Sammamish quarterback Josue Lara drops back to throw the ball during practice. Benjamin Olson/ staff photo

Sammamish quarterback Josue Lara drops back to throw the ball during practice. Benjamin Olson/ staff photo

Totems rising to the challenge

Sammamish football program looks to grit out some wins in 2019.

After a winless 2018 season, the Sammamish Totems are entering the new football campaign hoping to rebuild.

“We had a bad season last year,” head coach Rylen Akana said. “We can build on a lot of stuff. Our goal this year is to get above .500.”

In his third season with the Totems, Akana expects to see the team improve in all three phases of the game.

“There’s not really one aspect that we did really well at (last year),” Akana said. “It’s about constantly getting better on everything, special teams especially. That’s been a thorn in our side.”

Despite graduating a handful of seniors last year, Akana said the team has plenty of new freshmen and transfers to retool on both sides of the ball.

“We are young,” Akana said. “But we’re gonna be ferocious. They’re ready to get after it.”

One of the new transfers expected to make an impact for the Totems is senior Jaden Bridgers, a 6-4, 275-pound offensive and defensive tackle who came over from Bellevue High School.

A familiar face for the Sammamish defense is linebacker Hikaru Aoyagi, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior.

“He’ll be a big part of our defense this year,” Akana said. “You’ll see a lot of tackles coming from him.”

Akana said there is a two-person race between senior Eddy Nguyen and junior Josue Lara for the starting quarterback position.

“We’re probably leaning toward Josue,” Akana said. “He’s a little more solid both running and throwing the ball.”

One of the key pass catchers this season for the Totems is wide receiver Ryan Hervey, a 6-6, 190-pound senior who also plays defensive end. Akana said they will look to throw the ball some, but the team is going to rely heavily on its run-game.

“Since we are going to be young, we probably aren’t going to throw the ball too much,” Akana said. “We’re going to get most of our yards on the ground.”

At this point in fall camp, Akana said everyone is fighting for their spot on the roster.

“We’re looking for those guys that are gonna grit it out,” Akana said. “In fall camp, you’re looking for guys who are hungry and willing to battle through bumps and bruises and be competitive.”

Akana and the other coaches also focus on teaching proper tackling and blocking techniques to avoid injuries during training camp.

“We are teaching football the correct way,” Akana said. “We take the head out of the equation in a tackle or block. We want moms to know that the game is a lot safer than it used to be.”

SAMMAMISH Schedule

Sept. 6 at Cedarcrest, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13 home vs. Interlake, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 home vs. Bellingham, 7 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Cleveland, 6 p.m. (Southeast Athletic Complex)

Oct. 4 home vs. Nathan Hale, 7 p.m.

Oct. 12 at Lincoln, 5 p.m. (Memorial Stadium)

Oct. 18 home vs. Franklin, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25 at West Seattle, 7 p.m. (Southwest Athletic Complex)

Head coach Rylen Akana blows his whistle while addressing his team during practice. Benjamin Olson/ staff photo

Head coach Rylen Akana blows his whistle while addressing his team during practice. Benjamin Olson/ staff photo

Totem linemen run through drills during their fall practice. Benjamin Olson/ staff photo

Totem linemen run through drills during their fall practice. Benjamin Olson/ staff photo

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