Change has come to Auburn High football.
There’s a new head coach. A fast and furious offense has been introduced.
But for all things new, the storied program stays very much in the family.
Aaron Chantler follows a legend, his father-in-law Gordon Elliott, who retired last season after leading the Trojans to nine playoff appearances and two trips to the state semifinals in 16 years as head coach.
Chantler, who ran the Trojans’ offense last season, plans to open it up even more so.
While Chantler’s version of the spread offense is exclusive in its own design, it promises to play just as fast – perhaps even faster – than Elliott’s trademark jet sweep attack. The idea is to spread the field and find playmakers in space, generating more snaps, more possibilities and more points, and forcing North Puget Sound League defenses to catch up to it, if they can.
“It will be night-and-day different,” Chantler said of the offense. “Gordy and I have always joked about (the offense). He calls it the flavor-of-the-week offense. I think we do enough unique things that it’s not. … He wanted to play everything between the hash (marks).”
Chantler wants to push the ball beyond the hashes and cover the field as if it were fastbreak basketball on hardwood.
Bob Jones Gymnasium welcomed the Trojans for rare indoor practices last week so that coaches and players could escape the wildfire-blown, smoke-choked air. Players traded cleats for sneakers to run plays and drills on the court.
Sort of like basketball in full pads, Chantlers’ preferred pace.
Before joining Elliott’s staff last season, Chantler made the most of his opportunity to lead a high-octane, high school offense. In five seasons as head coach at Gig Harbor, Chantler went 36-18, with two league titles, two 4A Narrows League Coach of the Year honors and four straight state playoff appearances, which had never been done at the school.
The Tides’ up-tempo offense averaged 45 points a game, leaving many defenses out of breath.
“It’s an offense that puts up points, so it will be interesting to see if we can continue to do that here. I think we can,” Chantler said. “The league is going to have to adjust to us a little bit. … Nobody has really seen our system before, so that might give us a small, temporary advantage until people see film on us.
“Offensively, you’ll see a little bit more flair … a system that gets a lot of people involved and is fun,” Chantler added. “The kids have reacted reallly well to it.”
In a role reversal, Elliott agreed to stay on to help run the offense.
“It’s fun to have him with me still. … It’s been good,” Chantler said. “Gordy’s been awesome. He’s done some things to make sure the kids know that, ‘hey, it’s Coach Chantler’s show.’ ”
The Trojans, 6-4 a year go, will turn to senior quarterback Calvin Liulamaga (6 foot, 205 pounds), senior running back Carter Casaad (5-10, 190) and senior wide receivers Josiah Fagan (5-10, 180), Adam Nasheed (6-2, 180), Timmy Marksbury (6-2, 180) and Randy Puletu (6-3, 205) to run the show.
Jorge Martinez, a 6-4, 290-pound senior, anchors the line.
Top newcomers are sophomores Charlie Lockington (5-11, 170, quarterback, defensive back), Connor Howat (6-2, 180, wide receiver, defensive back) and lineman Isiah Petelo (6-3, 270).
The same cast will work on defense, which promises to be sound and physical.
“We got the potential to surprise some people,” Chantler said. “Everybody in this area, this league and in this state is struggling with numbers. Football in general is struggling with numbers. They’re down from what we would like them to be. Depth will be a concern, just like it is for most teams in the state.”
The Trojans, who will be competing in the Valley Division, the middle group of teams in the realigned, three-tiered NPSL, opens the season Thursday at home against Tahoma. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Lions poised for another run
Auburn Mountainview is equipped to compete for the Valley Division title and return to the playoffs.
Coach Jared Gervais, in his eighth season at the school, got the most out of his team a year ago, recovering from an 0-4 start to finish 4-5 and make the district playoffs.
The Lions return several key players but must move on without all-everything Talan Alfrey, who graduated as one of the school’s most decorated athletes. Alfrey, the Tacoma News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year, accepted a scholarship to play at Brigham Young University.
“It’s one of our most talented teams from top to bottom, but we have to replace the production of Talan,” Gervais said. “Bill Benjamin should fill in nicely at wide receiver, and I am looking for Teagin Child and Isaiah Kenard to play the free safety position this fall. The offensive line returns four starters from our playoff game vs. Puyallup and has been bolstered by transfer Anthony Wayman.”
Benjamin, a 6-3, 175-pound senior, and Kenard, a 5-10, 170-pound senior who also plays running back, join junior wide receiver Cooper White (5-7, 140) and junior quarterback Drew Davenport (5-9, 180).
Up front, the Lions will be led by seniors Jaron Marks (6-2, 240), Varen Daggs (5-10, 245) and juniors Viliamu Taimalealgi (5-9, 250) and Nate Snell (5-11, 215). Wayman, at 6-1 and 285 pounds, is a welcomed addition.
Top newcomers include Child, a 5-10, 170-pound sophomore who can play wide receiver; senior linebacker Andrew Santana (5-9, 215); and sophomores Berkley Alfrey (6-0, 185, running back, linebacker), Keanu Mailoto (6-3, 230, defensive end) and Jeremiah Penn (6-0, 165, wide receiver).
Gervais expects nothing less than another tight league race this fall.
“The NPSL will be very competitive this season. I don’t see any teams being that far ahead or behind from the other teams in this league,” he said. “I always tell people in this league that any team could be 9-0 or 0-9.”