By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
Eds. note: Herald writer Aaron Lommers visited Meadowdale training camp on Wednesday.
What’s new: Mike Don
The former head coach at Lynnwood High School will give the Mavericks offense a different look on offense than the one that former head coach Mark Stewart implemented for his 13 seasons. Don won’t go as far to call it a spread offense, but they will throw the ball significantly more than they have in the past.
“It is a different challenge,” Don said. “Going into a school that perennially isn’t good, it’s a little easier to get kids to believe in doing something new. Whereas, here, you come in and you’re not trying to change everything, you are just trying to make small adjustments that fit your personality and what you believe in.”
Don got used to success in high school, playing for the always-dangerous Prosser Mustangs and is taking over a program that is accustomed to success under Stewart, a recipe that Don hopes leads to continued success.
“I’m sure most people would think it’s pressure (following Stewart), but I really don’t (feel the pressure),” Don said. “I grew up in programs that were really successful so I’ve just kind of always expected to be successful and win.”
Returning All-Wesco players
First team—Josiah Evans (Sr., Defensive Back), JoJo Alkhedairy (Sr., Defensive Line). Second team—Charlie White, (Jr., Tight End). Honorable mention—Marzell Simmons (Sr., Defensive Line)
Player to watch: JoJo Alkhedairy, Sr., OL/DL
For lineman, often times success on the field only goes as far as their commitment to get better in the weight room and Don said he’s never seen anyone like Alkhedairy in the weight room before.
“JoJo has the desire to be great,” Don said. “He really, really wants to work at it and he works really hard at what he does. He puts a lot of time in the weight room. He put up a lot of numbers in the weight room that I haven’t seen high-school kids put up. It’s pretty impressive.”
Alkhedairy is one of three players on the team that will play both sides of the ball and Don expects him to dominate on both of them.
“You can’t coach somebody to be that strong and that athletic,” Don said. “I think he is going to do great things for us this year. He’s got good feet and he’s just ridiculously strong. He’s a really strong kid, so when he gets latched on I don’t see many kids moving him, or not being moved.”
Alkhedairy’s college prospects might be limited because of his height, but what he doesn’t have in that area, he makes up for in athleticism.
“I squatted 585 and benched 435 and I actually ran a 5.1 40(-yard dash) and at 295 pounds, that’s going I feel like,” Alkhedairy said.
Fresh face: Malik Braxton, Jr., RB
Braxton finished up the 2012 season as the Mavericks quarterback, but will be the team’s starting running back in 2013.
Braxton was always a threat to run out of the QB position so the switch to being the starting running back shouldn’t prove to be that big of an adjustment.
“He had a great last few games,” Don said. “With what they did offensively, their quarterback was basically a running back anyway. It’s not like he went from a true quarterback to running back. It’s a pretty easy transition, he mainly ran the ball last year anyway.”
Braxton’s quickness and ability to run in the open field should make it tough for opponents to bring him down.
“Malik’s got a great ability to see things,” Don said. “He’s got great vision. With what we are doing offensively, it really fits his running style and what he does. He will be very hard to get one-on-one. He will win most of his one-on-one battles.”
This is the most uncertainty the Mavericks have started a season with in some time. They will have a new quarterback, a new starting running back and — the biggest change of them all — a new head coach.
But all of those things don’t necessarily mean an end to the Mavs usual success. One thing Stewart left Meadowdale that remains even in his absence is the confidence of a team that knows how to win.
The 3A Wesco South doesn’t have a clear front-runner as it has in previous years, so the conference crown is up for grabs. The defense should be a strength and if the offense can keep up, it wouldn’t be at all a surprise to see Meadowdale at the top of the standings at the end of the season.