The hazy conditions forced many teams indoors as football practice kicked off across the state. The Lancers used the time to learn how to play defense as well as they play on offense.
Wednesday’s hazy skies allowed Kennedy Catholic to get a clear mind about one of its biggest goals of the football season — improving its defense.
“We’re creating a defensive identity for the first time and are going to be the most improved defensive team in the state,” said third-year Lancers coach Sheldon Cross, whose opponents scored an average of 29.6 points per game against his 6-4 team last year.
Washington schools opened practice on Wednesday. Many around the Puget Sound were forced into gymnasiums because of air quality deemed “unhealthy,” according to readings by the Environmental Protection Agency. The film of smoky pollution from wildfires in Canada and California was expected to push toward the Sound by nightfall, improving conditions the remainder of the week.
Archbishop Murphy was among the programs to alter their outdoor practice schedule for opening day due to the air quality. The Federal Way and Issaquah school districts canceled all outdoor activities. Skyline coach Mat Taylor said via text the Spartans’ opening practice consisted of short drills and meetings indoors.
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“It’s disappointing not to be able to get them outside and be confined to a gym,” Monroe coach Michael Bumpus said via text. “Thankfully it sounds like most of our (WesCo 4A) league is indoors, so no one is getting an advantage.”
Cross used the situation to extend film sessions with his young team. Signs throughout Kennedy’s locker room read “Stop the Run” as part of the mission. And it was reiterated as the team put on its red helmets for drills on the basketball court.
The Lancers were known for their offensive show last season. Quarterback Sam Huard threw for 3,432 yards and 34 touchdowns. The son of former NFL and Washington quarterback Damon Huard was named National Freshman of the Year by MaxPreps.com.
“We’d score a ton of touchdowns on offense, but if we can’t match it on defense, it doesn’t matter,” Kennedy senior lineman Marshall Hatfield said. “Our goal is to hold teams down to zero and our offense keep going up. So, (Wednesday) was all mental and the mental reps are key.”
Kennedy Catholic has five new defensive coaches. Alum Nolan Washington, who starred at Washington State, is coordinating the schemes along with Martez Johnson, who was last on Seattle Prep’s coaching staff.
The Lancers, a small private school in Burien that competes in Class 4A, are part of the top-tier in the newly reformatted North Puget Sound League. Kennedy Catholic opens its season with road games against Chief Sealth and Bothell, which lost in the opening round of the state tournament last year.
Another sign throughout the Kennedy locker room displays the Tacoma Dome with the Lancers’ logo. It’s the only other time Kennedy Catholic wants to be indoors — when playing for a state championship in December.
“Football is like, 90 percent mental,” Huard said. “Film is where you get better. So, it sucks that we’re not able to practice (outdoors), but this was good for us to all be able to get in the film room together. I already feel more prepared and confident about the season.”