MILL CREEK — For the first time in more than two decades, the Jackson High School football team opened fall practice with a new head coach.
The Timberwolves officially kicked off the Mason Siddick era Wednesday, which marked the opening day of high school football practices across the state.
Siddick took over as Jackson’s head coach this past spring, replacing Joel Vincent after the Timberwolves’ longtime coach stepped down last November following 21 seasons at the helm.
Joining Siddick at Jackson is an almost entirely new group of assistant coaches, with only one holdover from last year’s coaching staff.
And during this transition-filled offseason for the Timberwolves, the new staff also implemented plenty of changes on both offense and defense.
“The way these guys have responded to just totally new everything has been great, especially when it’s on both sides of the ball,” Siddick said. “It’s been a lot for them to take in, but they’ve risen to the challenge, and I’m proud of them for that.”
Born in Zimbabwe, Siddick moved with his family to the United States in 2001 and was a standout on the Lake Washington High School football team. He went on to play at Carroll College in Montana, where he was a first-team all-conference defensive lineman and co-captain on the Fighting Saints’ 2010 NAIA national championship team.
Following his playing career, Siddick served as an assistant coach at Carroll for five seasons. Then after taking a year off from coaching and moving to Washington to be closer to family, he entered the high-school coaching ranks.
Siddick spent the 2017 season as a defensive-line coach at Snohomish High School and last season as a co-defensive coordinator and defensive-line coach at Inglemoor High School.
When asked about their new head coach, a pair of Jackson players first mentioned the energy and competition Siddick has infused into the program.
“His juice is flowing to pump up the team,” senior receiver and defensive back Garrett Holden said. “It really gets people more excited and pumped up to come out to practice every day.”
“It’s really fun being here and the competitive nature that he’s brought out to us through all the conditioning and stuff,” junior receiver and defensive back Kenan Quill said. “It’s really a beautiful thing to see.”
With his extensive background playing and coaching defense, Siddick will call plays on that side of the ball as Jackson’s defensive coordinator. He said the Timberwolves will operate out of a 4-3 base defense, as opposed to the primarily three-man defensive fronts they used last season.
“My passion is defense,” Siddick said. “I love defensive football, so that’s where most of my focus is. … We want to get after the quarterback with four-man pressure.”
On the other side of the ball, former Snohomish head coach Kai Smalley takes the reins as Jackson’s offensive coordinator. Siddick was an assistant coach under Smalley at Snohomish in 2017, and the two were assistant coaches together at Inglemoor last season.
Siddick said the Timberwolves’ offense will feature a power-run scheme with spread passing concepts.
“Usually with the spread now, it’s all zone,” he said. “But I’m a little bit of an old-school kind of coach. I love smashmouth football, so I want to run that power.”
The hope for Jackson is that all these changes help build a winning tradition in a program that’s struggled as of late.
The Timberwolves haven’t had a winning season in conference play since 2012, when they claimed the Wesco 4A South title and last advanced to state. Since then, Jackson has had just one winning season overall. The Timberwolves went 4-6 last year, including 2-5 in Wesco 4A play.
“It all starts with how we’re competing and how much effort we’re putting into it,” Quill said. “And we were working (this offseason). It was a lot of work. It was a lot of grinding.
“I feel like that’s the biggest thing we need in a winning season is everyone believing and really clocking into the fact that it takes a lot of work to win games. And we fully believe. … The energy is different.”