Sports

Chandler era begins for hopeful ‘Stangs: Former Eastlake coach looks to build winning tradition at Redmond

Senior running back Nico Shewey will anchor the rushing attack for the Mustangs, who will look to improve this year under first-year coach Jeff Chandler. - Matt Campbell, www.sportspixs.com
Senior running back Nico Shewey will anchor the rushing attack for the Mustangs, who will look to improve this year under first-year coach Jeff Chandler.
— image credit: Matt Campbell, www.sportspixs.com

It’s never easy being a first-year head coach of a struggling football program, but former Eastlake head coach Jeff Chandler already has been showing signs of success as the new head honcho for Redmond High.

Excitement for Mustang football is at an all-time high as “about 55” juniors and seniors, according to Chandler, turned out along with another big sophomore class of more than 30, helping ensure much-needed depth in Redmond’s program.

“Our aim is to keep that sophomore class together for the next few years to continue to grow the program,” Chandler explained. “There’s a lot of enthusiasm with the fresh faces right now, and what is going to happen.”

With returners like starting quarterback and all-league baseball player Michael Conforto, a veritable run/pass threat, an improved line over last year led by 6-foot-5, 235-pound James Boker, and blazing speed in the backfield, the Mustangs have the tools to be a threat this year.

“We have kids out that want to be out — they enjoy the game, and they enjoy the learning,” Chandler said. “We have great kids that are highly motivated and enthusiastic, they want to be there and that enthusiasm is spreading.”

TOP COACHES

Though he may be new to Redmond, Chandler is no stranger to Kingco 4A. He guided the Wolves to a Kingco title in 2001 during his five-year tenure there, and also served as athletic director for Skyline High School. While at Skyline, the Spartans won two state titles under Steve Gervais, who is now coaching at the University of Washington.

Because of his history in the area, Chandler was able to assemble one of the most experienced coaching staffs in the league at Redmond, highlighted by three former NFL players, Nuu Faaola (Jets), Manu Tuiasosopo (Seahawks, 49ers) and Michael Bumpus (Seahawks).

“It was really important to me that we bring in good coaches, who really understand how to teach the game and have a natural enthusiasm, or passion, for the game,” Chandler said. “They want to transfer that to the players that they are coaching. Everybody on that staff shares that as a common theme.”

Chandler added that he hopes the quality of coaching he brought in will get more kids out for football and help build the foundation of the program.

“I was really fortunate to get the kind of coaches I got,” he admitted. “I’m kind of blown away by it, it’s a really good staff.”

Chandler and his top-shelf staff put an emphasis on work ethic, which will help develop the raw talent of the players in the program.

“It’s a game, and games are supposed to be fun... but in some sports, quality and efficiency of work is really important, and football is one of those sports,” he noted. “Our goal is to help kids find the joy, find the fun in that work, the preparation, and not worrying so much about the scoreboard. As long as we’re out there getting better every day, improving, learning is fun. The scoreboard will take care of itself.”

TRUST IS A MUST

Chandler has been around long enough to know that the Mustangs’ transformation from a team that went 4-14 in its last two seasons to a perennial contender will not happen overnight, and he has adjusted his team’s goals to always keep the “big picture” in mind.

“Our day-to-day goals are not to win a football game or score points, it’s to get better, trust each other and be a real team,” he said. “When we get better, trust and take care of each other, it will be an awful lot of fun, and word gets out that football is a great experience.

“When you have that depth in the program, that’s when you can start to compete on he scoreboard.”

Since the day he was told he got the head coaching job by Athletic Director John Appelgate, Chandler has had his mind set on bringing Redmond up to the level of the state’s elite teams.

“I told the guys, our overall vision as a program is that when people talk about Redmond football, they talk about us in the same breath as Bothell and Skyline,” Chandler said. “That’s what we’re aiming for.”

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