By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
With one of the longest tenures in Seattle high school football, Monte Kohler, head football coach for O’Dea High School, has amassed one of the winningest programs in state history.
This year’s team offers O’Dea the same potential to continue that winning tradition as the team embarks upon the 2021 playoff season. Behind senior and team captain Mark Dabou (OL/DL, 6’3”, 330lbs) and sophomore running back Jason Brown, Jr. (RB/CB, 5’10”, 185lbs), the Fighting Irish (6-2, 4-1 in Metro) are primed to make a playoff and championship run again this year.
“Starting my career in Montana, this is my 40th year of coaching football and my 37th year at O’Dea,” says Kohler. “At 6 and 2, our division in the Metro League is probably the toughest in the state right now, it’s a tough division. We are a good football team, like everyone else we are a little banged up, but hopefully we will get healthy and make a run into the playoffs.”
When asked about the success of his program year after year, Kohler says that the culture around the program brings out the best in each player and collectively as a team.
“Well, obviously some years are better than others,” says Kohler. “With the tradition [that is] half the battle, the kids expect to win. They work hard and there is a tradition they want to be a part of, but they have to work hard and have fun. Each year teams are different, some years we’ve had an average team and some years we had good team, it doesn’t just happen they have to work pretty hard, each year is different, each team is different, but it is definitely fun.”
The hallmark of O’Dea’s offense has always been their running game, and with a physical line in front of him, Brown opened the season with 23 carry, 284 yards and three touchdown performance and has been racking up yards and touchdowns ever since, and has established himself as a leader on the team in the process.
“He is only a sophomore, but he is definitely a leader on this team,” says Kohler. “He is a football player. He obviously with hard work can and will be one of the best we’ve had by the time this is all said and done and we’ve had some pretty good running backs.”
Highly talented and a part of that tree line of an offensive frontline, senior team captain Mark Dabou seconds the notion on just how impactful Brown’s running game is to O’Dea’s success.
“I feel like Jason provides a big impact for our team,” says Dabou. “Even in his freshmen year he started off the jump. When he came on the field, he dominated off the bat.”
“He really sets a tone for our team when he scores, it really motivates us to play harder,” added Dabou. “I feel like Jason is definitely the best running back I’ve blocked for and by his senior year he will be even more dominate.”
As a freshman, Brown did something freshmen don’t often do under Kohler, he played, and he played a lot. In the process, Brown usurped current Miami Dolphin running back Miles Gaskin’s program record for touchdowns.
If there is such a notion as a sophomore slump, Brown didn’t qualify.
According to Kohler, “Jason works hard, he loves to play, he is a big-time athlete. He is strong, he’s fast and he has all those tangibles that a running back needs [to be successful]. He is pretty special.”
Some experts may believe that a running back’s success is not only based on their running prowess but running behind a vaunted offensive line. O’Dea’s offensive line is steeped with big talent. Led by Dabou, a three-year starter and a major Division 1 target, O’Dea’s offensive line is talented, and battle tested.
“Honestly I feel our team is great,” says Dabou with confidence. “I feel we are physically ready, we are a dominating, and I feel like we are a very physical team. If we continue to work on our mental preparedness we can dominate.”
“Our coaches can get our bodies right, but it is up to us to get our minds right, our mental game right, if we are to continue to be successful,” adds Dabou.
While it would be easy to think that Kohler’s football program is all about winning Metro League and state titles, Kohler is quick to point out that his goal is to produce better men or what he calls “servant leaders”.
When one thinks of football, service may not be the first word that comes to mind, but Kohler’s philosophy when it comes to the success of his team is not so much the wins, but the measure of his players’ character when they leave O’Dea for the adult world.
“You know a lot of people think O’Dea football is just a bunch of great athletes,” says Kohler. “But we have a bunch of kids that work hard, that are able to keep winning and losing in perspective. We really try to emphasize that it is only a game, and we try to have fun.”
“When they come into the program, we want our players to be open-minded to being coached,” Kohler continues. “When I say coached, I am not talking about just football, I’m talking about life lessons, and they have to have an open mind. It’s not just about football but what the great game of football can teach you. We want them when they leave to have the understanding of what being a servant leader is. We want them to have the skills to lead and to understand what it is to be of service to others.”