Another stop on our fall camp tour took us to Juanita High School, home of the Rebels. A program that was once an afterthought, Juanita now stands toe to toe with all the titans. It’s transformation started 3 years ago with the best hire the school has ever made in Head Coach Shaun Tarantola. If you don’t believe me, ask senior OL/DL Nathan Dean, a UW commit. “When coach T got here my Freshmen year, he told me I’d be a D1 recruit. I never thought that way, but once I heard that it changed me.” And Dean isn’t the only one who feels that way. “Coach revamped the way we do everything. How we lift, how we practice, our whole outlook on things.” Said senior TE/DE Matt Nilsson. Coming off an 8-2 record last year, Juanita has big plans this season. “We want to win a state championship.” Said Dom Chadwig. “It’s been over 25 years since we last won it, and that’s just too long.”
While most top teams boast a high profile QB, WR, or DB, the Rebels have none of the above. They did get a boost with RB/Slot Travis Marshall. The son of a former Olympian and 1 time world record holder in the 100 meter, Marshall didn’t play football as a Sophomore or Junior. He decided to give it a shot his Senior year, and the staff and team are happy he did. “Just like you see someone in track turn the corner and separate themselves from the pack,” Said Assistant Coach Eddie Antuna. “that’s exactly what Travis does on tosses or fly sweeps.” Throughout practice we kept being told how this year’s team is faster than last years, but not quite as physical. Not being very familiar with last years team, I did see a lot of speed during practice, so I’ll take their word for it. I might be letting a secret out, but Juanita will also play some smash mouth too. They’ve got three of the best players in Washington with a fourth being maybe the most under the radar player this year.
Nathan Dean is Juanita’s all everything lineman, standing 6’4” and weighing 285lbs. So good in fact, he received numerous scholarship offers from pac-12 schools. But once he received an offer from coach Sarkisian and the Huskies, he committed and got the recruiting process over with. “I just felt at home there.” Said Dean, sporting a UW hat. “When UW was a power in the 80’s and 90’s, it was because of their line. I want to help be a part of getting that back.” Next to Dean a lot of the time will be Senior TE Matt Nilsson. At 6’6”, 250lbs, Nilsson lined up next to Dean should put fear into the eyes of opponents. Nilsson runs good routes and has good hands, but not blazing speed. He would be a great TE at the next level, but many coaches are considering offering him as a potential OT. Whatever position a school wants to recruit him as, they need to hurry up and offer him. The fact that he has no offers now is absurd, but it won’t last long. Within the first few weeks of the season he should have plenty of suitors and options. The third in the trio of top recruits is RB/LB Darrin Laufasa. A soft spoken kid, there’s nothing soft about his game. At 6’2”, 225lbs Darrin is a presence whenever he’s on the field. “I can run someone down, or run thru them.” Said Darrin, in what could only be referred to as a whisper. “I just love to hit.” Projected as a Linebacker at the next level, Darrin can also hit the hole. And running behind Dean and Nilsson, their should be some big holes. If you haven’t heard of Dom Chadwig, get familiar. A returning 1st team all league LB from last year, Dom plays with a chip on his shoulder. With so many big name guys around him, Dom has flown under the radar of a lot of colleges and media. But ask any offensive coordinator in Juanita’s league and they’ll tell you they’re still having nightmares about what he did to them last year.
With many of the parts in place, a league and state title are in view for Juanita. Adjustments will have to be made during games and week to week during the season. And with Shaun Tarantola at the lead, it’s easy to see why Rebel country is feeling so good about things.