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By David Pan 

New Kamiak coach focusing on revitalizing program | Football


Last updated 7/18/2018 at Noon

New Kamiak head football coach Bryant Thomas has experience revitalizing a program.

At his first head coaching job at Auburn-Riverside, Thomas took over a team that was coming off a winless season.

“We were able to turn it around and have some success,” said Thomas, who played at Washington State.

Thomas led the Ravens to three winning seasons in his five years as head coach. Auburn-Riverside made three playoff appearances, including last season when the team went 6-1 in the league and 8-2 overall.

The challenge of taking over a football program that was 2-12 in league play and 5-14 overall the last two years is part of the reason Thomas was drawn to Kamiak.

Thomas is well aware of the Knights’ past winning tradition under former coach Dan Mack, who Thomas met when he first came up to see the school.

“I was blessed enough to run into him,” Thomas said. “Everything in life happens for a reason and everything kind of pushed us in a direction.”

Thomas and Mack ended up chatting about football and life in general.

“I found out we had a lot of things in common,” Thomas said. “He encouraged me that I should possibly apply for the job. … Coach Mack has been very supportive in everything that we’re doing and that we’re trying to get accomplished.”

Thomas and his coaching staff, which includes some new faces and holdovers from Mack’s staff, hosted practices in June at the high school.

The time was productive for both Thomas and his players, as both got to know each other.

“They have an established culture here that is one of winning because they’ve won before,” Thomas said. “It’s an adjustment period not just for them but even for me. It’s about still carrying over some of those legacies and keeping some of those traditions that coach Mack has established. Just learning those traditions and being able to try to meld those with mine is the big piece.”

Even though he’s not from the area, Thomas was able to put together a coaching staff that has deep roots. In addition to some of Mack’s assistants, a couple of coaches from the Kamiak youth football program joined the Knights’ staff.

“It made the transition easy,” Thomas said. “Every coach here has lived in this area and been in this area. They’re vested. That helps you go a long way when people are vested in the program as much as you are.”

Turnout for the spring practices was running in the 50s, which Thomas said was fine.

“I want the right 50,” he said. “I don’t want 100 kids and 40 of them really don’t want to be here. I want the 50 kids who want to be here.”

Thomas added that just being in the building will be an important part of increasing the numbers. Thomas is a social studies teacher.

“One of the things you’ve got to be able to do is you’ve got to start winning again … You win games, people come,” Thomas said. “The second thing is for me just to get in the building.”

It’ll be important for kids to get to know who he is and his approach to the game, Thomas added.

Thomas said of his coaching philosophy, “Work hard. Be great blockers. Be great tacklers and the rest takes care of itself. It’s really about building men of character. If we can get these guys to be men of character, not only on the field but more importantly off the field, we’re getting done what we want to get done. We want them to be prepared for life and this game of football teaches that.”

Thomas and his staff are dealing with a major challenge at perhaps the most important position on the team – quarterback.

Returning starting quarterback Matt Merk unfortunately won’t be back for his senior year due to a leg injury. A pair of sophomores – Nick Laman and Damon Crouse – are vying for the starting role.

“That’s the best type of challenge to have,” Thomas said. “At the end of the day in the worse case you’re going to have two kids who are going be in the program for three more years in the system.”

Thomas added that overall the Knights are going to be a younger team not only at quarterback but across the field.


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