When Adam Kennybrew discusses results on the football field, he uses the term by-product. Not fall-out. Not consequence. Not outgrowth. Not wins. At least not yet. For the first-year head coach at Willamette High School, the positive results he foresees for his Wolverines will represent a by-product of the cumulative efforts of his players and coaches. “Our goal each day is to be the absolute best and to operate at the most efficient level as we can individually as well as collectively,” Kennybrew said. “If we are able to do those things, I believe the by-product of that will be overall success.”
A former Oregon Duck fullback and special teams player, Kennybrew takes over a Willamette team that finished 2-7 overall last year and 1-6 in the 5A Midwestern League. A total of eight starting players return this season, four each on offense and defense: Samuel Aguirre (junior, running back); Taylor Brown (jr., outside linebacker); Cam Fergusson (senior, wide receiver); Darius Jackson (jr., safety); Kosey Mitchell (jr., quarterback); Nicholas Swanson (sr., offensive lineman); and Donnie York (jr., linebacker).
“The kids have been working hard,” Kennybrew said earlier this week during practice. “They come out with a good mind-set. Our first couple of days is about mental toughness. That’s our focus. We did a lot of conditioning on the front end before we started practice just so they could get used to pushing through when they get tired. They responded really well to that. We’ve had some guys step up and start to separate themselves.”
Kennybrew says he’s excited about the number of talented juniors on this team and the simple, yet complex defensive framework his coaches have structured. “We are complex, but it is simple for our players,” he said. “Any time you can put kids in a position where they can think less and execute at a faster, higher level of confidence (it) should be a winning equation.”
Offensively, the Wolverines will run a spread offense with intentions of serving defensive teams an up-tempo game. “Our goals are really to just play at a fast tempo and display great mental toughness,” Kennybrew said. “No excuses. There is some evidence of players not having been pushed or challenged regularly. So we’re trying to get them to not settle for who they have been and really be open to who they can become..It’s been awesome to see the kids start to trust: trust in a system that is unfamiliar to them, trust in coaches who are unfamiliar to them.”
All but one coach is new to the team. Kennybrew has brought on two former Oregon Ducks to his coaching staff: former UO linebacker Dietrich Moore holds defensive coordinator and linebacker coaching duties, and former Duck receiver Marshaun Tucker coaches wide receivers. Others on the staff include Tobey Hay (defensive secondary coach); Chase Beach (wide receiver coach); Brett Thorton (wide receiver/defensive back coach); Josh Wolfram (offensive line coach); Scott Boyter (offensive line coach); Kevin Lee (offensive coach); Dainean Nelson (defensive line coach); Curtis Mitchell (defensive line coach); and Darren Hatefi (linebacker coach).
“I’ve empowered my coaches to invest in the program in such a manner that I have the title of head coach, but really this is our program,” Kennybrew said. “I had the opportunity of hiring people who I’ve admired, look up to and view to be brothers of mine to take on this journey with me. This is our program. It isn’t a my program type of deal. Because I’ve structured it as such, I don’t have that anxiety or the pressure that it’s all about me on the line. I feel we’re in a position to do some amazing things here, and if we’re putting in the work and the kids are putting in the work and learning what we are teaching, then the by-product is success.”
Willamette High School Football Schedule (games start at 7 p.m.)
- Aug. 30 – at Corvallis
- Sept. 6 – South Eugene
- Sept. 13 – Springfield
- Sept. 20 – at North Eugene
- Sept. 26 – Marist
- Oct. 4 – at Churchill
- Oct. 10 – Eagle Point
- Oct. 18 – at Ashland