Juanita High football players say their program is “electrifying” and “gritty” all in one.
The defending 3A/2A KingCo champs can light up the scoreboard on game nights and then return to their locker room, where they hunker down on a dusty cement floor.
“We don’t complain about it — we embrace it and we love it,” said 6-foot-4 senior wide receiver/cornerback JD Worcester about the locker-room scenario and toughness around the program.
Added senior safety Gio Caggiano-Wilmot: “The coaches — from Junior Rebs and on — they make us into soldiers, so we’re just ready to go.”
Juanita (3-2 league, 4-6 overall last year) will roll into its season with a nonconference matchup at 7 p.m. Thursday at Lakes. A mammoth 3A KingCo contest on its schedule is a cross-town rivalry battle at Lake Washington at 7 p.m. Oct. 6.
While returning to his office after a productive practice on Aug. 17, head coach Lele Te’o said the players make his job fun.
“They bind to each other, they love on each other and they push each other and compete,” he said. “It really is a brotherhood they’re working towards, and family is one of our core values and they’re definitely making the most of that.”
The Rebel players and the coaching staff learned a lot about themselves during a playoff loss to Southridge last year. Te’o feels everyone’s better because of that defeat and they’re ready to make an impact in KingCo again this time out.
Te’o said the Rebels possess a “high-flying” offense that likes to score tons of points through the air, but if they need to get dirty and grind it out on the ground, the team is ready to go that route as well.
Junior Jake Hohu will be the team’s calm and collected quarterback, and will lead the way with returners Joao Nascimento (a 6-2 senior all-KingCo defensive tackle), Sebastian Garcia (junior all-KingCo offensive lineman), Worcester (all-KingCo honorable mention quarterback), senior lineman Reagan Stubb, senior rip-roaring running back Andrez Trahan, junior safety Isaiah Eubanks and Caggiano-Wilmot, who Te’o said brings maximum energy to every practice.
“We’ve got a lot of experience coming back on defense, a lot of experience everywhere on the field, so I think that will do us some good and it will help us when times get rough,” the coach said.
Caggiano-Wilmot said the team’s enthusiasm begins in practice and spills over into games. They aim to keep strong from start to finish in both realms.
“Coaches don’t accept slacking and we don’t accept it from each other,” he said.
Added Worcester: “I think the community is really excited and we’re really excited, because we know in the offseason we put in a lot of work and I feel like that prepares us well.”
Tyr Andrews, a 6-foot senior middle linebacker, said the players’ focus to detail will be a key to success on the field. Off the field, they give equal attention to the youngsters who look up to the varsity Rebels.
“I think it’s the way we impact our community,” he said. “We’re always with little kids: we have the Running Rebs program, we do Reading Rebs during the season, so I think our community shows up for us and we show up back for them. That’s what kind of keeps us going.”