EVERETT — The Cascade High School football team has been on the upswing since a two-win 2015 campaign, but still doesn’t necessarily have the same size and depth as the powerhouse Wesco 4A programs.
What the Bruins do have, though, is a three-headed monster at running back that can keep opposing teams’ high-powered offenses off the field and leave defenses off balance and guessing who’s getting the ball and which direction it’s going to go in Cascade’s Wing-T offense.
“The modern day offense that (some) teams run is a lot like basketball. It’s like basketball on grass. A lot of it is built on tempo and rhythm,” said first-year Bruins coach Jordan Sieh.
“I think with the good running game … if you can just grind out some first downs and control the ball, not only are you giving (opposing offenses) less possessions, but some of their really good athletes are standing on the sidelines. If you’re like a shooter in basketball, you want to keep shooting, you want to move the ball and you want to push, push, push. I really do think it messes teams up, and coaches sometimes (think about) how many more chances they’re going to get the football, so maybe they press in some of their play-calling as well.”
The Bruins have a senior class that wants to leave its own stamp on a program that’s improved from two wins in 2015 to three in 2016 and five a season ago.
“Cascade in the past has had many great leaders,” Cascade senior running back/nose tackle Josh Velhagen said. “We’ve (filled their) shoes, and we want to be the leaders for those upcoming underclassmen.”
Seniors such as Velhagen, wingback/linebacker Max Nelson and offensive lineman/defensive lineman Chris Rabideau started their Cascade football careers on that two-win squad and have seen the ensuing progression of the program.
“I think this year it’s going to be kind of the same trend upwards,” Nelson said.
In order for the Bruins to continue that upward trend, they’ll have to be disciplined in executing their offensive game plan.
“I want my guys to play fast and know exactly where they’re going,” Sieh said.
Cascade’s rushing attack will be led by senior wingback Max Nelson and juniors Jordan Harris (halfback) and Devanta Murphy (fullback), with Velhagen also working into the mix.
“I think (the offense) keeps the other team’s defense on their toes,” Nelson said. “Really, they’re not going to know who’s going to get the ball because we have so much talent.”
Even with many talented backs, Cascade’s players know they each need be unselfish and play their role in the offense, whether they’re getting the ball or not.
“The Wing-T creates a brotherhood,” Velhagen said. “If one guy has something to do, all of us have something to do, because one person can’t just do everything. It takes all of us, all 11 guys on the field, to do what they need to do.”
With that being said, the Bruins’ young offensive line will be just as important as their talented backfield.
“Man, I really do feel if we can get (our running backs) through the line of scrimmage, they can have a lot success,” Sieh said.
Sieh, who helped lead Cascade to the state semifinals as a player in 2005 and was an assistant with the program before his promotion to head coach, takes over after the resignation of Shane Keck, a seamless conversion for his players.
“The transition was awesome,” Nelson said. “I like the fact that we’re keeping the Wing-T. I think it’s easy on a lot of the guys since we’ve been learning it since Keck put it in (2016), so i think it’s been really smooth. Coach Sieh runs a tight ship, and I like that.”
“I feel like he has a good handle on the whole team around here,” Velhagen said, “and I feel like we are more prepared as a team, as in discipline wise.”
That preparation and discipline will be key when the team takes on Wesco 4A powers Lake Stevens and Monroe. Whether it’s a big game from Harris, Nelson, Murphy or somebody else, the Bruins know the biggest thing their offense needs to do, according to Nelson: “Rush for a lot of yards.”