Meadowdale High School filled its football head-coaching vacancy from within.
James Harmon, the Mavericks’ defensive coordinator for the past three seasons, has been named the school’s new head football coach.
Harmon replaces Matt Leonard, who coached Meadowdale’s football program for the past four years before stepping down last month to accept a pair of high-school coaching positions in Texas.
It’s the first head-coaching job for Harmon, who has nine seasons of experience as a high school defensive coordinator.
“As soon as I got the phone call, it was just pure excitement,” Harmon said of his reaction to being named head coach. “I’ve been saying for a lot of years that I don’t need to be a head coach to feel satisfied in my career. It’d have to be the right place and the right time. And this was, for me, the right place and the right time.”
Harmon began his coaching career as a defensive coordinator in New Mexico, where he spent three seasons at Los Lunas High School and three seasons at Volcano Vista High School in Albuquerque. At the latter, he also helped with the team’s offense.
Harmon then joined Meadowdale’s coaching staff in 2016 and has been in charge of the team’s defense for the past three years. He’s also held additional roles, such as the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator.
Harmon is an Edmonds School District elementary teacher, and his wife works in the district as well.
“We feel really good about the fact that he’s a part of our Meadowdale community and that he’ll bring that sense of family and community, because he’s here, we believe, for the long haul,” Meadowdale athletic director Beth Marriott said.
“He’s familiar with the boys (and) familiar with the way the program works,” she added. “We’re very comfortable with him and feel that he’s the right transition. … We’re excited to have James at the helm of this program.”
In addition to his head-coaching duties, Harmon will be Meadowdale’s offensive coordinator. Assistant coach Michael Cooke will replace Harmon as defensive coordinator.
The biggest change Harmon has implemented is a more run-first offense, as opposed to the spread attack the Mavericks had under Leonard.
“We kind of threw the ball around (in previous years) to open up our running lanes, and we’re just going to flip that,” Harmon said. “We’re going to have a focus on our big offensive linemen up front. … We’re going to lean heavy on them.
“We’re going to run the ball and hopefully set up the passing game. We’re more of like a pro-style offense with tight ends and more than one running back. We’re going to be a running team first now.”
After Leonard stepped down last month, Harmon led the Mavericks through the remainder of spring practice, as well as team camp at Evergreen State College in Olympia.
“These kids really loved coach Leonard,” Harmon said. “They enjoyed having him as their head coach. … When he left, it was kind of at a good time. Our kids were on a break from football practice, so they had a grieving period — some getting-over-it time.
“Then (when) we came back the next Monday, to be completely honest, it felt more intense at practice. It felt like the kids were driven by something bigger than they had been. And the coaching staff and I have just been ecstatic since then.”
Harmon said he’s striving to continue what Leonard built at Meadowdale over the past several seasons, which included the program’s first-ever state semifinal appearance in 2016. The Mavericks are coming off a 3-6 campaign last year, but return the bulk of their roster after graduating just 12 seniors.
“For three years that I’ve been here at Meadowdale, I feel like we’ve been building something special, and coach Leonard was the catalyst of that,” Harmon said. “He was our leader, and I’ve been right in there with him, … so I don’t see much changing as far as the way the program is run.
“I feel confident,” he added. “We’ve had a great spring and our camp was awesome. I’m looking forward to August so we can get back on the football field. We’re going to go as far as our leaders will take us, and I feel we’ve got some good ones.”