Darren McKay couldn’t help but crack a smile.
The Beamer Titan football team held its second day of fall practice on Aug. 17, and it was clear McKay and his coaching was working with a far different team than the one that he helped lead to a nine-win season and playoff berth a year ago.
McKay just smiled, though. He has been here before — that space somewhere between rebuilding and a playoff juggernaut. In fact, he has been in this position off and on as a football coach for the last 23 years.
He has spent the last five with Beamer. In that time, he has compiled a 29-23 overall record with two postseason appearances. The 2016 season was McKay’s breakout year with the Titans as he helped coach them to a 9-2 record and a state playoff appearance against Bellarmine Prep. He was also awarded the North Puget Sound League Coach of the Year.
It’s back to the drawing board for Beamer in 2017, however, as the Titans return just three of their offensive and defensive threats from 2016: Colin McKay, who was named North Puget Sound League Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year, Kuma Scanlon, the North Puget Sound League Defensive Player of the Year, and Billy Vann.
“We’ve done this before,” 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.”
It did not take McKay long to reference the loss to Bellarmine and point out where things went wrong for the Titans in the loss.
“We allowed eight, nine guys in the box, and we were just outnumbered,” McKay said.
McKay’s football program legacy through his first five years extends far beyond wins and losses, however.
When he and his coaches took over the program in 2012, they managed to eke out three wins. McKay stuck with his system, however, and by 2014, Beamer made its first playoff appearance under his leadership.
The Titans earned a reputation under McKay’s leadership. They’ve also developed better football players than McKay ever thought possible.
And the results since have given McKay the ability to approach fall football camp with a smile.
“When we got here, we didn’t have many 4A football players,” McKay said. “We brought good people, worked hard, and the [type of] athlete we have now is far different than when we started.”