What's new: Coach Dave Telford
Don't tell Dave Telford you can't go home again.
Telford, who graduated from Stanwood in 1984, took over as the Spartans head coach in June and is now guiding a ship that his dad, Phil, did for nearly 15 years spanning three decades starting in the late 1970s.
"Every new stop is a new beginning. It may be the same stuff you're doing, but it's still a new stop and a new beginning," Telford said as he took a break during the Spartans' second practice on Thursday afternoon. "There's no doubt I'm excited about this. These kids have a great attitude, they work hard."
But being a high school head coach again — Telford was a head coach at Monroe between 2008-10 — was never the plan.
After spending two seasons as the quarterbacks coach at Indiana State, Telford wanted to return to the Northwest to be nothing more than an assistant coach. With a son nearing high school age, he didn't want to live the nomadic life of a college assistant anymore but didn't want to devote himself to being a head coach either.
Then the Stanwood job opened up. After only one season Doug Trainor abruptly resigned because of a failure to get a full-time position in the district. It would mean Stanwood would be moving on to its third coach in three years.
So Telford stepped up.
"Circumstances all being the same, if it wasn't Stanwood High I'm not sure I'd be doing this," Telford said. "If it wasn't my alma mater I'm not sure I'd be doing this."
The pieces started falling into place last spring. Searching for a job back home, Telford stumbled upon an opportunity at the Stanwood alternative high school when a teacher needed time off. He was hired as a temporary replacement but when the other teacher decided not to come back he was hired full time.
"Everything just fell together," Telford said.
Telford now has to get used to coaching high school kids again. A college coach for 15 seasons between 1989-2004 and then again for the past two, Telford said that there are a few differences, including the fact college coaches have a bit more leverage with players on scholarship, but he's confident that high school kids can understand complex schemes — it just takes a little more time.
"These kids are smart. They can learn," Telford said. "It's not like they can't run the schemes in college. They can. The difference is they're not ready made yet. You have to take some time to get them there."
Taking over a team that is now on its third coach in three years, Telford has made it clear to the players that he's not going anywhere soon.
"He's made it clear that he's here for the long run," said senior quarterback Drew Wright. "I'm excited for the kids coming up that get to play for him because he's a really great coach and great guy."
Returning All-Wesco players
Honorable mention—Alec Scappini; Drew Wright, QB
Player to watch: Drew Wright, QB
It's never fun to have to learn a new coach's system.
Just ask Drew Wright. The Stanwood quarterback has had to get to know three different coaches over his four-year career at Stanwood.
But this year he couldn't have asked for a better one. Telford not only played the position in high school and college but has coached it on the collegiate level, including most recently at Indiana State the past two years. Also Wright has known Telford since he was a kid, dating back to when Wright's father worked with Telford years ago.
That does mean that Telford isn't above calling out his senior signal-caller.
"At camp he'd call me out and stop the whole scrimmage just to make fun of me and fix things," Wright said.
But overall Wright is happy Telford has brought his expertise to Stanwood.
"He's a true quarterback coach," Wright said. "Coach Trainor was great, but his specialty was not quarterbacks. (Telford) has really coached me through things a lot this summer."
Wright had his struggles last year, but Telford said the 6-foot-2 quarterback has made strides this summer to improve his consistency and decision-making.
"I don't know what he was being taught," Telford said of watching film on Wright's performance last year. "All I can go off of is what I'm telling him now. And the things I'm telling him and asking him to do now he's making good decisions, doing good things. He's only had one time where he had a bad stretch during camps and he bounced back from it. He's protecting the football much better."
One thing that will help is that Telford kept much of the offense the same as it was a year ago.
At least one thing didn't change.
Fresh face: Laurence Wanambisi, WR
Used to playing soccer in his native Kenya, Wanambisi was a bit confused the first time he stepped foot on a football field.
"I don't think he even knew what sport we were playing," said Wright, who considers Wanambisi a step brother after Wright's family took Wanambisi in to live with them.
Since that first practice, though, Wanambisi has become a force on the field. Standing 6-foot-3 with big hands and a long gait, Wanambisi has the physical tools to be a big-time wideout. Now he's matching a football IQ with it that could make him dangerous on Friday nights.
"He's got a lot of learning still but you look at a guy in terms of athleticism, he's got a big body that can go do some things," Telford said. "Matchup-wise he's big, he can run, he can catch. He's physical and he's strong in the weight room. He's got a chance to be special if he can continue the learning curve."
Over the summer Wanambisi, who missed most of last season with a hip injury, turned some heads at a few 7-on-7 passing camps the Spartans attended. Wanambisi was so good in the passing camp at Evergreen State College that he won player of the camp over players from teams like Bothell and Eastlake.
"I've really kept my mind off everything and focused on football for my senior season," Wanambisi said of his summer regimen.
Now that he understands the sport he's playing better, Wanambisi is primed for a breakout senior campaign.
With a large senior class, Stanwood went into last season with high hopes.
But after winning their first two games, the Spartans lost their next five and did so in spectacular fashion, losing by a combined score of 240-29.
This year that senior class is gone and so is last year's coach Doug Trainor. This year Telford steps in as head coach and has some repairing to do. First and foremost that begins with building Stanwood's confidence back up. If anyone can boost the Spartans' confidence, it looks like it could be Telford. He has a history of rebuilding teams after helping lead Monroe nearly back to the playoffs for the first time since 1992 in 2010.
The offense this year will revolve around Wright and his ability to get the ball to playmakers like Wanambisi and running back Chad Niven. The defense has plenty of starters to replace, but Telford is confident they can do good things on that side of the ball.
Stanwood's fate rests along the line. Stanwood has to replace a lot of starters, including Kyle O'Donnell and Travis Jones, and youth and inexperience is never good in the trenches.
"We've got our work cut out for us there," Telford admitted. "We'll do the best we can with what we've got. We'll do everything we can to simulate playing under the lights so that first Friday night isn't a star-struck deal for some of these kids. But I think they had some good confidence after some of those camps we went. We got to line up against Bothell, Eastlake, Issaquah, some quality programs and we fared OK. We hung in there and competed.
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