have done differently if last season could be tweaked?
"No, we had a young team last year, we started five sophomores," said Leonard. "Nothing I would do differently. We progressed from week to week, the trend is going in the right direction. We bring back 15 starters."
Leonard did mention that some good players "definitely were lost" to graduation, like Randy Tibbins, the quarterback who had the second most total yards in the league, running and throwing, and was a starter on defense. He also was an all-conference player.
In the place of Tibbins at quarterback will be a player Leonard says has got the ability to jump right in and do things -- junior Zane Jacobsen.
"Tibbins was a stud," said Leonard. "Second in total yards, a starter on defense, all conference player..."
But, in the same breath, and sentence, came the conjunction word, "but," and it was followed by words lauding Jacobsen's QB prowess.
"...but Zane's doing a good job picking up the offense," said Leonard. "He's got the intangibles. Smart. Very committed. A leader. He's resillient, too. Zane played some on varsity for us last year. He got up from a dislocated throwing finger injury and played the whole way through."
Jacobsen is from Mountain View Academy in Kent, too, but the Foster players fit him right in, as one of their own.
"The players voted him to be one of our team captains," said Leonard. "Zane's worked out all winter, spring, summer. He's just doing the things quarterbacks need to do to be successful."
Other players that Leonard put out there as a vote of confidence in them to do things both vocally and physically include captains at the top of the list -- Zane Galoia, Keith Hill and Patrick Saau, all seniors.
"Zane Galoia is a strong kid," said Leonard of his center, who is 5-foot-10 and 225 pounds. " I would like to have 20 players like him. He's a great kid. Leader. Sensational kid."
And, of the 5-10, 175 Saau, Leonard said, "He's our emotional leader. He's a physical player. He plays a lot of positions for us."
Hill plays tackle on offense and defensive end on defense, and, is 6-2, 215.
"Real physical," said Leonard. "Strong. Good athlete. He was outside linebacker and we just moved him inside."
The captains remember last season, the close games to Kennedy and Lindbergh, and didn't really say too much about them, if anything.
Instead, they chose to talk about the Bulldogs' team this year compared to the last one that was "super young," in Leonard's words.
"We're looking good, a lot of stuff to prove," said Saau. "We are bigger, faster, stronger."
Said Galoia, "Some players are missing from last year, but the young players are filling in the gaps well."
Jacobsen said, "I think we are looking real good. A lot of starters returning. Defense and offense is improving. Needs a little more improvement. But, I think we are going to beat some people down."
The coaching is good, these captains explained.
"He's great," said Saau. "He focuses on family, makes sure we progress in life. He focuses on us playing together as a team."
"I think he's funny, even when he's trying not to be," said Galoia.
"I like his attitude," said Hill. "He's expecting a lot and we are accepting the challenge. The coaches before him, with some people, they disagreed but this year's different."
And Jacobsen elaborated on Hill's words, "He's kind of like a relaxed coach. He can be jovial, at times, and then, like on the field, he can be serious."
Galoia added, "He's fun to be around in the lockerroom."
And, for the whole coaching staff along with Leonard, the accolades continued.
"They focus on football after life," said Jacobsen.
"They have a great relationship with us," said Galoia. "Before homecoming, they gave us great advice, saying not to reject girls."
"They teach us to be men," said Saau.
"They expect nothing less than greatness from us," said Jacobsen.
The coaches under Leonard include Fritz Martin, the defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach. Deleon Taplin is the outside linebackers coach, Nick Cairns the defensive backs coach, Amit Sharma the running back coach, Travis McKee the wide receivers coach, Pete Gonzalez the defensive line coach and Ryan Tate the line coach.
"Nice tight bunch," said Leonard.
Some other players Leonard mentioned were Patrick Straight, a returning 5-7, 140 pound wide receiver who Leonard said doesn't have to out-jump kids for the ball to be effective.
"He's just quick, defenders can't guard him," said Leonard. "Great hands, too. He's an athlete, a three-sport player."
And 5-10, 215 junior running back Alvin Noa received comments as well.
"He's our returning leading tackler, leading rusher, and led us in interceptions," said Leonard, who also said that Noa is probably the most talented as far as having an opportunity to make a major university football team after he graduates from high school.
But, that's not yet since he's not a senior.
"We have him for a couple years," said Leonard.
Leonard really liked the commitment of the team this past year.
"We had a strong core of kids in the weight room every day from January to May, before school let out," said Leonard. "A lot of 6 a.m. weight room days."
And, the summertime, too?
"Yeah, we had kids coming in then, too," said Leonard. "The thing about football is there is no off season."
So, the outlook looks good.
"We really have set our goal on the playoffs," said Leonard. "Get one of the two spots out of the Seamount."
And, this season looks a lot better in training camp practices compared to last, the experience factor weighing in, not as much initial work on fundamentals to start Leonard's year two of coaching, he and his staff?
"We hit the ground running this year," said Leonard. "There was a lot of teaching last season. And that is to be expected with my being a first-year coach with a new staff. We put in a new offense and defense to what fits us so took time for everyone to get used to that, changing the schemes, etc."
So it looks like the Bulldogs will be barking a pretty good decibel this season, making some noise in the Seamount against both 2A and 3A teams -- if the improvement shows up from last season's competitive finish to now.
The start of the season is against Interlake on Sept. 5 at Foster.
"We should be building off last year," said Leonard. "We should be making a 2A playoff run."
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