SWAC Junior Football Seniors division players running during a recent practice at Chief Sealth High School.
SLIDESHOW: SWAC Cougars will host Jamboree Aug. 24; Junior football is about to kickoff
By Ed Shepherd
Tick, tick, tick...
It's time for the SWAC Cougars to play ball after they began practicing back on July 28.
They are getting ready to host the Greater Seattle Youth Football League's Jamboree on Sunday, Aug. 24 before the CD Panthers come to Chief Sealth High School for the first game of the season Sept. 6.
Seniors coach Shon Sweet leads the group of players who mostly were together winning a Juniors division championship last season, beating the Kent Cobras, 19-18. But one learns from talking to him that there's a lot more to be learned in football than just winning the championship.
"We want to teach these kids about winning in life," said Sweet, who coached as an assistant on that Virgil Riley coached Juniors champion team.
Riley's been coaching SWAC a long time, 17 years, and he turned the reins of the Juniors over to another coach and stepped in under Sweet this season as an assistant on the Seniors team.
As head coach Sweet wants these players to win a championship, for sure. That would be nice to do, again. But, at the end of the day, or "season" as the case may be, Sweet wants his players to just leave with a smile.
"The goal is to be smiling at the end of the last game," said Sweet. "If the last game is the championship, great, we can smile after it. But, if it's been a rough season, we want to be smiling after that last game, too."
Sweet's coaching a team that's not going to be hyped up for its star skill position players -- that's not his style. His style is much more of the "earned" variety.
"I told Dustin Camacho at the beginning of the season that if he came in the top five in running consistently I will take him off the line and let him be a running back," said Sweet. "And, he did it. Dustin will be one of my starting running backs in the backfield this season. He's earned it."
Camacho did some good things also last season on the Juniors, being one of three moving up from that SWAC championship squad, and Sweet was happy to mention one of them.
"He had one of the biggest hits of the game in that championship," said Sweet.
It's in the blood for Camacho to be a backfield player in football.
"His brother is a running back at Chief Sealth, so he's got that running ability in him."
Another name of note from that strong Juniors championship team that Sweet helped coach with Riley is Kaden Barrett.
"He earned a spot on the Juniors as one of the smallest guys, probably weighs 120 pounds soaking wet," said Sweet. "But he came out here and beat out a bigger guy for a starting spot on the line."
Dante McMillan also is a guy who earned his way to skill positions from being on the line.
"He started at right guard(offensive line) four or five years ago and the following year he earned a spot in the backfield," said Sweet.
So that's how Sweet runs things and enjoys things, as he's been coaching with SWAC for six years now. He has two nephews on the team that he's gone through coaching at all the different divisions who are now Seniors.
Bishop Jackson was one last name that Sweet said would make a difference on the team wherever he lines up.
"He can play any position," said Sweet. "His brother plays at Eastside Catholic High School and he will probably be one of the top college recruits in the state."
The Pee Wees, the youngest division, first and second graders, is coached by Dondrey Whitted and wants to win the championship.
"Winning the championship is the goal," said Whitted, whose team won one game under his coaching two years ago and four games last year. "Our expectations are to be at the top of the division."
And Whitted's players are going to know exactly how that gets accomplished.
"Hard work ethic," said Whitted. "They are all going to give it their all from the hike to the whistle, every play, try their hardest."
Whitted's practice structure was well organized.
"They go through excercises and running and after that half-hour they get a water break," said Whitted. "Then we break them into fundamentals. Quarterback and center work on snaps and hikes, and the offensive line and defensive line work on blocking and pass rushing. And running backs do ball fundamentals, like holding onto the ball, how to read holes, and, lateral work. Linebackers and defensive backs work on block shedding and angle of pursuit."
Whitted is all about a well-filled practice, and winning is in mind. That's expected, but more than that is expected from himself as well as his Pee-Wees players.
"We want them to be champions in life," said Whitted.
As for the way to holding a trophy at the end of the season, Whitted said, "One person's athleticism won't take us to the championship."
Whitted spoke of how he wants to help kids learn life lessons.
"Some kids come from single parent homes and they may not have much discipline and teaching," said Whitted.
So he wants to provide them that.
And providing some names of kids that should make a difference for the Pee-Wees, Whitted mentioned his son, quarterback Dondrey Whitted Jr.,
"He's not going to be outworked."
Amarr Murphy, a running back, "Understands the game. He's a second year player, and he retains information well. He is tough. He runs through arm tackles."
J'shun Glover is going to be free safety.
"If they score a touchdown on us, they will have to beat J'shun to the endzone," said Whitted of his last man back, who will be running after the ball if passed or ready and waiting for any foe's running back getting past the defensive line and linebackers.
Jo-Jo Matautia is a defensive line guy who Whitted said is a "big, strong, fast player. He knows how to use his strength advantage well."
Whitted just is wanting and expecting everyone from coaches to players to understand this game of football better. That is a good thing to do for understanding life, now and later.
"We expect extreme discipline," said Whitted. "It's all about showing them the fundamentals, myself and the other coaches. We want them to work hard, from key guys down to first year players."
A couple players came aside and spoke too, and though young in age, both Matautia and Whitted Jr. spoke well.
What's this season going to be like?
"We are going to go to the championship," said Whitted Jr.
Is football more fun than video games?
"Yeah," said Whitted Jr. "Because you can do it in person."
Can't hit someone in a video game?
"But in person you can," said Whitted Jr.
And Matautia said what he likes about football.
"Sacking the quarterback," he said.
And how's one do that?
"Getting off the blocks," said Matautia.
And your coaches?
"They do go hard on us, but they teach us hard," said Whitted Jr.
And, it's not easy getting a spot on this team but it's fair and square that one gets it.
"You have to earn your position," said Whitted Jr. "There is no favoritism."
The Juniors are a division that's looking to rebuild as the majority of the championship team players moved up to the Seniors level.
Their coach is Arron Murphy.
"We're getting there. Being disciplined is the main thing," said Murphy. "Everything is about paying attention to details. If we do the small things right, everything should fall into place."
There's a good debate at quarterback, so to speak, as three players are battling for that leadership position, with Richard Garcia penned to run the offensive first string.
"It's pretty tight, competition-wise," said Murphy. "No one's really been named."
That means that Josiah Vaomu is a candidate for QB as is Aliya Yong-Holm."
One position that is solid is running back, and no question that K'son Mika is that spot. And, his work ethic after practice showed a lot. He was out of breath talking after practice.
"I go and run hills after practice," said Mika.
On your own, not with rest of team?
"Yeah," he said.
And he knows that besides paying attention being important to Murphy, it's important to give it your all or you can expect consequences.
"If you don't run your hardest, then you will run laps," said Mika.
Murphy echoed his running back's words, "Not paying attention, then, there will be penalties. Got to pay attention, constant motion of the eyes. If you get caught not paying attention in a game, you get blind-sided, and, it's over."
Blind-sided means getting hit where you're not looking and that can be quite a jolt and there's a much better chance of not having that happen if you are paying attention during a game, which comes from paying attention in practice.
The 89ers are the last division and their coach, Fred Brown, is still thinking about last season, as he coached this division last season, too.
"We had a chance to make the playoffs but lost in the last 39 seconds," said Brown. "We need to focus on playing the full 40 minutes of football."
The 89ers' quarterback is Zach Luz.
"Zach has a good arm. He can throw the ball to the guys running the routes. He plays safety, too, on defense. So, he's got a little bit of speed, too."
A running back that Brown's team will be anchored by is Dane Camacho.
"He's a team captain," said Brown. "He pays attention. You will hear about him when he gets to high school. He's one of the hardest hitters on the team when he plays defense as middle linebacker."
Jyvon Camarillo will back up Luz at quarterback but his main spot will be an outside linebacker.
"He's stepping up," said Brown. "Getting better at paying attention. Guys who have a year under their belt know what to do."
And Elijah Brady is also a player that Brown sees doing things.
"He plays a little quarterback, too, but he is a starting wide receiver. And he's an outside linebacker. He's a hitter, too."
Camarillo remembers last year.
"We are going to do a lot better than last year," he said.
Camacho spoke of the team's ability to get things done together.
"We always work as a team," he said.
And Elijah Brady really put some incentive into the season.
"If we don't win the championship, we all have to run 20 hills," he said.
Helping Brown is assistant coach Anthony Berkley, who will be offensive coordinator, and he spoke of what this Junior Football is all about and he spoke of what other coaches have said, making it a nice "life" theme.
"We want to teach them life skills through discipline and hard work, so when they are 18 they are not coming through a window at 2 a.m.," said Berkley. "Because at some level, we will have to interract with these kids. I am just interracting at this age, when they are younger, on a positive level."
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