New coach, new system take shape at spring practice

Chris Tormey, the first-year Falcon football head coach, huddles his team during an early afternoon practice June 5.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Chris Tormey, the first-year Falcon football head coach, huddles his team during an early afternoon practice June 5.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Chris Tormey looked right at home on Waterman’s Field during a recent football practice, months ahead of the August start for the fall sport.

The first-year Falcon head coach, a former Division I college assistant and head coach, took over the reins in May from Mark Hodson and Andy Davis after more than a decade of their leadership. They stepped down in favor of spending time with their families. Both coaches have children at the high school.

Players and coaches are still getting to know each other. After 12 years of one style of coaching, it’s easy to imagine some growing pains.

All of South Whidbey’s former assistants resigned as well, leaving a vacuum in the identity and attitude of the Falcon football program.

Yet some things have remained the same, according to returning players. Tormey, who coached for the University of Hawaii, has kept South Whidbey’s longstanding tradition of “ohana,” a Hawaiian word for family that is a rallying cry for the Falcons. A new Big Island installation is “aloha Fridays” during the spring practice season when the team has 6 a.m. training Friday.

“It shows [us] the people who are dedicated and put in work,” said Parker Collins, who will be a senior next season after taking several snaps at quarterback last year, including in the pigtail playoff game.

Collins said Tormey and his assistants have higher expectations for the players to study the new plays and formations outside of the scheduled practice times. That means flipping through the playbook this summer, not just during the football camps later this month or after they show up for the first day of fall practice Aug. 20.

“They expect us to do stuff off the field,” Collins said.

For all of the changes, Collins — a tall, pass-first quarterback who does not have the same ability to run the ball as past Falcon quarterbacks — said the team will continue to rely on its running backs on offense. One wrinkle he noted, however, was Tormey’s willingness to adjust to the opposing team’s defensive weakness. If a team’s secondary is vulnerable to passing, then the Falcons will take flight.

“He’s getting to know us and our strengths and weaknesses,” Collins said.

South Whidbey Athletic Director Kelly Kirk said about 45 Falcons have regularly participated in the spring practices, a positive sign for Kirk.

“There’s a lot of kids who have never played football or hadn’t played since middle school that are coming out,” Kirk said. “Chris is a real kid magnate, all of those years on the recruiting trail, he’s been able to sell kids on the benefits.”

Tormey formerly was the defensive coordinator at the University of Wyoming. He may be most famous for being an assistant coach at the University of Washington when it shared the football championship in 1991 under head coach Don James.

Football is allotted 20 sport-specific practices before July 31. Kirk said this is one of the first years that the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has regulated spring practice, calling previous years a “free-for-all.”

South Whidbey will participate in the football camp hosted by The King’s School, a Cascade Conference and class 1A rival. Kirk said the Falcons may also take part in a passing camp, though that was not decided by press time.

The coaching staff was not set in stone, however. Kirk described the spring practices as a tryout for the assistants as well, with Tormey inviting several people out to try their hand at coaching with him.

“It’s up to him who he wants,” Kirk said. “We’ve had a lot of interest because of who he is and what his knowledge is, people want to soak that up.”

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