Thomas Jefferson Raiders
Head coach: Scott Morgan
2016 record: League: 1-6, Overall: 2-8
2016 postseason: No postseason appearance
2016 key departures: Mason Delacruz (RB), Sonny Fuavai (TE, DL), Andrew Fernandez (OL),
2017 key returners: Jayvon Buckey (RB), Daniel Fernandez (OL), Bijan San Luis (OL), Ruperake Fuavai (LB), Chase Fazio (Punter) Charles Wight ( RB, OLB)
At a glance: Thomas Jefferson entered last season with high expectations, hoping to produce a league title the way it did in 2015, but 2016 did not work out that way. The Raiders did not compete for the league title, nor did they obtain a playoff spot. After winning their first game against Kentridge comfortably, the Raiders went on a five-game losing streak, averaging 36.8 points against and only 15.2 points for.
If the Raiders want to relive their 2015 glory, head coach Scott Morgan will be an asset. Coaching the team from 2002-07 and 2010-present means he knows the structure better than anyone. He has seen the Raiders play at the highest level and the lowest.
“We had to play a lot of kids who didn’t have a lot of playing time, and they took a few hits last season,” Morgan said. “This year, they have a season under their belt, and it should go much better.”
The Raiders also need to replace key players such as quarterback/defensive back Mason Delacruz and tight end/defensive lineman Sonny Jefferson. Filling these holes in both defense and offense by young talent is what Morgan will aim to do to produce a stronger team than 2016.
“They are both great players,” Morgan said. “When other teams were looking at us last year, they were looking at Sonny and Mason, but we have fresh new talent who can come in and fill those holes.”
The Raiders kick off their season with a home game against Kentridge at 7 p.m. Sept. 1.
Todd Beamer Titans
Head coach: Darren McKay
2016 record: League: 7-0, Overall: 8-2
2016 postseason: Loss to Bellarmine Prep 17-2 in playoff game
2016 key departures: Lincoln Liulama (DL), Jamaal Ioane (OL), Caleb Crichton (DL), Desmond Nelton (LB), Jayshayn Ware (DB), Dylan Alley (Kicker), Parker Edwards (Punter)
2017 key returners: Colin McKay (OB), Kuma Scanlan (DB), Alexx Schmidt (OL), Patrick Tofilau (TE), Billy Vann (RB)
At a glance: Todd Beamer is winning for fun. Last year, the Titans finished with a winning record for the third season in a row. They won their NPSL division and looked strong going into playoffs. All their hard work in the season ended, however, when they could not produce under the pressure of an elimination game.
The Titans should be optimistic heading into 2017. What separates them from opponents is their defense, which averaged only 12.2 points against per game last season. Getting in the end zone against the wall the Titans created should be a challenge for any opposition.
“We’ve done this before,” coach Darren McKay said. “We look a little bit different [in 2017]. We’re not quite as big as we’ve been in the past, but we do have some experienced playmakers.”
The Titans kick off their season with an away game against Spanaway Lake at 7 p.m. Sept. 1
Game to look out for: Todd Beamer vs. Federal Way
The Titans facing the Eagles is always an entertaining rivalry, with the Titans coming out on top the past two seasons. Although Beamer currently has the edge, Federal Way has been known to win this match up in the past. Both the Titans and the Eagles lost key offensive weapons, so it will be interesting to find out which team will cope with losing those pieces.
Federal Way Eagles
Head coach: John Meagher
2016 record: League: 3-4, Overall: 6-5
2016 postseason: Loss to Lake Stevens 42-10
2016 key departures: Gabe Togia (QB), KJ Ridders (RB), Jaeger Steckler (WR), Tony Chan (OL), Warren Fonoti (OL), Richard Oganga (DL), Draven Mose (DL), Kelen Blackshire (DL)
2017 key returners: Alphonzo Tuputala (RB), Trey Davis (WR), Tim Faoa (OL), Iki Tiuli (DL) Eric Jones (RB)
At a glance: Federal Way had an average season, at best, in 2016. What makes the upcoming season even more challenging is losing first-team NPSL quarterback Gabe Togia. Losing both Togia and four offensive linemen means the Eagles’ offense has holes that need to be filled.
“Right now we have a couple kids giving it a shot at quarterback,” coach John Meagher said. “One is Soloman Bang, a wide receiver who was injured the majority of last season. Alphonzo Tuputala will also play some QB. Our defense should be solid, and our overall team speed is strong.”
The Eagles will not be able to rely solely on their offense in 2017. Although they showed glimpses of brilliance in 2016, scoring 40-plus points three times during the regular season, their O-line and QB will not be the same. Meagher is confident though, as he said his defense has gotten much stronger.
If the Eagles can work out their offensive kinks, they could surprise a few people.
The Eagles kick off their first 2017 game away against Tahoma at 7 p.m. Sept. 1.
Decatur Golden Gators
Head Coach: Levi Suiaunoa
2016 record: League: 0-7, Overall: 1-9
2016 postseason: No postseason appearance
2016 key departures: Deantre Scott (WR), Isi Utu (OL), DeAngelo Brown (Returner)
2017 key returners: Quinzy Salu (OL), Jeremiah Palaita (LB)
The Gators begin their season at 7 p.m. at home Aug. 31 versus Mount Rainier.