The Friday Harbor football team will open the 2013 season in familiar fashion, facing the Seahawks of Anacortes in the first game of the fall campaign for the second year in a row.
But after that, the similarity between this season and the last begins to fade. Friday Harbor not only commemorates 40 years of high school football with the arrival of the 2013 season, but welcomes back to the sidelines the man who many have long known simply as “Coach”, Richard Ledford, as commander-and-chief of the 2013 team as well.
Ledford, who in his first tenure at the helm guided the Wolverines to back-to-back appearances in the 1A state tournament, does not appear to have lost one iota of his fiery edge during a five-year absence from the coaching ranks.
“We got nine opponents and I want to beat ‘em all,” he said. “Off the field I may be as mild mannered as they come, but on the field I’m probably as competitive a guy as there is.”
It’s that type of passion for the game and for competition itself that Ledford expects every player to bring to the field, and to bring on each and every down.
“It’s an ‘every play’ kind of game,” he said. “If you’re going to win you’ve got to play your best on every play.”
This year, a total of 50 players turned out for the football program. The roster features a number of veteran players who helped carry the Wolverines to a 6-4 season a year ago.
Senior Nathan Steenkolk, an all-league award-winner in 2012, will be back to carry the ball on the offensive end and to plug the gaps from his linebacker position on the defensive side of the ball. Seniors C.J. Woods and Peter Holt have shared quarterback duties during pre-season workouts, and defensive ends Gabe Lawson and Nelson Wynn are back to attack off the wings of the defensive line. Brandon Allen and Holt will join Steenkolk as mainstays of the Wolverines linebacker core, and Carson Brown and Oliver Webb are back to anchor the interior line.
With six or seven players set to start on both sides of the ball, Ledford expects to get a lot of bang for the buck from a core group of players as the rest are integrated into the game plan. Friday Harbor fans can expect the Wolverines to roll out a “balanced” approach — a mix of rushes and passes — on the offensive end.
“We’ve got a good running game and we’re working on an option and throwing game, but it hasn’t come along quite as quickly as we would’ve liked at this point,” he said.
On defense, Ledford and his coaching staff intend to shuffle players from position to position until they find a lineup that works.
The Wolverines ended the 2012 season with more wins than losses, at 6-4. Still, Ledford, who compiled a 43-20 won-loss record in his first tenure as head coach of the Wolverines (2001-2007), is taking no one for granted.
The road to success on the football field boils down to a simple strategy, he said.
Although Friday Harbor ended the 2012 with a winning record, Ledford, who compiled a record of 43-20 in his tenure as the Wolverines head coach, a six-year tour of duty, 2001-07, is taking no one for granted, even Anacortes, who the Wolverines shutout 21-0 on the road in the last year’s season opener. The Seahawks will be in Friday Harbor for the opening game with a new head coach and a chip on their collective shoulder.
In the end, Ledford said the game plan and road to success boils down to a very simple strategy.
“We’re going to find out our strengths and our weaknesses, and play to our strengths,” he said. “I’m optimistic that if we play with passion good things will happen.”