Bulldogs building a winning football team

If he can get his players “to play to their ability, be confident, trust the man next to him and the coach behind him and play fast and hard, we will be just fine,” Coach Matt Leonard says of his Foster High football team.

Key building blocks of Foster’s football team are top

Foster’s new football coach Matt Leonard sees a team filled with players who genuinely care for one another.

While there’s a core of juniors and seniors, there’s a roster full of young players learning the game of football. But he sees talent – and a few wins will end any doubts about the program.

“These kids have all the God-given talent that any other great team has,” he said. He’s expecting about 50 players on the team.

If he can get his players “to play to their ability, be confident, trust the man next to him and the coach behind him and play fast and hard, we will be just fine,” he said.

He’ll have a senior quarterback in Randy Tibbins.

Tibbins sees “a few wins” in the team’s season that will keep the team motivated, positioning it to do well in the playoffs.

“Honestly, I think the year is going to be a year for us to grow as a team,” he said. “For the future they are going to get better and better.”

Leonard takes over from Jim Sutrick, who resigned last year after four seasons with the team. The Bulldogs finished last year’s season 2-7 overall.

Asked how he’ll change the Bulldogs’ play, Leonard answers with a date: Sept. 6. That’s when the Bulldogs kick of their season against Bremerton, unveiling a brand of football that’s offensively and defensively different from last year’s.

The team’s first scrimmage was Aug. 15. Until then, players were conditioning in the weight room.

“Fitness isn’t an issue,” Leonard said. “We have had great workout participation and a very spirited weight room.”

There’s a countdown to that game on the conditioning-room white board.

Leonard has an extensive background playing multiple sports in high school and played rugby for four years at Eastern Washington University.

He graduated in 2002 from Bothell High School, where he was Cougars’ quarterback and was the KingCo 4A most-valuable player in wrestling. He taught at Bothell and coached sophomore football and was head wrestling coach there.

He went on to coach quarterbacks and special teams at Interlake High School and ran the wrestling program. The football teams he’s coached have always made it to the playoffs.

He plans to help out Foster’s wrestling team, too. He has an education degree and will work as a substitute teacher “until something opens up.”

Right now, he’s building a football team at Foster.

Some of the returning starters from last season’s team are running back and offensive linebacker Justice Muna, tackle and middle linebacker Carlos Brambilla, wide receiver and defensive back Charlee Simpson, wide receiver and defensive back Anthony and wide receiver and defensive back Patrick Straight.

A key loss is Micah Breland, team captain who played linebacker and tight end who graduated. Running back Devin Brown, a top playmaker, transferred to another school. Sophomore Cameron Myers also transferred.

“We are very young and will rely on a lot of young guys to play big minutes,” Leonard said. “We have a small group of seniors but they will all play heavy minutes and huge roles for us.”

Until they could get onto the field, players have been in the football classroom of sorts.

“We are really working on learning the game,” Leonard said. For some, that’s learning what “cover 4” means – a defender each in four deep quarters of the field – and the difference between a zone run, in which the runner finds a hole, and a power run, in which a hole is made for the runner.

And then there’s some of the intangibles, including confidence and “swagger.”

“We constantly preach discipline, finishing and playing with confidence,” he said.

Close games were lost last year because plays or drives weren’t finished, he said.

The team’s mission statement is right in front of it.

“’Finish Strong’” will be printed above our doorway to the locker room as a message to this team,” Leonard said.

Leonard is confident, too.

“I plan on winning, and winning a lot here at Foster,” he said.

[flipp]

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