It’s grueling work, but Cedar Park Christian’s football players figure that all the time ensconced in the weight room and on the practice field will pay off when game time arrives.
Senior Payton Nelson noted that the Eagles may not be the biggest squad in the 1A Cascade Conference, but they’re diligent and are “doing what we can do to control our own variables.” And the guys would like to be the first Cedar Park Christian footballers to play for a state championship in the Tacoma Dome.
As Nelson, a 6-foot outside linebacker/tight end, prepared to hit the field at the small Bothell school last Friday, his new head coach was set for practice to begin. Butch Goncharoff will be taking the coaching reins for the Eagles (see sidebar) from Bill Marsh, who coached the last three seasons and is battling Bell’s palsy.
“I’m excited for these kids. They got in the weight room, they made a commitment,” said Goncharoff, the former Bellevue High coach. “When players realize it’s about them, and it’s their team, then you have something. If it’s about coaches, you don’t have anything, cause we’re not playing. A lot of people put so much into who’s coaching a team — coaches aren’t out there playing. Players will take ownership of this team.”
Cedar Park finished 2-4 in the 1A Cascade Conference last season and tallied a 4-6 overall mark. The Eagles will play their first game this year at 5 p.m. Saturday versus Bellevue Christian at Lake Washington High.
Top senior players for Cedar Park along with Nelson will be Jason He, a 6-foot running back/linebacker; Tyler Shimmin, a 6-3 offensive lineman/outside tackle; Killian Boyle, a 6-foot tackle; Brad Cumley, a 6-foot defensive end/offensive guard/kicker; and Judah Shirley, a 5-5 right guard/offensive lineman. The Eagles will utilize two quarterbacks in sophomore Daniel Rickman and freshman Deegan Csigi.
Cumley has his hands full, but welcomes the juggling act.
“It’s definitely a grind, I’ve been preparing for this. We’ve been in the weight room doing work pretty much the whole year,” he said, adding that everyone’s ready to roll.
Unity and perseverance are at the top of the success list, according to He, whom Goncharoff said is a “tremendous talent.”
New to the squad — and the sport — this year is Shirley, a former cross country runner who got burnt out on that sport and figured he’d come out and hit some guys on the football field. He said his fellow players and coaches have guided him up and down the field in his foray into sporting a helmet and shoulder pads.
“Just seeing everyone working together as a team just pushes me harder to work harder,” he said. “It’s not about individualism, it’s about being a solid group, moving as one solid body.”
This all makes the game fun for him to play.
For Goncharoff, it’s been a learning curve for him as well, especially when it comes to playing freshmen. At Bellevue, he played freshmen on special teams sometimes, but not in major roles like he will at Cedar Park.
“I think the cool thing for me coaching-wise, it’s sharpened me, it’s back to basics. After the first day, we were back to stance, eyes, feet, blocking, tackling,” said Goncharoff, noting that he appreciates his coaching staff, the kids and the school’s devotions and faith — it’s like a ministry, he said.
Shimmin said the players want success more than ever this year, and they’re benefiting from Goncharoff’s work ethic.
“Coach’s philosophy is all about the effort that you put in,” Shimmin said. “He makes it very clear that you don’t have to be the biggest, you don’t have to be the fastest, but if you give the effort and you want it more than the other guys, there’s a good shot that you’ll come out on top.”
Taking the helm at Cedar Park Christian will be Goncharoff’s first coaching job since he was fired by Bellevue High in April 2016, after allegations surfaced that the program was illegally recruiting students. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and 3A KingCo Conference handed down sanctions, including banning Goncharoff from coaching at Bellevue for several years.
Cedar Park hired Goncharoff, who coached Bellevue to 11 state titles in 16 seasons and had an overall record of 193-14, in January.
Goncharoff chose not to comment on his Bellevue career and the allegations during a Reporter interview about the Cedar Park squad, noting that he wants the focus to be on the Eagle players.
“A year out of high school coaching, he is excited to become a part of a Christian school and looks forward to not only coaching football but, more importantly, helping build young men of character and integrity,” Cedar Park Christian athletic director Todd Lundberg said in a press release in January.