Thomas Jefferson High School football team is bigger and better this year, with an appetite for success to match.
“For the first time in maybe 15 years we have 70 players out for football, that’s really a big change from the past,” said TJHS football head coach Brian West.
Hailing from Georgia, this is West’s first year as head coach for the Raiders, but he’s had no problem attracting athletes to the football program.
“I think seeing my face here every day, and seeing a coach that the kids believe in … you love your kids, you treat them a certain way, and they’ll buy in to what you want them to buy in.”
Retaining numbers on the field comes from being active in school through academics and mentorship.
“It’s a great opportunity to build depth,” West said. In the past, the team struggled to find a player to fill in the position if another was out. “Now having so many kids really benefits from that.”
Thomas Jefferson’s stack-up comprises 16 seniors, most with all four years of TJHS football experience under their helmets. Senior center Fernando Castellanos, at 6 foot and 225 pounds, earned NPSL-Sound second team offense and defense honors.
“It’s been feeling different,” Castellanos said about the upcoming season. “Everybody has more energy. Everybody pushes each other out there.”
This year’s team is proving to be more disciplined and more competitive, and ultimately “I think the more disciplined team wins games.”
Returners include senior quarterback Trey Tausili, senior RB DaMarion Davis, senior WR Adrian Taylor, senior OL Panama Pouono and senior WR Max Lundberg.
“Those guys are hungry. They’re tired of losing,” West said. “They’ve all bought in to what we are building here, so it’s very exciting.”
The Raiders will primarily rely on the junior and sophomore running back talent, working to improve speed, agility and experience for the seasons to come.
“There’s going to be a lot of young guys playing running back for us this season,” West said.
Defensively, the Raiders are going to shine with the guidance of former head coach Scott Morgan and defensive coordinator Majacque Gregory.
Top defensive returners include senior LB and NPSL-Sound All Second Team honoree Caleb Bloodsaw, senior DB and NPSL-Sound First Team Defense DaMarion Davis, Junior DB KiJaun Brown, Sophomore DL Kaimani Faimalo, Senior DE Kevin Pinda, and senior DL and NPSL-Sound Second Team Defense honoree Mene Togi.
Some newcomers to keep an eye on include junior WR/DB Jaden Herwick, sophomore WR/DB Marlon McLarty, RB/S DJ Tausili.
Preseason has been dedicated to creating accountability both on and off the field, West said.
“It’s more about building that family atmosphere here now, that’s what we’re focused on,” West said.
“They’re energetic. They’re just ready. They’re ready to win. This team is hungry.” West said.
The Raiders current seniors have not won a game against Todd Beamer or Federal Way since they started high school, West said. An overdue rivalry comeback is what TJHS is preparing for this year.
“You can see it every day in their eyes,” he said of the team’s morale. “They’re at the point now where they’re playing and expecting to win.”
The Thomas Jefferson Raiders face the Federal Way Eagles at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.