When students walked into school for their first day back from winter break, two students were noticeably missing. Football players Jameson Wang (Oaks Christian ’20) and Terrell Long (Sierra Canyon ’21) had announced to their friends and the school that they would no longer attend Harvard-Westlake.
“I’m sorry that Harvard-Westlake did not turn out to be the fit for them that they and we would have hoped,” Head of School Rick Commons said. “I wish them only the best at their new schools.”
This is not the first time the school has abruptly lost talent; boys’ basketball forward Terren Frank (Sierra Canyon ’20), guard L Simpson and shooting guard Cassius Stanley ’19 (both Sierra Canyon ’19), who was ranked fifth nationally by ESPN all left for Sierra Canyon in 2017.
Wang saw his statistics decrease this season, as the new offensive game plan was centered largely around running the ball, contrasting former program head Scott Ruggles’ ‘west coast offense.’ Wang totaled 2,584 yards in the air and 924 yards from the ground with a combined 48 touchdowns as a sophomore but 1,690 yards passing, 250 yards on the ground and a total of 18 touchdowns in his junior season. Wang transitioned from league Offensive MVP as a sophomore to league First Team All Offense this past season.
Wang said the decision to leave was not an easy one.
“Of course the decision is hard,” Wang said. “It’s never easy to leave a school behind and start a new one. I am very thankful for my family and the sacrifices they have made with me. Leaving the friends I’ve made and the teachers I’ve built bonds with is going to be tough, but at the same time, I’m excited to do what’s best for my family and me.”
Long said that a major push factor in his decision to leave was finding a school with a more serious football program.
“I didn’t have much frustration with [the school], I just didn’t like the lack of importance football had and how it had such small value to the school,” Long said. “I disliked the parting of certain coaches and the style of play we had last season.”
Team member Tyler* voiced his frustration with the current coaching staff and the direction the program is headed.
“Throughout the year, I was extremely frustrated, not only for me but my teammates,” Tyler said. “A lot was promised with little delivered, and to be honest, by the end of it, not many people felt any sort of satisfaction with the direction the program was heading. Everyone who is serious about the sport has thought of leaving. People are fed up, key players are quitting and things are going to be much more difficult next year.”
Teammate Chase Harleston ’21 said it was possible that the play calling may have played a larger role in the decision than Wang would have liked fans to believe.
“[Long] and [Wang] left because they are chasing bright futures as football players, and their full potential would not be realized under our coaching and offensive scheme,” Harleston said. “I most definitely share those frustrations sometimes and worry what kind of future I have, but I love my friends here and also believe that there is hope and opportunity for me in this program.”
Moving forward, backup quarterback Marshall Howe ’21 said he doesn’t believe their transfer will change much.
“I was planning on having the same mindset and attitude whether they were to stay or leave.” Howe said. “Obviously, as a friend, I don’t want to see them go, but, in terms of football, it does not really change my perception of the future moving forward. I think we would have had a great season with them as well, but we still have a ton of talent and a lot of our core guys coming back next year. It’s that kind of next-man-up mentality that is really important for all great teams, and that’s no different for us.”
Head coach Michael Burnett declined to comment and said he wanted to keep his attention on the athletes still in the program.
*Names have been changed.