High School Football

Pasco football looks to former star to rejuvenate program

Pasco running back Leon Wright-Jackson looks for an opening during a 2003 game against Kamiakin High School. Wright-Jackson was hired Wednesday as the football coach at Pasco High School.
Pasco running back Leon Wright-Jackson looks for an opening during a 2003 game against Kamiakin High School. Wright-Jackson was hired Wednesday as the football coach at Pasco High School. Herald file

The past is coming back to Pasco High School football.

Leon mug
Leon Wright-Jackson

Leon Wright-Jackson was tabbed Wednesday as the football coach of the Bulldogs. The former Pasco running back, who played on the 2003 state championship team, replaces Kevin Jolley, who spent the past three years trying to bring the once proud program back to life.

“I am extremely excited,” Pasco athletic director Jake Davis said. “I think I speak for everyone at Pasco. He is a former Bulldog, he understands our kids and our community. I really believe he will re-energize our program. He understands the current challenges that face Pasco High School, and I think he will be able to relate to our student population really well.”

Wright-Jackson, 31, knows what it’s like to win at Pasco, and what it’s like to play in front of a packed house at Edgar Brown Stadium on Friday night.

He wants his players to know that feeling, too.

We are missing our identity, our tradition. I want to bring that back. It was a great atmosphere back then, and I definitely want them to experience that.

Leon Wright-Jackson, new Pasco football coach

“It’s exciting,” Wright-Jackson said. “It’s something I have been planning for, to come home and coach football. We are missing our identity, our tradition. I want to bring that back. It was a great atmosphere back then, and I definitely want them to experience that. We are going to believe in the boys and support them in every way. I believe they are capable, they just need direction.”

The Bulldogs were 2-8 the season before Jolley took over, and he didn’t have the success he was looking for, going 1-9 his first season, then 0-10 the next two seasons, before stepping aside.

“It will be a process,” Wright-Jackson said. “We have been down for a while. It won’t be ‘we wake up and decide we are going to turn into around in a day.’ We want to bring back that Pasco pride. We are rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.”

The Bulldogs had a wealth of young players last season, and Wright-Jackson hopes to build his program around them.

“They were young last year,” said Wright-Jackson, who also coaches the boys track team. “They got that Friday night fever. It will be another year under the lights. I am really excited about this opportunity with these young men. We will get these boys on track, and it will take time. I am blessed to have this opportunity. I can’t wait.”

Former longtime Pasco

Chiawana coach Steve Graff, who captured seven Big Nine crowns and three state championships when he coached at Pasco, said his former player is the right person for the job.

I thought he would do a fine job. All he has to do is get the kids to buy into what they do. ... He will be a good coach. Steve Graff,

Chiawana coach and Wright-Jackson’s coach at Pasco

“I think it’s a great opportunity for him,” said Graff, who went 113-25 in 12 seasons at Pasco before moving to Chiawana when it opened in 2009. “He used me as reference. I thought he would do a fine job. All he has to do is get the kids to buy into what they do. Hopefully he can get some help from some Pasco alums who had success there, and support from the administration. He will be a good coach.”

The Pasco players will not have to wonder if their new coach knows what he is doing.

Wright-Jackson was a four-year letter winner at Pasco, running for 4,929 yards over the course of four seasons. He rushed for 1,745 yards on 127 carries and scored 23 touchdowns his senior year.

He went on to play one season at Nebraska and three at Hawaii, where he had 875 career yards and 10 touchdowns. He also caught 43 passes for 343 yards.

The past two seasons, Wright-Jackson has been an assistant for Brett Jay at Hanford High School.

“It was nice to coach with him,” Wright-Jackson said. “He knew what I wanted to do. He knew this was coming.”

As for the prospect of facing Graff on the football field, Wright-Jackson was optimistic ... and realistic.

“It would be nice to get one over on my old coach,” he said. “Maybe not this year. We will take it one practice and one game at a time.”

Annie Fowler: 509-582-1574, @TCHIceQueen

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