What's new: Confidence
Visiting the Lynnwood football recently one wouldn't know the Royals were 9-51 over the past six seasons.
This is one confident bunch.
"There's just a different vibe around here," said senior captain David Nguyen.
It starts at the top with second-year coach Adam Fermstad. The former Royals assistant took over too late to make major changes in 2012 and the Royals went on to go 1-9 in a disappointing campaign. But now he's had a full offseason to put his stamp on the program and implement his offensive and defensive schemes.
"There's a lot more cohesion, which really resonates with the players," Fermstad said. "They've bought in. We want to change the stigma of Lynnwood sports and it's not just the football team, it's all sports. We just need to keep working on it."
Helping matters is the fact Fermstad has a large number of returning starters, including captains Nguyen, David Vo, Hunter Lord and Kyle Shankle. All four are three-year letterman and Fermstad has given them more responsibility and power. Evidence of that was on display during a recent practice when one of the captains barked at an underclassmen for not running to a drill and meted out the discipline: two laps.
"It lets the players know this is their team," Fermstad said. "It shows a lot when you have the other players barking orders at other players and they don't have a 'He's not the boss of me attitude.' Our upperclassmen this year are all team guys and that has trickled down."
Many of the players talked about the increased intensity at camp this year and how every player is expected to do things right the first time.
"We're only as strong as our weakest link, so do it right the first time," Vo said. "You show up late, you wear the wrong color the whole team has to pay for it."
Returning All-Wesco players
First team--Isaiah Holmes, DL; Second team--Andrew Katzenberger, LB; Honorable mention--Mikao Kirkman, RB/LB; David Nguyen, WR/DB; Hunter Lord, WR/DB.
Player to watch: Isaiah Holmes, DL
Teams last year went into games against Lynnwood knowing they had to stop University of Washington-recruit Andrew Basham.
After the whistle they soon realized it was Holmes they needed to block.
The big, rangy defensive end caused all sorts of trouble in the backfield of opponents last year and is looking to cause even more trouble this season.
"His size and speed is almost deceiving," Fermstad said of the 6-foot-3, 250-pounder. "But when you see his strength and how fast he is off the ball he's almost a hybrid player. When he's grabbing cloth he's going to take you down."
Fermstad said that Holmes has put in a lot of work in the offseason, going to camps and prospect combines. Holmes will team with returning starter Jonathan Fitzgerald to anchor a young offensive line as bookend tackles.
"They see what caliber of player he is and that makes them want to get to that level," Fermstad said.
Fresh face: Andrew Katzenberger, RB/LB
As a sophomore, Katzenberger showed promise as a wide receiver, catching six passes for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But now Fermstad believes Katzenberger is where he belongs: in the backfield.
"He played running back when he was younger and he decided he wanted to make the change," Fermstad said. "He's kind of took off with it."
Already a very strong linebacker, Katzenberger is 6-1, 210 and hits hard. Fermstad said his biggest upside is his football knowledge.
"Watching him hit holes, watching him make cuts you can tell it's almost second nature for him," Fermstad said. "As far as calling an offensive play you don't need to coach him up on the finer points that often. When he hits a hole he's going to know what cut to make."
Royals players are effusive in their praise of their second-year coach and coaching staff.
"Coach Fermstad brought a lot of intelligence and organization to the program," Nguyen said.
Fermstad is the third coach in six years at Lynnwood and the upheaval has been tough on the players. When this year's seniors were freshman they had to learn a new system. Two years later they had to get used to a new coach. This year they're learning new systems on offense and defense again.
But overall there is a lot of continuity in the program. The Royals return a quarterback with starting experience in Justin Cachopo, who threw for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns in three games last season, all of their receivers and their new running back, Katzenberger, was a starter last year at receiver.
"It doesn't feel like we've lost a whole lot," Fermstad said. "There's been a full offseason with the coaches and we've gotten things done in terms of the playbook so there's a lot less confusion."
On defense Lynnwood changes to a 4-3 from a 3-4 and returns its entire linebacking corps, Katzenberger, Vo and Mikao Kirkman, and a pair of strong defensive backs in Nguyen and Lord.
The 4A South is extremely competitive this year but if the Royals are as good as they think they are there might be a lot of surprised people this year.
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