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Originally published August 21, 2013 at 9:26 PM | Page modified August 21, 2013 at 9:57 PM

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Football coach takes challenge, reunites with one-win Garfield

Last season, Meadowdale went 7-3 under coach Mark Stewart. Garfield went 1-8.

Special to The Seattle Times

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The Bulldogs are back in business.

The Garfield High School football team took to the field Wednesday for their first practice of a new season under new leadership.

After 13 seasons, head coach Mark Stewart left Meadowdale to return to the school he did his student teaching at years ago.

Last season, Meadowdale went 7-3 under Stewart. Garfield went 1-8 under then-leader David Myers.

Leaving a school with a winning record for one with a losing record might be a challenge. But for Stewart, it was one he was glad to take on.

“Just trying to come back and see if you can build a program here, and not anything magical, but (it was) a good time for a change, and thought I was good to step up and get it done,” Stewart said.

Garfield’s one-win season last year could have made a big impact on the program. But a group of about 31 players battled Wednesday. Stewart was encouraged.

“It’s a good first day,” Stewart said. “I thought they did a good job of being coached and they worked hard, and we’ve got to come out and do it again tomorrow.”

Senior running back and safety Janeil Alston said it feels good to get back on the field with a new coach. He’s ready for a fresh start.

“He believes in us already,” Alston said. “He doesn’t give up on us as quick. ... He talks to us, he explains more. He doesn’t really yell at us like that and he basically tells you how to be better players, but it starts at school and it starts at becoming a team first.”

The Bulldogs hit the ground running Wednesday. From special teams to position groups, practice seemed to be all about fundamentals.

“What we’re doing now, we’re going to be doing four years from now, and you’re going to be better at it, and you’re going to be a better football player,” Stewart said.

Alston’s big take-away from the first practice was the hard work. Between getting back in shape and watching new things he said he’s never done before, this might be the fresh start Garfield football looked for when it hired Stewart.

As a senior, Alston will make sure the younger guys stay in line. He wants to lead. He wants to help his new coach break their bad habits.

“Do what you’re supposed to do and just make sure you’re following and listen,” Alston said. “Coach is trying to get a new start.”

Getting to a point where they could win in situations that stopped them last year is a goal of Stewart’s. But it’s not the main message.

“I think we got a good group of guys,” Stewart said. “I think for where this program has been, we’ve had good turnout. There are some guys who kind of really want to get some things done.”

Alston isn’t all that concerned about the Bulldogs’ record this year. In his last year at Garfield, he wants to grow as a unit.

“Just being a better team,” Alston said. “Don’t worry about winning, I just want to be a better team and show people that we aren’t what our past shows us as having a bad team, fighting and stuff. Just trying to be better.”

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