After a dismal 2013 season that left the Red Raiders winless, it would be hard to blame incoming seniors for being less than enthusiastic about the new season.
But a breath of fresh air was distributed throughout Bellingham’s football program when Athletic Director Chad Larsen hired Ted Flint to turn the Red Raiders in the right direction.
Regardless of whether it’s been Flint’s influence, the senior class bonding together or a combination of both, Bellingham is fired up to play football and leave 2013 a distant memory.
“In the summer we had a great core of 20-30 guys that really worked hard and were here most of the time lifting weights and going to camp, so I was really pleased with their summer,” Flint said. “And then now we got mid-50s.”
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That’s right, 50s. The number is a far cry from the 20 or so Bellingham was left with toward the end of last season.
“I don’t know if I’ve done anything special,” Flint said. “A coaching change always gets more kids out. We just have shown them we are going to coach them the right way, and we are going to teach them football and put them in the best position to succeed.”
This isn’t Flint’s first go-round resurrecting a program. The new Bellingham coach took over struggling Wenatchee-based Eastmont High School in 2000 and in four years changed the team into a contender. He’s hoping to do the same at Bellingham, and for him it starts by placing a premium on execution.
“We’ve got to do things the right way; we’ve got to do things full speed,” Flint said. “Forget about the previous play if we made a mistake. ... We need to focus on what’s important that moment, focus on just that play, be low and go full speed all the time.”
To help Bellingham get back on track, the Red Raiders have opted to play an independent schedule featuring schools such as Orcas Island, Friday Harbor and La Conner. Bellingham is still playing city rivals Squalicum and Sehome.
Flint has found talent within the Red Raiders’ roster, and he’s been thoroughly impressed with his offensive line.
The senior-heavy group includes Luke Moreau, Blair Bennett, Alden Roberts, Spencer Marshall-Rodenberg, Lee Reardanz and junior Trent Helming. They aren’t the biggest, but they are fairly athletic and should fit nicely into the wing-T system Flint’s installing.
“I’ve been really pleased with the offensive line guys, and that’s what’s going to make the offense go,” Flint said.
When it comes to navigating the offense, the Bellingham coach has a number of players he’s mulling over. Kalien Hayes, who was Bellingham’s main offensive weapon a year ago, could be the favorite to land the quarterback job, but Kyle Hofstetter, Jake DeYoung and Clayton Tucker each are in the mix.
Senior Tanner Aliff, who’s already shown tremendous leadership, should see plenty of carries, as should senior back Eli Ninnemann.
Defense, though, is where Bellingham needs the most improvement. The group allowed an average of 46 points and 335.5 rushing yards per game last fall. Linebackers Roberts and Bennett will be relied on to help curb those large numbers.
Up front, Bellingham is looking at Ninnemann, Marshall-Rodenberg, Helming and Jake Frazier, and seniors Eric Thompson, Hayes and Aliff highlight the Red Raiders secondary.
“We’re going to build a foundation by being the best that we can possibly be, and that’s to try to win some games this year so we can set up for the future,” Aliff said.