Pam Pack football preps for run at conference title

Published 6:50 pm Friday, August 3, 2018

The opening week of the 2018 football preseason has been marred by rain, leaving practice fields that more resemble swamps than the breeding grounds for winning programs. Instead of running around on grass, many teams, such as Washington, ran drills and practiced in basketball gyms and parking lots to avoid tearing up their fields.

Despite the less than ideal start, Washington head coach Jon Blank feels his team’s summer workouts have prepared the program for the temporary lack of field time. With a daily average of almost 70 kids in attendance, 35 kids who didn’t miss a single summer workout and close to another 30 that missed only one, Blank said the Pam Pack coaching staff’s expectations over the summer were met.

“Having those (attendance) numbers is helping us right now,” Blank said. “We’re missing kind of some field time because of the weather, but because we were able to put in a whole lot over the summer with all of our kids being here, we don’t really feel like we’re missing a step. That pays off there.”

THANKS FOR THE HELP: Ka’ci Foreman cuts up field to use the block his teammate set for him during practice. (Sean Finnerty | Daily News)

With Blank entering his second season running the football program at Washington, summer workouts were more than just an opportunity to get an early jump on the season. Blank and his coaching staff used that time with their players to promote the new team culture they’re trying to establish, one that emphasizes family, togetherness and accountability.

The players appear to be listening to what their coaches are preaching, as Blank said leadership has been more of a group effort so far, instead of just individuals taking that responsibility.

“I think the team has kind of taken on the role of being vocal leaders, making sure that if one individual is out of line that they get back in line,” Blank said. “We’ve changed our team culture to the point where coaches don’t have to say it as much. We’re hearing it come out of players’ mouths, and not just one, but a group of them.”

Along with many players stepping up as leaders, Blank said his team has formed a tight bond and everyone is working well as a unit.

“They’re a family, and they’re really fighting for each other in everything they do,” Blank said. “They believe in each other, and they’ve really kind of embraced the idea that it takes everybody in the program to play some kind of role to make this thing work.”

CLASH OF TITANS: Jaheim Pope (No. 89) and T.J. Williams battle it out during defensive drills. (Sean Finnerty | Daily News)

Despite being a tight family, facing off against the same guy in practice every day can grow old. After playing against teammates the past couple of months, Blank said the Pam Pack is chomping at the bit to compete against actual opponents.

“We’ve played against ourselves a lot this spring and summer, and I think we’re kind of tired of doing that. I think we’re ready to see some other faces and kind of get out there and battle,” Blank said. “We kind of did that by design, but now we’re ready to go ahead and play somebody else.”

In Blank’s first year at the helm, Washington showed some signs of improvement. The Pam Pack won one more game than in 2016, returned to the playoffs after a year absence and scored 221 more points than the 2016 squad.

But now in year two, Blank has much higher aspirations.

“Our No. 1 goal is to win the conference,” Blank said. “I think some teams are sleeping on us right now, which is fine. We haven’t earned the respect to being ranked in a preseason very highly. But we expect by the end of this season to come out as conference champions.”