Football Preview: Washington has plenty of motivation for 2012

Seniors (from left) Sergio Alvarado, Jerron Williams, Simon Ma, Elijah Murray and Victor Rivera will look to continue Washington’s recent success with a new coach and plenty of motivation. (Photo by Devin Chen)

By Jeremy Balan

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 head 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. Rivera missed the final three games of the season, including the holiday championship game, due to an injury. “To this day it hurts.”

Those wounds, however, are beginning to heal, starting with the quick hire of new head coach Taylan Plasch, who was officially given the reins to the program on July 9.

Once again, Washington will feature a dynamic duo of running backs in seniors Jerron Williams (left) and Elijah Murray (right) in 2012. (Photo by Devin Chen)

Plasch, who has been a physical education teacher at Washington for five years, was the school’s athletic director from 2008 to 2010 and has had assistant coaching stints Lincoln and Balboa, 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 arranged a crucial 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.

“I’ve been scrambling around since I got hired,” Plasch said. “I’m hustling right now to find two games.”

Before the hiring and now, while Plasch is getting his bearings, the players have rallied around a man they call “Coach Rick.”

The lone holdover from Finley’s staff, assistant coach Rick Carre organized team meetings and kept the players together when there was literally no one else. Every other coach from last season’s staff went with Finley to his new job at Armijo High School in Fairfield.

“There was no question [I was staying],” said Carre, when asked if he was tempted to leave with Finley and the rest of the coaching staff. Carre has houses in American Canyon (near Armijo) and Daly City, but works in San Francisco. “I had to keep it together, because I was the only one left.”

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 in the mold of former backs Galen Hall and Lajarie Mabrey, 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).

Plasch, a former junior-college offensive lineman, is markedly cautious when speaking to his expectations of every aspect of the team except the offensive line.

First-year head coach Taylan Plasch has been an assistant at Lincoln and Balboa, but will have his first varsity head coaching gig with Washington. (Photo by Devin Chen)

“Getting five guys to block seven [defenders] is the chess game,” Plasch said. “We’re going to get them to make the calls and making the adjustments at the line of scrimmage is going to make us successful.”

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 under entirely different circumstances.

Last season, Ma was filling in for starter Aram Gevandian, who missed the first month of the year with a wrist injury, and played very much like a backup. He had constant issues with fumbles, specifically on the snap exchange with the center, and was replaced as soon as Gevandian was cleared to play.

Now, the team is his, and Plasch has 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.

Regardless of Plasch’s guarded optimism, with so much returning talent, the Eagles will again be a AAA favorite and are intent on proving the team’s recent success wasn’t all because of a coach.

“We all feel betrayed, but it’s something we can all look at and make us play better,” Williams said. “It gives more meaning to this year.”

Tentative 2012 Schedule – AAA games in bold
Week 0: (Open)
Week 1: Sat. 9/8 – vs. El Camino (South San Francisco), 2 p.m.
Week 2: (Open)
Week 3: Sat. 9/22 – vs. Piedmont, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Fri. 9/28 – vs. Marshall, 3 p.m.
Week 5: Sat. 10/6 – @ Lincoln, 2 p.m.
Week 6: Sat. 10/13 – @ Balboa, 2 p.m.
Week 7: Fri. 10/19 – vs. Galileo, 3 p.m.
Week 8: Fri. 10/26 – vs. Lowell @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.

Week 9: (Bye)
Week 10: Fri. 11/9 – vs. Mission @ Kezar Stadium, 2 p.m.

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  1. JJ says:

    G-Dub’s new head coach dresses like Bill Belichek, the New England Patriots head football coach. Let’s hope he coaches like him, but without spying and filming other team’s practices.

  2. number1 says:

    Don’t forget about the rest of the team. Yes, we will learn from the Seniors and ride them all the way to the Turkey Day Championship but we also need some Juniors to step up and be a leader too. I’ve been working really hard ever since the end of my JV season and a lot of other Juniors can say the same. Don’t be surprised if some Juniors step it up and perform on a high level. With that being said, we WILL be in the championship again. See you then

  3. WASHHOUSE says:

    I’ve got fate in Wash, they’ve got something to prove, to FIGHT for.
    Be in Turkey Day AGAIN.

  4. pf says:

    oppening with marshall, marshall’s not going to have a repeat of last year.

  5. Ari Gold says:

    A pass first AAA offense? What bizarro world is this??? But if thats the case, then Washington will be “exciting” to watch. However Im not sure how much time the QB is going to have if those two guys are 40% of his starting offensive line. Im pretty sure the starting offensive lines for the SHC, SI and Riordan freshmen teams are about the same size. My guess will be the passing attack will feature WR screens and quick slants and not 7-step drops into 10-15 yard curls and ins.

    • jbalan says:

      I wouldn’t call it anything close to a pass-first offense. The coaches just intimated they would like to pass more.

    • T&F Coach says:

      @Ari Gold-Wash has always been running team. The only they really threw the balls was around 97-98 when they had guys like Antonio Cooks playing. But the last AAA team that had a consisted air attack was Gal from 88-01

    • number1 says:

      We’re a “run first” team. We are just implementing new offensive formations to become a more versatile offense in my opinion. It also helps to have a little more creativity. Besides, all colleges do run is spread anyway so it’s good practice for those who plan on playing in the collegiate level.

  6. City Lights says:

    Are there any really pass heavy offenses in the AAA? I went to a Lowell game a couple years ago and they ran the ball on just about every single play. lol

    • jbalan says:

      Last season, Galileo threw the ball in a spread.

      Bal also runs a spread, but didn’t pass much last season. The year before, they threw he ball 30-40 times a game.

      I believe Marshall also thee the ball quite a bit last year as well.

      Wash, Mission, Lowell and Lincoln are all very run-heavy.

      • City Lights says:

        Yeah Lowell really bunkers down sometimes. I swear I’ve seen a couple games where they didn’t even put receivers on the field.

      • City Lights says:

        Run first is often the best option in high school though. Just ask the WCAL! I will probably check out the Bal vs. Gal game this year just to see some wild and wooly passing. Thanks for the tip JB.

  7. number1 says:

    jb plz delete my comments

  8. Anthony Auerbach says:

    Taylan Plasch was my 6th grade P.E teacher. Good job coach.

  9. washfan says:

    Williams and Murray might ge the best duo if they say theyve been learning from past Washintgon back like Jetton, Hall, Mabrey, and McHenry. Dont underestimate these two, or there team in general. Theyre still the favorites to win it all and if you honestly dont think so then raise your football iq because most of there team is coming back and there big 5 seniors know what it takes to get to the big dance and now know what it will take to win it. Good Luck WASH!

  10. NN says:

    Wash is the best program in the AAA, maybe in the city. they work hard and get their athletes in the best shape with conditioning and weight lifting. just look at these five, they look like theyre in the best of shape

    • Chris says:

      Washington is one of the best programs in the city. Ill give you that. Definitely not the best though.

    • JJ says:

      Wash may be considered the best program in the AAA because it’s the biggest school. You have a better chance in finding better athletes at a school of 3,000 kids than a school of 1,000. Statistics 101. Also, they have better sports facilities than alot of the other schools in the AAA. Until they are knocked out, I think Mission has the best boys sports program right now, winning a AAA championship in the 2 biggest sports, football and hoops.

      • JJ says:

        After further review, I think Lincoln and Lowell are the biggest schools in AAA with Wash not too far behind….at any rate, you either see Lincoln, Lowell, or Wash in the championship games, whether it be girls or boys. Marshall with about 800 students or so, has to play all these big schools and tend to fare pretty well.

        • City Lights says:

          Wash definitely wins the stadium battle. If only they could fill that place up. You can drive by it and imagine it back in the day when the AAA had more clout.

          • JJ says:

            If that stadium was in Texas, Alabama, or a MidWest suburb, that stadium would be filled to capacity. I guess San Franciscans don’t care much about HS football as much as other areas of our country. Most kids from SF would rather go home and watch reality shows, play Xbox, study, or stand in line to buy the newest Jordans.

            • WCAL Alum says:

              Definately a premier high school venue. Only times I recall stadium be close to capacity was when Turkey Day was played there in early 90’s due to remodeling of Kezar. The other time was a Riordan/SH league game in fall 1971 when Kezar was used for Day of Green concert.

        • afan says:

          I agree that you see Wash in most of the championship games in both boys and girls sports, and Lincoln and Lowell in the girls’ sports, but Lincoln and Lowell in boys’ sports?
          In the last 3 years in the boys’ sports (football, basketball, baseball) Lowell hasn’t made it into any championships and Lincoln has been in only one championship in ’09 in football.
          Smaller schools like Mission have been in the last 3 basketball championships and football in ’11 and Balboa has been in football championship in ’10 and the baseball championships in ’11 and ’12.

          • NN says:

            well i mean, Washington is the most consistent in high school sports in the AAA. Every year Washington is a contender and they might only have one slump year but come back great the next and school numbers doesnt matter because its about making athletes better. WASH makes players better.

          • Ari Gold says:

            Probably because Lowell is too busy making T-shirts with insensitive phrases directed to other AAA schools.

  11. pf says:

    their are way more athletes with talents in schools ranging under 1000 students.

  12. Mission fan says:

    How about the champions Mission?

  13. jacob says:

    Jbalan will you cover AAA varsity Soccer? and what are your predictions?

    • jbalan says:

      We will be covering soccer. As far as predictions go, I’ll go out on a limb and say Lowell will probably be pretty good. Considering how bunched up the standings were last season, I would say the other playoff spots are all up for grabs.

  14. sf alum says:

    please consider expanding XC and T&F coverage, the two sports with the highest level of participation in the City!

  15. coach p says:

    good luck this year guys. I’ll see you in a couple of weeks and hope to make it to your scrimmage.

    • victor rivera says:

      a coach p we miss u babay hope to see you soon much love to you hope things goin great for you were you are. oh P.S. church at 7 p.m.

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