Braves football team masked up at Halloween practice session


November 4, 2020

HEALTHY START – The La Conner High football team, idle this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, held workouts last week with players divided into small groups and rotating coaching stations. New head coach Jeff Scoma (background) watched drills from a safe distance. – Photo by Bill Reynolds

Halloween was full of new tricks and treats for La Conner High football players.

The Braves spent two hours Saturday morning working out, starting the day wearing helmet facemasks instead of Halloween facemasks.

Afterward, first-year head coach Jeff Scoma treated them to ample shares of holiday candy.

Just being able to line up on Whittaker Field was Scoma’s idea of an ideal Halloween thrill.

“These guys have gone a long time without football,” Scoma, previously a coach in the vaunted Bellevue High program, told the Weekly News. “That’s been hard, but the good thing is it gives us more time to implement our system.” The offense is learning the wing-T attack.

The Braves, who have been idle this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were able to begin practicing under a schedule sanctioned by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), which governs high school sports in the state.

The new WIAA sports format issued in response to the virus crisis shifts the football season from autumn to spring. High school football teams in Washington state are allowed 20 off-season practices, 10 with contact, through November.

It was spring-like conditions that greeted La Conner players and coaches on Saturday. Drills were conducted in bright sunshine and unseasonably warm weather.

With snow-capped Mount Baker looming clearly in the background, Scoma and his assistants began their uphill climb to revive a Braves program that enjoyed post-season success under previous coaches Johnny Lee and Peter Voorhees before heavy graduation losses limited La Conner to one-win campaigns in 2018 and 2019.

The Braves are rebuilding with a mix of tested returnees, led by veteran quarterback Bradey Wyles, lineman Thomas Jewell, linebacker Boyce Charles, running back Zeb Joe, and tight end Mason Murdock, and a corps of talented and potentially strong newcomers.

“We have five freshmen over 200 pounds,” Scoma noted, “and we have kids coming out from other sports.”

Scoma said players also expected to make key contributions are lineman Jahrel Cayou, linebackers Dylan Stone and Collin Joe, wide receivers Cole Hagen and Ivory Souryavong and running back Kali Adams.

Scoma has introduced the wing-T and the team’s defensive schemes in step-by-step fashion, using coaching stations to break down key concepts into the most minute details. Blocking techniques, footwork, execution of handoffs, and proper pass receiving form were stressed during the team’s two-hour weekend practice.

“Details matter,” La Conner defensive coordinator Arie Landworth said. “If you do the little things, you’ll be a good football player.”

Landworth is one of a half dozen Braves assistants serving under Scoma.

Chris Herrera and Cooper Zavala are working with offensive and defensive linemen. Charlie Edwards is guiding running backs and linebackers. Kaden Murdock is a general assignment assistant and Pete Bylsma is overseeing receivers and defensive backs.

Bylsma, a Pull-n-Be-Damned Road area resident, is a former wide receiver who caught 121 passes for 1,633 yards and 18 touchdowns in three seasons at Wheaton (Illinois) College. All were school records at the time.

“This is great,” Bylsma, a Hall of Honor inductee at his alma mater, said of his work with La Conner High football.

Scoma, too, is glad to get back to work. But it means having to constantly navigate around COVID-19, which has led La Conner to conduct classes on-line this semester.

Players undergo health screenings before being allowed on the field. Communication at practice is now more important with school being held remotely, Scoma said.

“Without school,” said Scoma, a Bellevue-based business owner, “it’s harder to connect with the kids. You can’t just walk into the building to say ‘hi.’”

But by the time 20 practices are in the books, Scoma should have a good read on where the Braves stack up.

“I like this group,” he said. “They’ve really responded well so far.”


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