Young Jefferson optimistic


Sports editor

The Thomas Jefferson football team is feeling the effects of the new $70 pay-to-play mandate passed down this fall by the school district, according to coach Kevin Hanis.

Hanis and the rest of his coaching staff currently have 46 sophomores, juniors and seniors turning out for the Raiders, compared to the over 70 kids he had this same time last year.

“Our numbers are way down,” Hanis said. “I think the $70 fee has a lot to do with it.”

But, even with the low turnout, the coach is optimistic when it comes to the Raiders’ 2003 South Puget Sound League South Division chances. The Raiders finished the 2002 season with a 2-7 record, which was good for seventh in the tough South.

“We will be young, but talented,” said Hanis. “Our team speed will be much improved.”

Jefferson returns one of the better athletes in the league — wide receiver/defensive back Kyle Jenkins — and sports one of the biggest front lines in the nine-team league. Jenkins is the leading returning receiver in the SPSL with 38 catches for nearly 400 yards and is getting some Division I attention from schools like Brigham Young, according to Hanis. Jenkins runs a 4.56 40-yard dash and won the state triple jump championship in the spring.

On the line, the Raiders will feature three kids over 270 pounds in senior Jason Baker (6-5, 275) and juniors Kacy Hansen (6-1, 270) and Joe Wolleat (6-2, 270).

“Baker is getting some looks (from college programs),” Hanis said. “He has finally filled out. I am really pleased with the way he is progressing. He weighed about 210 pounds as a sophomore and is now up to 275.”

But the backs behind the big offensive line are the big question marks coming into the season. Gone are starting quarterback Jared Bronson and all-league tailback Michael Smith. Both are playing at Pima College in Arizona. Also graduating was 300-pound lineman Aaron Gilbert, who is playing at Central Washington.

Senior James Partridge will step into Bronson’s shoes at quarterback. The 6-3 right-hander started the Raiders final game last season against Curtis and performed well, Hanis said.

“He was kind of thrown into the fire. So that is kind of nice for this year.”

But the running back position is a little more up in the air. A group of backs will compete for playing time, according to Hanis.

“It is going to be running back by committee,” he said. “We are going to give a lot of guys a chance to run the ball.”

Jefferson opens the season at home on Friday against Rogers, who most pick as one of the bottom-dwellers in the league. Hanis sees Bethel as the team to beat again in the South. Decatur, Puyallup and Curtis should also be vying for one of the league’s three playoff berths.

“It is going to be fun,” Hanis said.

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