High School Sports

Tacoma alliance gives Life to Northwest Christian football for first time since 2011

Navigators’ RB Daishun Nichols takes the pitch-out during Sept. 10th practice as Northwest Christian High School restarts their football program after an eight-year hiatus.
Navigators’ RB Daishun Nichols takes the pitch-out during Sept. 10th practice as Northwest Christian High School restarts their football program after an eight-year hiatus. sbloom@theolympian.com

Life Christian Academy was down to a dozen boys ready to play varsity football this fall. Northwest Christian planned to revive the sport for the first time since 2011 but also had a small turnout.

The 2B schools joined forces when fall practice began in Tacoma.

“From the first day, we were all tight,” said sophomore center/linebacker Adam Brooks, who played his freshman ball at Capital a year ago since the Navigators didn’t field a team. “It’s like a brotherhood.”

Senior quarterback Nathan Joslin, who completed 53 percent of his passes for 597 yards and eight touchdowns during Life’s 5-5 season in 2018, agreed.

“The speed we connected with as a team was amazing,” he said. “I feel like I’ve played with them for four years already.”

The Navigators now practice every day but Wednesdays on Northwest Christian’s grass practice field. Life’s school day ends earlier, allowing the 14 players from their campus to arrive in Lacey via bus just as school is letting out for Northwest’s eight players.

When the Navigators host Seton Catholic of Vancouver at 7 p.m. Friday night at Beaver Stadium in Tenino, it will be the next step in an expansion of an athletic program Northwest hopes will help build the overall size of its student body.

“Football will attract more boys to our campus. There’s a need for more students, boys and girls,” said Navigators coach and athletic director Mark Smith, formerly the long-time coach at Tacoma Baptist. “Private schools need kids to survive and football is one of those things that will attract more kids.”

Smith started as athletic director last academic year. He said Northwest Christian will need a turnout of 18-20 players to sustain 11-man football if its alliance with Life Christian ever ended, 12-14 players to drop to eight-man football.

He likes the arrangement to play home games on Tenino’s unique black artificial turf. Nearby South Sound Stadium, which hosts three high schools, was overbooked, as was Ingersoll Stadium in Olympia, home to two schools. A chance to split games between Tumwater District Stadium and Black Hills’ practice field was there.

“But Tenino being a one-school stadium gives a better chance to schedule,” said Smith, whose team plays as an independent and, at least for 2019, has no route to the post-season.

A scheduled opener with 2B Mossyrock was canceled when the Vikings couldn’t field a team this season. Instead, the Navigators seek their first victory since a 32-0 shutout of Ocosta in October of 2010 against 1A Seton Catholic, which could be a good match-up for Northwest Christian.

Just 16 of Seton’s 27 players played high school football before this season. The Cougars defeated Chimacum, 19-8, last week as Elijah Volk scored two touchdowns and Luke Pitzer passed for 145 yards.

“We should be able to run the ball really well,” Smith said.

The Navigators will build much of their offense around sophomore running back Daishun Nichols, who rushed for 669 yards and 8 touchdowns for Life Christian as a freshman in 2018 and also caught 13 passes for 114 yards.

“We want to score at least 28 points and get the ‘W,’” Nichols said of his team’s goals for the opener.

Brooks sees a good showing as key to building the program more rapidly.

“We have some really athletic guys at our school who haven’t come out for the team so far,” he said. “Hopefully we can come out with a lot of intensity and show them that football can be something here.”

His coach has a broad goal for the season as a whole.

“Each day we want to get better,” Smith said. “We’ve had good energy at practice. If we can get better each day, we’ll be in good shape.

“That’s the name of the game.”