Sammamish Totems running back Benja Cook (pictured) goes through a set of drills during a spring practice session on June 5 at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Shaun Scott/staff photo

Sammamish Totems running back Benja Cook (pictured) goes through a set of drills during a spring practice session on June 5 at Sammamish High School in Bellevue. Shaun Scott/staff photo

Totems are focusing on the fundamentals during spring sessions

Sammamish football program will continue to build in Rylen Akana’s third season on sidelines.

Proficient blocking and tackling are the cornerstones of a winning football team.

Sammamish Totems head football coach Rylen Akana, who will be in his third season leading the football program this fall, focused on those fundamental aspects of the game throughout the duration of his team’s spring football practices this June.

“We were a little soft on blocking last year so we made it a point of emphasis as a coaching staff this year. A lot of our spring practices are focused on tackling and blocking. It is all about the fundamentals. That will never change,” Akana said while his team stretched before practice on June 5.

Totems’ senior tight end Ryan Hervey, who will be in his third season in the starting lineup this fall, said the Totems are putting in the work in order to have a successful season.

“We’ve been in the weight room a lot. It is exciting being out here for spring ball. It has been fun,” Hervey said.

Akana’s football program is about much more than what the scoreboard says at the conclusion of four quarters of play. Akana’s focus on community service has been a staple of the program since he accepted the head coaching position in February of 2017.

“It is a big part of the identity of our program. This year we’re actually going international. We’ve hooked up with a group that sends gear to Gambia, Africa. We’re going to be collecting used cleats, athletic wear, school backpacks and other things that kids there don’t have and would appreciate,” Akana said.

Akana said his players, who kicked off the collection process this spring, will continue to amass as many materials as possible before sending the items to Africa sometime toward the end of fall 2019.

Hervey is a huge fan of Akana’s approach to not only football but to life itself.

“He cares about us being a student first. He helps us grow as men instead of being just all about football. Don’t get me wrong, he loves football but he is also all about us,” Hervey said.

The Totems will have to replace Akana’s son Coby at the quarterback position this fall. Coby was the starting signal caller during the 2017 and 2018 seasons for Sammamish.

“We’ve got a couple of guys who are up for the challenge,” Akana said.

Eddie Wynn (junior) and Josue Lara (sophomore) are currently in a competition for the starting spot. The Totems top running back/slot receiver will be Tony Oliva. Akana said middle linebacker Hikaru Aoyagi will anchor the Totems defense.

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