For the Mountlake Terrace Hawks football program, there’s a sense of deja vu this month as former Coach Tony Umayam is back at the helm after a four-year absence, leading spring practices in anticipation for the 2019 fall season that begins in September.
Returning to the school he graduated from and then coached football at — first as an assistant then as head coach for 11 years — has brought a big smile to Umayam’s face.
“It’s almost like a version 2.0; it’s almost like getting an old band back together,” Umayam said.
Umayam resigned from the Hawks’ head coaching position following the 2014 season to concentrate on a new day job and to spend more time with his family — a family that included two young daughters under the age of 6. And although he did some consulting at Mercer Island with defensive game plans for one season, Umayam kept away from football during the four-year stretch.
“It was nice to have more time to spend at home with the family (and) to do other things,” Umayam said. “And I needed a break after 17 years.”
In addition to his time at Terrace, Umayam had previously served as an assistant coach at Mercer Island and Jackson.
Now back as a high school football coach, Umayam admits that this time at Terrace brings quite a few changes to what he experienced when he first took the head coaching position at the school in 2004.
“I’m coming around to it this time from a very different point of view than I was 15 years ago,” Umayam stated. “So 15 years ago I was single, no kids; a lot of my coaches were younger coaches at the time, so as the program grew, we kind of grew.”
Umayam believes he and his coaching staff — many of whom are also returnees from the previous Umayam era — have gained much experience from their previous stint at Terrace.
“I think I have a different perspective, a better perspective, now about what really matters and works when it comes to putting together a successful program and what may not,” he explained, “because we tried it all. We had the opportunity; we had the (clean) slate because it was a down program early on. We tried it all.”
“The first time it was the worst football program in the state,” Umayam continued. “It had 19 straight losing seasons, never making the postseason, only five winning seasons in the 45-year history (of the school), no booster club, bad reputation all the way around.”
Umayam took over Terrace football following a 1-9 season in 2003 and built the program up to see the varsity team compile their best year — an 8-3 record and a state playoff berth — in 2014.
This time, he inherits a program, led by former head Coach Kelly Dougan, that has maintained some success over the past four years.
“Kelly kept the program afloat for four years to where it’s a lot different than it was when I took over here the first time.” Umayam said. “Now, I think Kelly left it in a pretty nice place to where there’s some talent here. (And) football’s a big part of the school now. We can share it with baseball and basketball and all that; we’re right up there with them. It’s not like it was 15 years ago.”
One of the biggest benefits of jumping back into Terrace football now is the culture and attitude of the program compared to where it was in the early 2000s – a program of one abysmal season after another, Umayam said.
“The expectations are higher going in,” he pointed out. “You’re not having to teach those type of expectations with the players or the families; it’s already there.”
Another change from 2014 is, of course, a whole new group of student athletes in the program.
“We’ve got a fresh new group of players that seem eager and seem real coachable from what limited interaction we’ve had with them; and (they’re) excited about this year,” Umayam said.
“Hopefully the players benefit from having some of us coaches coming back,” he added.
Spring practices will run through June, but one difference for Umayam in the schedule for Terrace football this time of year is the exclusion of a three- or four-day offsite camp for the team this month.
“That’s one part of the game that I think has changed over time,” he noted. “Less schools are going to them. The model that they’re using is they’ll set up scrimmages with other local schools.”
Another difference will come for Umayam this fall when the game schedule kicks in — a schedule that includes no Wesco League opponents as the Hawks will again play games against Northwest Conference Lake Division foes Cedarcrest, Anacortes, Sehome and Bellingham, plus a slate of at least four non-league matchups.
“At least for one more year our schedule is kind of weird,” he said. “We’re not going in and playing Lynnwood and Edmonds-Woodway — we’re kind of traveling all over the place; you don’t really know much about the opponents, they don’t know much about you. But the nice thing is at least you’re playing similar-size schools.”
The season will begin with a non-league matchup against a team Uyamam has had some history with, the Mercer Island Islanders, on Sept. 6.
After four years off, Umayam is itching to get back at it with his 2019 Terrace Hawks.
“They seem like a really neat bunch of kids, so I’m excited to be working with them,” he concluded.
— By Doug Petrowski