Ask any number of players what they’ve learned from coach Sean McDonald and the answers are invariably different. Some due to position, some due to age, but all have an easy time thinking of things.
The stories from assistant coaches don’t fall short either.
It’s a perfect example, really, of the kind of impact McDonald has had on Kalama’s football program, taking on the task of head coach in 2015, and since elevating it from good to great.
The Chinooks (11-2) enter their second consecutive state title game as favorites against Napavine on Friday with the senior class having spent its entire high-school career playing under McDonald.
Many have played different positions, but no more than this season after 13 seniors graduated. Five of those guys received offers to play college football.
Many talented 4A programs can’t claim that, but McDonald’s 2B unit has. There’s no one trait that’s made McDonald’s presence so impactful. Plenty of help is offered by assistants, but McDonald still wants to be in on as much as he can.
It’s not too different than how he played, offensive coordinator and former Kalama quarterback Brandon Walker said.
“He was a middle linebacker for us, and he just set the tone every single play,” Walker said. “You expected Sean to be on every single tackle. He was just an animal. I don’t know that we’ve ever had a linebacker like him come through Kalama.”
While he racked up numbers with the defensive front, he wore down defensive tackles along the offensive line.
A solid chunk of the current Kalama roster has said they’ve learned preparation from McDonald. It’s no wonder that’s how he played.
“He was gritty; he set the tone every day in practice,” Walker said. “He was always one of those guys that I knew would be a coach some day.”
That determination may have been a guiding light through a tough sophomore coaching season when he also received guidance from La Center’s John Lambert and Mark Morris’ Shawn Perkins.
The year included plenty of disagreement between players, and forged a few leaders that represent this year’s senior class. But it also played a big role in McDonald’s coaching philosophies.
“I had the things that I learned from college football like accountability, and I preach that pretty hard, but the little things that you don’t think about doing have made a big difference,” McDonald said. “It was preaching what means a lot to you in football. When you learn the little things, like everybody getting here at the same time, holding everyone accountable for the same things. When you have those groups of kids who don’t buy into it, that’s going to be a tough year regardless. But that’s also where you see character built.”
McDonald cited the current senior class as an example, which were freshmen in his first year.
It’s not just the elders who have solidified their inner fibers.
What, exactly, has been learned?
“Stay focused,” receiver Brennon Vance said, “because if you don’t it’ll bite you.”
“I’ve learned a lot about respect, integrity and that stuff off the field,” lineman Quentin Crews said.
For the guy who’s worked directly with McDonald since the sixth grade, quarterback Alex Dyer, the impact can hardly be minimized.
“It’s preparation,” Dyer said. “Every week, be prepared for everything they throw at you. Study film, work hard in practice.”
Kalama has been in McDonald’s tenure, and that’s why the Chinooks are four quarters away from repeating as state champions.