It’s ‘team first’ as Patriots look to bounce back from 2011

September 6, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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By Greg Farrar
The Liberty High School football team and their coach Steve Valach (center) gather in an all-for-one, one-for-all huddle before their Aug. 22 practice drills. See a slideshow photos at www.newcastle-news.com.

After a disappointing 2011 season, the Liberty High School Patriots are looking toward each other to get the team back to its winning ways in 2012.

TEAM, which stands for together everyone achieves more, is the motto motivating a young Patriots squad in coach Steve Valach’s 14th year at the helm.

“There’s good energy with this group,” Valach said. “I like their chemistry and they’re working hard. They are really into that idea of playing together and no one is bigger than the team.”

The Patriots finished the 2011 season with a 4-6 record. It was a disappointing year for a team that came into the season with three consecutive playoff appearances.

“We had some good teams,” Valach said. “We had a good run a few years in a row there, and I think we had a year last year where every single guy, all the graduating seniors as well, would say that’s not what we wanted.”

Valach said the key to turning the team around is focusing on the basics.

“If you take care of the ball, if you prevent big plays on defense, if you’re solid in your special teams, good things happen,” Valach said. “Those basics, which we’ve really been focused on, they are simple things. It’s the ABCs of football, but they are huge things.”

 

Seniors to guide team

The Patriots are young this year, but Valach thinks youth has its advantages.

“I think being young can hurt for experience, but sometimes being young, you kind of know you don’t know it all, so you are hungry and coachable,” he said.

Valach expects Russell Boston, a sophomore running back, will be one of the underclassmen to make a big impact.

But it will be up to senior leaders including Tynan Gilmore, Ian Wright, Scott Dean and Robbie Thomas to guide the team, Valach said.

Thomas, a quarterback, is eager to get back on the field after an injury-plagued 2011 season. Thomas said the team’s goal is to return to the playoffs, but ultimately he wants to get back to playing solid Liberty football.

“We always thought that we were a football school so we want to keep that tradition,” Thomas said. “We want to get the whole program excited. As the years have gone on we lost players, and we want to forget about last year and just keep building this program up.”

Thomas said the Patriots will have to work as a team to reach their goals.

“We had talent last year but we just didn’t have a team attitude,” he said. “So this year, if we’re a team we can go as far as we want.”

 

Confidence and conditioning

The Patriots had a productive offseason attending a team football camp at The Evergreen State College where they faced bigger teams such as KingCo 4A’s Bothell High School.

Liberty, among the smallest schools in its league, gained confidence from the camp where they performed well against schools with a lot more players.

“When we saw how well we did against these bigger schools, we finally got past the numbers they have and realized that they have 11 guys on the field just like us, so we were definitely able to push through and accomplish a lot,” said Max Hill, a senior lineman.

Hill added that the team’s offseason conditioning program was well attended, which bodes well for a successful season.

“Last year, we didn’t actually get a lot of guys there, which I think was reflected in our season record,” he said. “This year, we got a lot of our teammates there and we held everyone accountable, so if they weren’t there we knew where they were.”

The 2012 Liberty Patriots football team is not a team of superstar athletes. But that’s OK, Hill said, because it has brought the team together.

“We are not a team of Division I athletes,” Hill said. “We are a team where everyone is going to contribute to the win. Not one person is going to carry us, so we’ve all really embraced that. It’s all about us. It’s definitely helped us bond together.”

2012 Patriots football schedule

 

All games are at 7 p.m.

  •  Sept. 7 Hazen
  • Sept. 14 Interlake
  •  Sept. 21 at Juanita
  •  Sept. 28 at Lake

Washington

  • Oct. 5 Sammamish
  • Oct. 12 Mercer Island

(Homecoming)

  • Oct. 19 at Bellevue
  •  Oct. 26 Mount Si
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