One of Ben Briggs’ first tasks as the new football coach at Northwest Christian was to have some tricks up his sleeve.
Given that only 18 players turned out for the Navigators’ sixth season, he has come up with innovative ways to get in practice repetitions. The scout team consists of white barrels, there are no 11-on-11 drills, and no tackles to the ground. And there’s only one full-contact drill.
Briggs and assistant coach Jeremy Clarke are teaching basics to the 10 players who have never played organized football.
“We’ve been progressing amazingly for what we have,” said Briggs, who previously was an assistant coach at NWC. “They’re taking it all in. They’re really catching on.”
Briggs, who played football at Tacoma Baptist, takes over the program following the resignation of Pete Fulton, who had been the Navigators coach since the inaugural season in 2006.
While Northwest Christian has improved its win total every season, the program’s numbers have dwindled. Despite a 5-5 record in 2010 and its first playoff game, the team had 20 players.
Kevin Damitio and Trevor Magruder are two of the five seniors on the squad, and this will be the fourth year on the team for both. Damitio will start at receiver and strong safety, while Magruder will play running back and linebacker. Magruder looks to fill the shoes vacated by Steven Dunn, who graduated after rushing for more than 1,000 yards last season.
Junior Elijah Shoffner will start at quarterback in the team’s shotgun offense. His older brother, David, was the team’s first center five years ago. With Elijah Shoffner, Northwest Christian should have a more balanced attack, instead of the Navigators relying heavily on the run.
“He’s got really good field vision,” Briggs said of Shoffner. “He can read the defenses and make really good decisions.”
The team features foreign students from China, Korea and Taiwan, including at 220 pounds, starting center Jimmy Kim.
Northwest Christian opens its season Friday night at 1A Bellevue Christian, which is starting its first year of football.
“They’re starting to pick it up,” Briggs said. “I’m excited to see what this group of kids end up doing. We’re out there to have fun and learn football.”
Last season: 5-5, lost to Morton/White Pass in district playoff game.
Number of returning starters: Two offense, three defense
Top players: WR/DB Kevin Damitio, sr.; RB/LB Trevor Magruder, sr.; LB Nick Kosierowski, so.; QB Elijah Shoffner, jr.; OL/DL Jimmy Kim, jr.; OL/DL Adam Cunningham, sr.
Strength: Clean slate
Weaknesses: Numbers, youth, inexperience
Outlook: There will be uphill battles for Northwest Christian. Since the program’s inaugural season in 2006, the number of wins have increased each year despite declining turnout. The team is down to 18 players this year, and 10 players have never played organized football before. Damitio and Magruder have played football at NWC all four years. Despite the low numbers, Briggs likes what he sees in his players’ improvement. “They’ve been progressing amazingly for what we have,” he said. NWC opens its season against Bellevue Christian, which is playing its first season of football.