Edmonds-Woodway’s defense thriving

EDMONDS — Defense wins ballgames, and there’s no better example of that than the Edmonds-Woodway football team.

The Warriors have not allowed a point through two games and find themselves 2-0 as they prepare to take on another undefeated team, crosstown rival Meadowdale, tonight at 8 at Edmonds Stadium.

“It’s just been working,” Edmonds-Woodway head coach John Gradwohl said. “There’s been some opportunities that other teams have had to score on us but we’ve made some big plays in key moments that have really helped us.”

It’s also helped having two all-league stars return for Edmonds-Woodway. Defensive lineman Travis Bakken and linebacker Mac McLachlan both were first-team all-Wesco 4A South defenders last season and are back as seniors to help bolster the Warriors.

The Edmonds-Woodway squad also has many other familiar faces from last year’s team that went 6-3 before falling in the quad-district playoffs to Bellarmine Prep, which finished second in the 4A state tournament .

“We’re working really well. We’re flying to the ball,” said McLachlan, who was a first-team selection for the second-straight year. “We’re a lot bigger this year than last year. We’re just flying around. Good communication and everything. It just kind of came together. All the guys from sophomore year came up and it just all fit in the right spots.”

While the Warriors have played eight consecutive scoreless quarters on defense, some say the streak isn’t really on their minds.

“It hasn’t really occurred to us that we’ve allowed zero points,” said senior defensive end/tight end Theo Lebesis. “Of course it’s a good thing, but we really haven’t been fazed by it at all. We’ve just been playing our game and going after the ball.”

Others are more aware of the scoreless run.

“It’s a lot of fun,” McLachlan said. “See how many games we can go getting a shutout. Hopefully, we can keep that going (today).”

The Edmonds-Woodway players say that there is a strong team bond this year, much more so than in years’ past. The seniors are taking charge, but not in a bad way according to the younger Warriors.

“I feel like our seniors are really good at pushing juniors and sophomores forward,” junior safety Nick Morales said. “They’ve been including everybody. They’re not outspoken at all. This year it’s really a team thing. There’s not really that class difference that we’ve had in the past.”

Edmonds-Woodway gets its biggest test of its young season tonight when the Warriors play district rival Meadowdale, which has also started its season 2-0.

That both teams are 2-0 doesn’t matter. In rivalry games, records can be ignored.

“It doesn’t even matter. It’s like U-Dub and Wazzu. It doesn’t matter what the records are,” Gradwohl said. “It doesn’t matter who’s good and who’s bad. None of that matters. It’s crosstown rivals. If we were 10-0 and they were 0-10 it’d be a hell of a game, and vice versa. It’s a rivalry game and that’s what comes with those. It’s going to be a good crowd and it’s going to be a good game.”

The Stadium Jam, as this rival game has been come to known, is big for both schools. Even though it’s not a league game for the teams — Edmonds-Woodway is in the Wesco 4A South while Meadowdale is in the 3A South — both want to head into their league schedule 3-0.

“A third win would be great. It’d be a definite confidence-booster for everyone,” Lebesis said. “Coming out 3-0 in the preseason. We just can’t overlook anyone though. We can’t just expect to beat everyone. We have to play our game, be humble and realize that you have to take it every week at a time.”

Meadowdale has owned the rivalry recently, and has a completely different look from last season now that the Mavericks have installed the spread offense.

“I haven’t beat them yet,” said McLachlan, who is talking to Wyoming, Montana and Eastern Washington about playing football after this season. “The last two years we’ve lost. It’s the last time (for me) to get it.”

Edmonds-Woodway has watched lots of film of Meadowdale’s new offensive look, leaving the Warriors confident they can have success defensively against the Mavericks.

“Obviously, it’s becoming more frequent now,” Gradwohl said of the spread offense that Meadowdale now uses. “I think we’re one of the few two-back teams left. We’re kind of the novelty now. But (Meadowdale’s is) a good offense. They’ve got a good running back and the quarterback runs a good offense.

“Our defense is definitely playing well and they’ll need to play better. Everett and (Mountlake) Terrace are good teams, but I think Meadowdale is going to turn up the heat a little. We’ve got Jackson after that. It doesn’t get easier.”

Even scarier for Meadowdale — and Edmonds-Woodway’s other opponents — is that it’s not just the defense that’s been firing on all cylinders for the Warriors. Edmonds-Woodway has outscored its first two opponents 84-0.

“The offense has done a good job, too. I think we’ve punted once in the first two games,” Gradwohl said. “We’ve done a good job of controlling the time of possession. In the Terrace game I think we had one possession that took up almost a whole quarter. It’s hard for Terrace to score when their (offense is) not on the field.”

All of it has Edmonds-Woodway excited about its potential in the 2013 season.

“It’s what it’s been the past couple weeks — and what it’s going to be this entire season — just playing within ourselves,” said Morales. “Keeping it simple and controlling ourselves. We know what we can do. It’s not really about them. It’s about us and correcting our mistakes. Making sure we play with no mistakes.”

Even some of the Edmonds-Woodway players are surprised at how fast of a start they’ve gotten off to.

“We’ve turned out to be really good this year. A lot better than I expected,” McLachlan said. “I think we are surprising ourselves.”

And the Warriors don’t really seem too worried about how long their scoreless streak lasts. In fact, it sounds like they’ll gladly give up a few points on defense, as long as they get more on offense and come away with the win.

“You can give up points, it’s just whoever wins the most battles,” Lebesis said. “We’re playing our game. We’re playing the level we can. Competing at the level that we can. We just enjoy the game of football and we play it as a team.”

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