A month ago, the Meadowdale Mavericks football community was caught by surprise when then-head coach Matt Leonard resigned to take a coaching position at a Texas high school.
That left Meadowdale High School Athletic Director Beth Marriott in the unenviable position of having to find a replacement head coach just as the school year was ending and most coaches were in the middle of spring football practices and preparing for team camps.
When the dust settled, the Mavericks kept it in the family, hiring their defensive coordinator for the past three seasons, James Harmon.
“Coach Harmon brings energy, enthusiasm, and stability to our program,” Marriott said. “Having worked with Matt Leonard for the past three years, he is familiar with our athletes and knows how to motivate. I am really looking forward to our Friday night lights.”
Harmon was a three-sport high school athlete at La Cueva High School in Albuquerque, N.M., playing football, baseball and track. He then went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in education at New Mexico State University. He currently teaches elementary PE in the Edmonds School district.
Before joining the Meadowdale staff three seasons ago, he spent six years coaching varsity football in New Mexico — three seasons at Los Lunas High School, followed by three seasons at Volcano Vista High School, both as the defensive coordinator.
In his three seasons on Leonard’s staff, Harmon served as the defensive coordinator as well as offensive line coach, defensive line coach, linebackers coach, and run game coordinator.
“Being a head football coach was never really an ultimate goal of mine,” Harmon said. “I’ve told people for years that I could go my whole career not being a head coach and that it would have to be a situation that I couldn’t refuse. It just so happens that happened to be the situation I found myself in this spring.
“Honestly it wasn’t ever a question on if I was going to apply for the job,” he continued. “I love our student athletes and Meadowdale has been home for three years now. There were some really good applicants and the job got a lot of attention, so it was a little nerve wracking before I got the news. Meadowdale is home and I’m ecstatic to continue growing my roots here.”
Leonard said the district’s decision to hire Harmon was the right move for the players and the program.
“James is an exceptional coach and mentor for young men and he will continue what we started,” Leonard said. “I don’t think he ever got the credit he deserved for our semifinal run, where he was our DC (defensive coordinator) and offensive line coach. He will do great and I am happy that the boys have a familiar face to lead them on the field this season.”
As for the players’ reaction to the transition, Harmon said that “as a team, we’ve been doing amazing. We had three practices at home before going to camp for four days, and in those seven days we got a lot of good work in. Not only football and conditioning work but also in team bonding. We’re all really proud of the way the players have been there for each other in the face of our off-season adversity.”
When the team takes the field come September, Harmon said that fans may see a few changes compared to the past three seasons under Leonard.
“Our offense will be a run-first offense that will rely on reading defenders and controlling the line of scrimmage with our big offensive line,” Harmon said. “We have four out of five senior offensive linemen and we’re going to go as far as they will take us. We plan on grinding the clock and keeping the opposing offense off the field for as long as we can.”
Harmon cited the team’s quarterback, senior Hunter Moen, as a dual threat player and one of the states passing leaders two years in a row. “He’s a returning two-time all-conference player and we plan on utilizing his talents as often as possible,” Harmon said.
The Mavericks will kick off the season with Harmon as head coach for the first time on Friday, Sept. 6, when they host Inglemoor at 8 p.m. at Edmonds District Stadium.
— Story and photos by Scott Williams