Kennewick High Lions returning with all-star football talent - TC Herald

Just watching a Kennewick High football practice can be exhausting.

There is no walking. Every drill is timed down to the second.

Groups are broken off separately all over the football field.

Welcome to the new way, under new Lions head coach Randy Affholter — who is by no means a rookie at this.

Affholter was hired this spring to replace Bill Templeton, who stepped down last November after 17 years as head coach of his alma mater.

When the job came open, Affholter — who was the head coach at Ellensburg for 22 years and a head coach for 26 years overall — applied.

He has brought an energy to the practices and workouts, which is to get as much work done as efficiently as possible.

“The first two weeks of spring ball, we didn’t do any offense or defense,” Affholter said. “We went through our practice routine.”

Now, in late August, it’s about X’s and O’s — and caring about kids.

“For me, personally, when I get done at the end of a season, I let (the season) go. Sometimes I don’t look at it until around Christmas break,” he said. “But then I ask myself, ‘Did we improve? Did we get better over the season?’ But my biggest goal with the kids, is if I teach them more than just football, then I’m happy.”

Winning can also make everyone happy.

Last season, the Lions tied with Kamiakin, Hermiston and Hanford for third place in the Mid-Columbia Conference standings at 5-3 (6-4 overall) and made an appearance in the Class 3A regionals.

And there are seven all-stars returning this season.

“We have a lot of kids who played last year,” said Affholter. “They’ve had some success. Now the trick is getting them to think more. Think about when you’re on defense, what the offense is trying to do. When you’re on offense, why a defense is lined up like it is. Football is a thinking man’s game.”

5 things to think about with the Kennewick Lions this season:

1. What to do with Blaine Chavez?

Obviously, play him at quarterback, which is what he did last season. He also played in the secondary on defense, and returned punts.

Affholter wants to put the reins on Chavez a bit because he’s so valuable at QB.

“He’ll play both sides of the ball. But we’ve got to be smart,” said Affholter.

That means giving Chavez a rest if the opponent has the ball deep in its own territory.

“And he’s off of special teams,” said Affholter.

At all times, protect the quarterback.

2. Seven all-stars.

Chavez was a first-team MCC defensive back last season. He was co-leader in interceptions with six.

Jagger Childs was a first-team defensive lineman, and Affholter expects him to go both ways at tight end and defensive end.

Then there are the McElroy twins — Baylor and Baiden. Both are 6-foot-5, 260 pounds, and senior offensive linemen. Baylor was second-team MCC last season, while Baiden was honorable mention.

This season, Affholter has Baylor at right guard, while Baiden will protect Chavez’s blind side at left tackle.

“They are great. They’re so smart,” Affholter said. “We have been very impressed with them. They ask the right questions. I wish I had them for more than this year.”

Myles Mayovsky was an honorable mention selection last season as a freshman running back. He was tied for second in the MCC with 14 touchdowns, and was fourth in both rushing (812 yards) and all-purpose yards (1,047).

“He will be our running back. He’ll get the majority of carries,” said Affholter. “But we’ll have others carry it too. We know this league is physical.”

Linebacker Kaleb Stevenson was the team’s leading tackler last year, and a second-team MCC pick. Affholter needs him on the field more.

“Kaleb willl play tailback when Myles isn’t, he’ll play some fullback, and inside linebacker,” he said. “He’s a good kid.”

And senior Cody LaFontaine returns as an honorable mention defensive back.

3. Think Prosser when you think of the Lions’ new offense.

Actually, that’s not fair. Affholter has been running the same offensive system the last eight to 10 years at Ellensburg.

“I talked to Tom Moore about his offense when he retired at Prosser,” he said. “We’ve been running it. It’s a similar style, multiple sets, and we’ll take what you give us.”

It’s reacting to what the defense is doing — they take away the run, then pass; they try to shut down the passing game, run the ball.

4. Expect the defensive unit to be fast.

All seven of those all-stars should be involved with the defense in one varying degree or another.

“Defensively, we’ll bring the stuff we did for Ellensburg, using a 3-4 base defense, but with packages,” said Affholter.

5. Living around a construction site will test mental toughness.

Kennewick High is getting a new campus.

But the students will be living around it all school year, attending classes in some old buildings, the old Fruitland building and in numerous portables. It’ll create some distractions, but these Lions should be able to fight through it.

“The kids have handled it great,” said Affholter. “The head coach is going crazy. We’ve been moving our equipment around.”

In fact, the team will have to move their equipment a third time in the near future. That’s just the way it is, said Affholter.

“It’s gonna be great when it’s all done,” he said. “The administration has been great. They’ve gotten us at Eastgate Elementary when we have to practice offsite.”

That will happen a lot, since Lampson Stadium is also used by other sports teams at Kennewick, Kamiakin and Southridge high schools.

Jeff Morrow is former sports editor for the Tri-City Herald.