Curtis has a new coach in town, and his players say it’s a promising change for the program.
Head coach Chris Paulson arrived after five seasons with Kentlake. Paulson said he wasn’t looking for a new head coaching gig, but when former Curtis head coach Clay Angle resigned after eight seasons, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
The University Place School District had not hired outside the district for 40 years, and Paulson knew if he didn’t make the move now, the job might not come up again.
“I had always watched that program from afar, and I remember playing when I was in high school,” Paulson said. “They won the state championship in ’95, and we played them in ’96…I remember being really impressed with the program that [Bob] Lucey was running at the time.”
Before Kentlake, Paulson was the head coach at Mount Rainier. An Auburn Riverside graduate, Paulson was a linebacker at Washington State.
In addition to building a successful program, Paulson said he wants to build an inclusive one. Paulson has teamed up with Little Viks junior football and local businesses to make the high school program about more than just Friday nights.
Although Paulson was a linebacker, he has always coached on the offensive side the ball. Paulson is implementing a new triple option scheme, based on schemes run by service academies, like Navy and Army.
“It’s a lot of decision-making from the quarterback, but we run it from the pistol formation, so we can throw the ball probably a little bit more than those service academies do,” Paulson said.
The Vikings return almost all its starters on offense, including quarterback Gage Ferguson, wide receiver Tristan Beard, and lineman Elijah Piper.
Ferguson, who took over mid-season last year for senior quarterback Nathaniel Wentz, will have more responsibility this season. Paulson said he’s putting the game in Ferguson’s hands.
“He’s got great decision making ability,” Paulson said. “And he’s just an aggressive player. Whether it’s him running the football or throwing the football, he does everything aggressively. There’s no hesitation at all.”
Football fans should expect a more up-tempo pace from the Vikings. This summer the team has focused on speed and agility drills in addition to weight room time.
“A lot of running for our offense and defense,” said running back Donnell Diego. “We’re a lot more focused on the speed aspect of things, rather than strength.”
Curtis will find out the first two weeks if the new system is working. The Vikings take on Kentwood week one, followed by Union. The team is motivated to prove itself – they faced off against Kentwood for the first game last year and lost 43-0. Last game of the season, Union knocked off Curtis in regional playoffs.
Curtis’ young team was inexperienced in the postseason last year, but say tough early match-ups and a positive outlook will be key.
“The whole attitude of the team is a lot more uplifting,” said Curtis defensive end Elijah Piper. “Nobody’s putting anyone down. Everyone’s uplifting each other and telling them they can do it. It makes a big difference.”
Players to watch out for:
RB/DB Donnell Diego, Sr., 5-foot-10, 180. Diego was an All-SPSL 4A South first team selection on both sides of the ball and rushed nearly 1,000 yards last year.
DE/T Elijah Piper, Sr., 6-foot-4, 270. One of Curtis’ biggest playmakers, Piper has drawn interest from Washington, Washington State, and Oregon.
DE Trevor Morrow, Sr., 6-foot-2, 200. Morrow played outside linebacker last season, and will be looking to make a lot more plays on the D-Line.
WR/CB Taj Moffett, Soph., 5-foot-7, 125. Moffett started a Varsity game at cornerback as a freshman, and also competed on the 4×100 meter relay team.