The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of Jordan Athletics is sponsored by John Ross, Class of 2013
From equipment to strategy and even expectations— everything is new for Jordan football as the Jon Nielsen era begins.
The new head coach takes over a program that is coming off its most successful season in school history, and Nielsen wants to add his run and shoot offensive scheme and aggressive defensive attitude to an already talented roster.
“It’s the best group of kids I’ve ever coached,” Nielsen said. “Just the body types that check the boxes… my teams have led the state in passing and now I’m more dynamic with my receiving corps and I’ve never had an offensive line this big and young.”
Nielsen said he’s getting unparalleled support from the Jordan administration and alums, which has helped him get quality coaches to join in on the North side.
“We weren’t the most fundamentally sound group (when I got here) but they’ve been a sponge out here and this whole thing looks different,” Nielsen said.
Along with coach Nielsen comes his sophomore quarterback son, Jarrett “JJ” Nielsen, and the #SPREADnSHRED attack that has a high tempo and sometimes five wide receivers. Coach Nielsen’s teams have put up monster offensive numbers everywhere he’s gone. He did it with his nephews Casey and Corey Nielsen at Gahr a decade ago. They’re both in the CIF-SS record books for passing for more than 4,300 yards in a single season.
“I just try to listen to what he says and be coachable because even though he’s my dad, he’s the coach so I can’t treat him as my dad,” JJ Nielsen said. “He makes me watch his film all the time.”
“The things he does innately are mind blowing and he’s a true dual threat,” Coach Nielsen said of his son. “Everybody knows he’s my son because he gets the brunt of everything. There’s no daddy ball. He’s held to a higher standard of accountability. He’s better than I was because he has me. If I had me, it would be a different story.”
At almost every practice JJ Nielsen runs the offense up and down the field with no huddle, instead looking to the sideline where Coach Nielsen will signal in the play call.
“It’s all feel,” Coach Nielsen said. “I’m like a conductor.”
“I just try to keep a calm mind and just read what’s going on,” JJ Nielsen said. “If (the defense) is not set up that’s kind of better for us because they’re out of position and we have to take advantage of that. There’s a lot going on. I’ve been in this offense since I was little but I’m still learning progressions.”
Nielsen will have a lot of speed and athleticism surrounding him, starting with junior Jordan Washington. The track star gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season while scoring 11 touchdowns, but instead of coming back to line up at running back again, Washington will be a utility athlete and receiver who can find space all over the field. He said it’s been easy to adjust since everyone around him is improving.
“When I came back from track everybody I knew here was ten times better than what they learned last year,” Washington said. The caches are teaching us a lot of new things like technique.”
Washington will be joined by fellow receivers Jaymari Redmond, Gerald Pickens, Deontae Tucker and Andy Flores who all have good size. Senior Jacob Hernandez is also back ready to be the do-everything contributor he was last season.
Running backs Khaali Hicks and Jon Jon To’omalatai will pick up the slack in the backfield with Washington moving around. Coach Nielsen said Hicks has the best balance of any player he’s coached.
Jordan’s offensive line will be anchored by big returners Christopher Tufunga (6’4” 270) and Sione Felemi (6’5” 350) as well as returner Saoloto Saolotoga at center. Tiant Spears will be at left guard next to Tufunga, and Angel Delgadillo will be right tackle next to Felemi.
Defensively, the Panthers are looking to be more aggressive after giving up 28 points per game last season, and new defensive coordinator Paul Guidry will rely on middle linebacker Dylan Falefitu. The senior averaged almost six tackles a game last season, and was second on the team with four tackles for loss.
Falefitu will be surrounded by newcomers Kharlin Tizeno, Kelsey Evans and Franko Pene at the other linebacker positions.
With the addition of Kalani Ferguson, Israel Poyer, Droshawn Owens, Deanthoine Price and Ja’Marques Harlow on the defensive line, the sheer size of the Panthers on defense is a huge advantage for Jordan.
In the secondary, Washington and Hernandez are back at the corner positions where they combined for nine interceptions and 13 pass deflections last season. They’ll be joined by To’omalatai, Jonathan Edwards and others in the defensive backfield.
“I didn’t come here to be second place,” Coach Nielsen said. “The goal is to push for the league title and to make a run in CIF. They came in third place last year. That’s good, but what I see here there’s no way they should’ve come in third place with this talent. They had success last year, but they underachieved, in my opinion.”
Washington agrees that everything has improved in the last few months, and wants to take advantage of that momentum.
“It’s about staying dedicated and motivated,” Washington said. “We have new rules and about us being committed to our work ethic.”
8/18 at Kennedy
8/26 vs. Peninsula
9/1 vs. Fairfax
9/9 vs. Irvine
9/23 at Millikan
9/30 at Lakewood
10/7 vs. Compton
10/14 vs. Wilson
10/21 vs. Cabrillo
10/28 at Long Beach Poly
QB Jarrett Nielsen
UTL Jordan Washington
RB Khaali Hicks
RB Jon Jon To’omalatai
WR Jaymari Redmond
WR Gerald Pickens
WR Deontae Tucker
WR Andy Flores
WR Jacob Hernandez
LT Christopher Tufunga
LG Tiant Spears
C Sei Saolotoga
RG Sione Felemi
RT Angel Delgadillo
DL Kalani Ferguson
DL Israel Poyer
DL Droshawn Owens
DL Deanthoine Price
DL Ja’Marques Harlow
LB Dylan Falefitu
LB Kharlin Tizeno
LB Kelsey Evans
LB Franko Pene
DB Jordan Washington
DB Jacob Hemandez
DB Jonathan Edwards
DB Jon Jon To’omalatai