Washington hopes returning core builds stability

Two summers ago, Karl Finley unexpectedly left the Washington football program to take a job at Armijo High School in Fairfield, leaving the program in disarray.

The past two seasons, Washington hasn’t qualified for San Francisco Section playoffs, and have won a grand total of five games. It’s the first time the Eagles have missed the playoffs two consecutive seasons since 2005-2006. Add in the fact that they have had two head coaches since Finley’s unexpected departure and it is easy to see how the program has struggled.

Peter Graham, now in his second year as head coach, is hopeful the 2014 season will be a lot better than 2013. In 2013, the Eagles sputtered to a 3-8 record and gave up an average of 39 points in those eight losses, while averaging less than a touchdown in those games.

Despite the rough sledding a year ago, Graham feels confident about the upcoming season, mentioning the strong turnout he had for offseason workouts.

“I feel much more comfortable coming into this season and we have a core group of guys that are dedicated to football coming back,” Graham said. “I’ve seen a lot of improvement with this group, and we’re hoping they’ll be the core that leads us to a lot more wins.”

Graham expects 6-foot-3, 180 pound senior Ramon Cutrightson — who was ineligible for most of last season — to be a jack-of-all-trades for Washington. He’ll start at quarterback, but the Eagles coaching staff will play him at wide receiver, as it feels confident with senior Minkyu Park’s ability to quarterback, too.

“Ramon is a really strong football player,” Graham said. “He has a strong arm, he can move, and he’s got a good football sense. [Park] has learned the position well and he’s a pretty good quarterback as well. I feel we have two good options at quarterback.”

Returning senior and first-team All-City member Jon Duterte will spearhead the offensive line and anchor the Eagles’ 3-4 defense with senior linebacker Wesley Chan, who also plays fullback.

“This defense is really dependent on our middle linebackers, especially their ability to stop the run,” Graham said. “Their maturity and their ability to be able to read fast will be one of the things that’ll help us. Our pursuit to the football, our tackling has already been better so far than last season.”

With numerous returning players looking to become a factor in the Academic Athletic Association, Graham didn’t mince any words on the expectations for 2014. The Eagles have one goal: Win every game on the schedule.

“That’s pretty much how we’ve approached this season,” Graham said. “We realize we have to get rid of the bad habits, take more responsibility and work hard. I feel like we’ve improved in that area, I see improvement in the attitudes. So we’ll take it from there and try to win every game. That’s the goal.”

Eagles breakdown

Last season: 3-8 overall, 2-5 in the Academic Athletic Association (sixth place)

Three things to watch

— Seniors Wesley Chan and Jason Hung will be counted on to carry the load out of the backfield and produce explosive plays for Washington.

— Junior Foaofia Vaimaona is a player the Eagles’ coaching staff has raved about and hopes 5-foot-10 wide receiver-cornerback can contribute big plays in 2014.

— With four nonleague games, the Eagles can muster plenty of momentum going into the Oct. 4 Bell Game against Lincoln, and break their two-game losing streak against the Mustangs.

Washington schedule

Aug. 30 at Albany*: 7 p.m.

Sept. 6 vs. El Camino*: 2 p.m.

Sept. 20 vs. San Rafael*: 2 p.m.

Sept. 27 at Capuchino*: 2 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Lincoln: 2 p.m.

Oct. 11 at Burton: 2 p.m.

Oct. 17 vs. Marshall: 3 p.m.

Oct. 24 vs. Galileo: 3 p.m.

Nov. 1 vs. Lowell: 2 p.m.

Nov. 8 at Balboa: 2 p.m.

Nov. 14 vs. Mission: 2 p.m.

* nonconference game

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