By David Krueger Herald Writer
What’s new? Junior Opoku-Mensah at running back
Junior Opoku-Mensah found himself in a few more games than he perhaps thought he might play in last season, due to injuries to Edmonds-Woodway star Desmond Young. That experience should help Opoku-Mensah, now a senior and the main back for the Warriors.
“He’s jumping right back in where he was last year,” said Edmonds-Woodway head coach John Gradwohl. “… He’s a year older and a year stronger. He had a good offseason.”
Gradwohl said that Opoku-Mensah is primed to have a big year in his final season at Edmonds-Woodway.
“My goal for him is to just do what he does,” Gradwohl said. “Be a great team player. When he’s asked to produce on third-and-three get the first down. I expect some big plays out of him. He’s a big-time player.”
Returning all-conference players
First team – Travis Bakken (Sr., Defensive Line), Mac McLachlan (Sr., Linebacker). Second team – Haedyn McGrath (Sr., Offensive Lineman). Honorable Mention – Davis Giles (Sr.), Junior Opoku-Mensah (Sr.), Theo Lebesis (Sr.).
Player to watch: Travis Bakken, Sr., DL and Mac McLachlan, Sr., LB
Gradwohl complemented two of his star seniors, noting that they are just two bright spots in a deep senior class that should help the Warriors remain competitive in a tough Wesco 4A South conference.
“I’ve got a great senior class with great kids,” Gradwohl said. “Bakken should have a wonderful year. He’s had just a great development. It’s his second year playing football and he’s just an incredible talent and a great kid.
“Mac McLachlan ditto.”
Bakken and McLachlan, along with several other E-W seniors, spent the offseason in the weight room getting stronger and they have the Warriors’ coaches excited to see what they can accomplish this season.
“We have a real core-group of kids that had a great offseason,” Gradwohl said. “As a coaching staff we’re just excited to watch them.”
Fresh Face: Nick Morales, S, Jr. and Brandon Hoengarten, OLB/TE, Jr.
It isn’t just the seniors at E-W that worked hard all summer to improve. Several younger players took on a strict off-season training regimen including Morales and Hoengarten. The duo, both juniors, played some last season but have had strong showings in early-season practices and look to see their roles expanded.
Morales was a backup quarterback last year, but has really found a place in the defensive secondary at safety for the Warriors. Hoengarten is a two-way player at linebacker and tight end, and can make a difference at both positions.
“There all in that same group. All those kids, their workout ethic in the offseason was awesome,” Gradwohl said. “Kids make a commitment like that you expect good things to happen for them because they deserve it.”
Edmonds-Woodway’s lone Wesco South 4A loss last season came at the hands of league champ Jackson in a wild Timberwolves’ comeback that saw them score 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Warriors regrouped and won four straight games to close out the regular season.
The league looks like it could be as tough as ever this season, with Cascade looking like it will be a contender as well. Edmonds-Woodway could have quite a few tough, close games on their hands but their seniors should help them through some tough games.
“We feel good about where we’re at. I’m excited about the group of kids we have,” Gradwohl said. “We have a good team bond. Our practices have a lot of energy and they’re a lot of fun to go to. I think we’ll be in every game we play. I can’t imagine us getting blown out by anybody.
“I think we have a chance to win every game we play this season. That doesn’t mean we’ll win every game, but I think we’ll be in them.”