Prep football preview: Young Warriors’ squad to rely on strong defense

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Defense may be key to success for Edmonds-Woodway's football team this season. (Photos by Karl Swenson)
Defense may be key to success for Edmonds-Woodway’s football team this season. (Photos by Karl Swenson)

Led by seven returners on defense the Edmonds-Woodway football team aims to improve on a 5-5 record from last season.

Edmonds-Woodway (1-0) won its opener at Jackson on the road, and hosts Kamiak on Friday, Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. in another non-league game.

The Warriors missed the state playoffs last year after qualifying in 2013, finishing 3-3 in Wesco 3A/2A South play. A late field goal by Glacier Peak in the final regular season game knocked the Warriors from the postseason.

E-W got off to a good start this season with a 21-13 win against Jackson, Friday, Sept. 4, as head coach John Gradwohl kicked off his 20th year of leading the Warriors.

Isaac Jackson is the starting quarterback for the Warriors.
Isaac Jackson is the starting quarterback for the Warriors.

The Warriors’ starting quarterback, Isaac Jackson, a 5-10, 175-pound senior, threw two touchdown passes to senior wide receiver David Woodard that proved to be the difference in the opener. Woodard caught 11 passes on the night for 150 yards.

Jackson, who started two games last year at the end of the season, got better as the game against Jackson went along, Gradwohl said.

Other key returners on offense, in addition to Jackson and Woodard, are junior wide receiver Jalen Nash, and senior running back Tyler Rheinford (6-2, 195). The Warriors don’t return any starters on the offensive line, however, Gradwohl said.

Right now, the defense seems to be the Warriors’ strength, led by senior linebacker Spencer Schultz (5-8, 190) who led E-W with 75 tackles last year. Junior Ali Gaye (6-5, 222) returns at defensive end and senior Logan Lambert (5-7, 215) returns at linebacker. Key newcomers on defense include sophomore cornerback Noah Becker and junior safety Abdoulie Jatta.

Senior Jake Stevenson, who kicked at 35-yard point-after touchdown in the opener after a penalty, is the team’s kicker and punter this year.

The Wesco 3A/2A South shapes up to be a tough league with Glacier Peak (a winner over Snohomish on Friday) and Meadowdale (a loser to Lake Stevens, one of the top teams in the state) likely at the top. Mountlake Terrace opened with a win over Mariner after making the playoffs last year, and Shorewood and Lynnwood could be solid teams, Gradwohl said.

“I think it’s going to be a tough league,” Gradwohl said. “Every game is going to be a tough game,”

Head Coach John Gradwohl enters his 20th year as the Warriors' head coach.
Head Coach John Gradwohl enters his 20th year as the Warriors’ head coach.

Gradwohl believes this squad has the talent to make the postseason but said, “it’s early, we got a lot to work on.”

“We need better discipline and fundamentals,” he said. “If we improve on those things we got a good shot; if we don’t, we won’t.”

In terms of the 3A playoffs, Bellevue has dominated, winning 11 state 3A titles since 2001, and six straight titles until Eastside Catholic beat them last year. However, controversy surrounds the program as detailed by investigative reports in The Seattle Times regarding allegations and evidence that players were given money by coaches, bullying of players by a former assistant coach who played there, and eligibility of as many as 17 players gained via an alleged diploma mill school on the Eastside.

Gradwohl, who has coached at E-W since the 1990s — before Bellevue and some of the other Eastside programs came to dominate the prep football scene — said he’s seen what’s been in the paper about Bellevue and called it a crime.

“They use the kids for their talent and don’t give them a good education,” he said.

— By Tony Dondero

EWHS varsity football team for 2015.
EWHS varsity football team for 2015.

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