By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
MILL CREEK – It’s just two days into practice for the Jackson football team and already one word seems as though it will define its season – finish.
After finishing undefeated in league play and winning the Wesco 4A South in 2012, the Timberwolves stumbled to a 2-4 league record and missed the postseason in 2013. Close early season losses to Edmonds-Woodway and Kamiak seemed to take a toll of the squad.
In order for that to change this season, the Timberwolves will have to play a full 48 minutes every night.
“Finish is a big word for us this year,” Vincent said. “When I stand in front of them and talk about finishing things, finishing plays, finishing games and finishing drives, that because of their experience this last year they’re going to understand what that means. We were in a lot of those games that were nail biters and we just couldn’t find a way to finish it.”
All of those things will start with the quarterback, senior Alex Cheesman. Cheesman started for the Timberwolves last season, but split time with Wesley Love. This season, there isn’t a question who will be taking the snaps.
“Alex is the man,” Vincent said. “Alex is the starter. He’s going to get all the snaps. Of course we would like to get games in certain situations where we can get some of those other kids in and get them some game time, but this is Alex’s job. He’s worked his tail off and we’re really looking for him to lead us this year and do some big things.”
With nearly 20 more players than they started with a season ago, quarterback is one of the few positions the Timberwolves don’t have competition. Vincent said competitions at linebacker, running back, safety and defensive line will be fun to follow over the next two weeks.
“It gets rid of any sense of complacency or being content,” Vincent said. “I think guys feel that when they’ve got a guy nipping at their heels and they’re hungry and they want that spot, it just pushes them to be better. Of course the guy chasing is working hard. The roundabout effect is, everybody gets better.”
The Timberwolves have 82 varsity players out this season – up from 65 a year ago – and nearly 130 including the freshmen.
The Timberwolves can only hope the competition at various spots and depth can lead to a renewed ability to finish games. So far, Vincent said he sees a team that is ready to take on that challenge together.
“This is a team that seems to really be together,” Vincent said. “We went to team camp at the University of Oregon this year and that was a great experience, not only because of the amount of football we got to play and kids working with the college coaches, but I thought that trip really brought this team together.
“I think I can really see the benefits of that right now.”
Head Coach: Joel Vincent (17th season)
Key Returners: Keynan Foster, Sr., WR/DB; Alex Cheesman, Sr., QB; Jason Cottingham, Sr., RB/LB; Bryan Betz, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan Fee, Jr., OL/DL; Jacob Saldana, Sr., RB/LB.
Coach’s Quote: “We have more depth this year and more bodies than we’ve had in a long time, but a lot of our guys are green. We are going to have a lot of first-time starters, so as talented as they are, the learning curve will be pretty steep. If we can weather the storm through the first couple of weeks and get these guys some experience, I really like what we have.”