Rebels take aim at league title with fastest team in a decade | Football preview

Rebel quarterbacks practice during a preseason workout at Juanita High School last week.  - Matt Phelps, Kirkland Reporter
Rebel quarterbacks practice during a preseason workout at Juanita High School last week.
— image credit: Matt Phelps, Kirkland Reporter

Speed can be a big advantage in football. Just ask the Seattle Seahawks.

The Juanita High School football players are hoping that the asset they have in common with the Hawks will give them similar results in 4A KingCo.

“I think we can outrun every team,” Juanita High School running back Salvon Ahmed said. “Speed kills. We talk about the Hawks all the time and how they use their speed.”

Ahmed knows what he is talking about. As a freshman he ran for 500 yards and six touchdowns last year. This season he hopes to have more of an impact on the Rebels’ fate.

“I can improve  on a lot,” said Ahmed, who was selected to the Freshman Army All-American Game last January. “It’s all about patience and I feel faster and stronger this year.”

“He was one of our biggest playmakers,” Juanita head coach Shaun Tarantola said. “Anything he does on the field is special. He is also a great kid and fun to coach.”

Senior Austin Cole also impressed last year at running back, averaging more than nine yards per carry.

“We have a lot of guys who can get to the ball and make things happen,” Tarantola said.

But speed is not just confined in two running backs for the Rebels. Tarantola said this is the fastest team he has had in his time as head coach.

“We have a lot of great skill guys,” Tarantola said. “We have moved a lot of our linebackers to the line and we will be very fast to the football.”

But that quickness and speed will have to make up for losing two key lineman, including Thomas Toki, who committed to play at Washington State University but moved to California during the summer. The coach said that depth on the line is his biggest concern this season.

“Losing a DI Pac-12 player is a blow,” Tarantola said. “But he only played in two games for us last year. The players don’t look at it as a blow. It is a great opportunity for other guys to step up.”

One of the guys that Tarantola is looking to is senior lineman Zach Johanson. But Johanson said that while they can’t physically replace Toki they can play smarter.

“I might need to eat a little more,” Johanson joked about replacing Toki. “We can’t match what they do but we can work with double teams and just work hard for it.”

Tarantola said the team also needs to stay focused for every game.

“There were days we came out flat last year,” Tarantola said. “We need to practice great habits. It is key for us.”

Junior quarterback Tavin Montgomery will lead the offense and try to keep the team focused every game and every practice. Montgomery has stayed focused during his high school career, going 12-4 as a starter with 25 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. But Montgomery has been pushed by sophomore Dexter Mell during the preseason after throwing five touchdowns and one interception last year.

“They are just pushing each other,” Tarantola said. “They are both very dynamic.”

The Rebels finished 2013 6-3 behind Bellevue and Mount Si. The Rebels will play Bellevue on Oct. 10.

Another game circled on the Rebels calendar will be the crosstown rivalry game against Lake Washington where a familiar face will be staring back. Former assistant and Juanita grad AJ Parnell is now the head coach for the Kangs.

“He was a big part of our success,” Johanson said. “I am happy for him and it will make the game fun.”

Tarantola hopes to see improvement tonight at Pop Keeney Stadium in Bothell as his team takes on Inglemoor to open the regular season.


Rebels schedule

Sept. 5, at Ingelmoor, 7 p.m.

Sept. 12, at Mountain View, 8 p.m.

Sept. 19, host Lake Washington, 7 p.m.

Sept. 26, at Mercer Island, 7 p.m.

Oct. 3, host Sammamish, 7 p.m.

Oct. 10, at Bellevue, 7 p.m.

Oct. 17, host Newport, 7 p.m.

Oct. 24, host Liberty, 7 p.m.

Oct. 31, at Interlake, 7 p.m.

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