You don’t have to dig very deep to find out what will be motivating the Washington High School football team this season.
A disappointing 12-7 loss to Mission on Turkey Day that ruined what would have been an undefeated Academic Athletic Association season was followed by the curious and abrupt departure of coach Karl Finley on June 26.
The mention of either moment sets off an emotional response from the returning core of seniors.
“It was pretty chaotic for a while, for him to leave so suddenly at that moment, and then learning a whole new system,” Elijah Murray, an incoming senior, said of Finley’s exit. “I felt I had been stabbed in the back — the ultimate betrayal.”
“I cried like a child,” Victor Rivera, another incoming senior, said of the Turkey Day loss. “To this day it hurts.”
Those wounds, however, are beginning to heal, starting with the quick hire of new coach Taylan Plasch, who was officially given the reigns to the program July 9.
Plasch, who has been a physical education teacher at Washington for five years and was the school’s athletic director from 2008 to 2010, admits he’s a little overwhelmed, juggling getting to know players and scheduling vacancies that were supposed to be handled by Finley.
He has already worked out a preseason scrimmage with St. Ignatius, but the Eagles still have open non-league dates in Week 0 and Week 2, and are currently scheduled to play just eight total games with non-league matchups against El Camino in Week 1 and Piedmont in Week 3.
Despite Finley’s exit, the team will look awfully familiar.
As if they have a cloning factory in the locker room, the Eagles will again feature a pair of backs with very different skill sets.
The first, a straight-ahead power runner, is senor Jerron Williams, who will also start at linebacker. The second is Murray, a speedy edge runner, who will also play as a wide receiver in the slot and will start as a defensive back for the second straight year.
“Ever since we got here, there’s always been a duo that people remember,” Williams said. “We have that this year and we’ve learned from the past backs, so we’ll be better this year.”
Driving the running attack will be four returning starters on the offensive line, including seniors Sergio Alvarado (first team All-AAA last season) and Rivera (second team).
Many pieces of the Washington defense that allowed just over 10 points per game are back as well, but the one question mark on either side of the ball appears to be at quarterback.
Senior Simon Ma will be under center to start the season for the second straight year, but he had constant issues with fumbles last year.
Now, the team is his, and Plasch has also indicated he wants to throw the ball more than Washington teams of the past.
“It’s exciting, because it’s an opportunity to show what our athletes are capable of, by spreading the ball around, instead of just a one-way ground attack,” Ma said.