SHS Sentinels advance to Class 2A Football playoffs

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SHS offense prepares to snap the ball in the first playoff game of the season.

For the second year in a row, the Steilacoom High School Sentinels are in the Class 2A Football play-offs. In the first playoff game on November 2, the Sentinels took the lead early in the first quarter and never lost it, defeating North Kitsap High School 38 to 15. The Sentinels will play their second playoff game on Friday Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. against the Tumwater T-Birds at Tumwater Stadium.

“We believed we were a playoff team before the season began,” Brian Koch, the head coach at SHS for six years, said. “We scheduled a very tough non-league schedule for our team, with the idea that we might take some lumps early on in the season but that it would make us better in the long run. In terms of our on-field performance, the turning point for us was probably the Fife game when we got beat by a team that our kids consider rivals. We simplified the playbook after that game, and really went back to work on the fundamentals and refocused our efforts. That loss was a big turning point for us as a group,” said Koch.

“It’s a good representation of all the hard work over the last year,” senior Jordan Leech, a right guard on the team, commented about making it to the state playoffs. “It feels good to see the results of our efforts.”

Quarterback Brendan Raschke, a sophomore, said, “I was very excited when we knew we were going to the playoffs. I knew this was how the seniors wanted to end their last year playing football and I’m fortunate to be part of their success.”

Koch cited senior leadership as one of the Sentinel team’s strengths this season.

“We returned 5 offensive linemen who were all starters as juniors last season, and that has really been a positive for us,” he shared. “They are team leaders and captains. We have also had a great group of young running backs and skill players step up for us this year as they assumed positions that were vacated by last year’s senior class.”

Seniors Jordan Leech, Jackson Leech (left guard), Travis Pine (right tackle) and John Santos (center) serve as team captains this year. All four are scholar athletes and have lettered in multiple sports.

SHS offense gets ready to charge in the playoff game.

The Sentinels football team began preparing for the season this summer with weight training. Many of the team members attended football camp in Ellensburg. In mid- August, the team practiced twice a day, five days a week with an extra practice on Saturdays. Jordan Leech said of the team, “We are a brotherhood. We are playing a game we love with our best friends every Friday night. There is nowhere else I would rather be.”

For the Leech twins and Raschke, the game against Washington High School stood out as one of their favorite experiences this season.

“The game against Washington felt like a turning point for the team,” Jackson Leech recalled.

“We won in overtime against an undefeated league rival and proved ourselves as a contender for the league title,” Raschke said of the Washington game. “We knew they were a good team and everyone doubted us. So we came together as a team and proved everyone wrong. It was a very exciting moment.”

The team is now gearing up for Friday’s game against Tumwater High School.

“Tumwater has a lot of strengths,” Koch said. “First and foremost is their tradition of winning. They’re one of the most successful high school football programs in the state of Washington, and their coaching staff is one of the most respected. We have a lot of admiration for what Coach Otton and his assistants have accomplished over the past 40 years. On the field itself, they are extremely disciplined.” He added, “They rarely make mistakes that hurt their team. Their offense is very explosive, and their running back Anthony Brown is one of the best athletes in the state. They also have a very tenacious defense that is led by a Division 1 recruit named Jamie Bryant, who is also a very talented player. Finally, one aspect that often gets overlooked with Tumwater is their Special Teams. They’ve scored a lot of points this season on kickoff and punt returns, so they’re very dynamic in that part of the game also.”

Jordan Leech is optimistic about Friday night’s game. “We are a good team and we can play with them,” he said. Jackson added, “We have come a long way and we are not done yet!”

“We sincerely hope that people will come out and support the Steilacoom football team, both this Friday at Tumwater High School, and next season,” Koch said.  “We are building a culture of success, and we need community support to take the program to the next level. We’d love to see people come out to the field on Friday nights next season as a family outing, bring the kids, grab a bag of popcorn, and enjoy a game. We need the support of the people of Steilacoom, DuPont, Lakewood, and JBLM to have success in the future and grow Steilacoom Football. We also hope people will continue to support the Youth Sentinels Football program for all of the work they are doing to promote football within our community. They do a fantastic job and we are really looking forward to having those youth sentinel players as high school athletes in the future.”

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