Eds. note: Herald writer Aaron Lommers visited Mountlake Terrace training camp on Wednesday night.
What’s new: Ryan Lacasse, Jr., RB; Austin Bates, Jr., LB
Helping to replace running back and linebacker Devante Downs, who will miss his senior season with a torn ACL, will be juniors Ryan Lacasse and Austin Bates. Along with returning 3A South honorable mention running back Chance Ragsdale, Lacasse will help carry the load at the running back position and Bates will take Downs’ spot at linebacker.
The Hawks predominantly run a three-running back set, so depth at the position is a must. Ragsdale will likely get the bulk of the carries and Lacasse will step into the role that Ragsdale had alongside Downs last season. The third running back spot is still in question, but will likely go to senior Eni Klosi.
“Ryan is a football gym rat,” Mountlake Terrace head coach Tony Umayum said. “He is the type of kid who would play football every day of the year if he could. He’s a very tough kid. He’s physical and runs physically and he’s a real fundamentally sound player. Because he has played a lot of football in his earlier days, he is also a very intuitive player.”
As good as Downs was at running back, he was just as good as a linebacker, making Bates’ role key to the team’s success.
“Austin is a nice athlete,” Umayum said. “He’s one of those guys who has good size and can run and hit. He was the best defensive player on our JV last year and he’s had a good offseason in the weight room, so we’re expecting him to really be a presence this year.
In addition to linebacker, Bates will likely start at tight end.
Returning All-Wesco players
First team—Jevin Pahinui (Sr., Offensive Line, Defensive Line). Second team—Brett Potter (Sr., Linebacker). Honorable Mention—Chance Ragsdale (Sr., Running Back).
Player to watch: Jevin Pahinui, Sr., DL
Pahinui is the Hawks only returning first-team all-league selection from a year ago, doing so at both offensive and defensive line. With Downs out, he will be looked to as an anchor of team’s defensive unit.
“Jevin is one of those guys that’s just a combination of a big, big kid with great athleticism,” Umayum said. “He has a mean streak about him to where he can play at a level that if his motor is going he can be a pretty vicious type of a player.”
Pahinui and Downs played opposite each other on defense, so Umayum isn’t looking for Pahinui to make up for the loss of Downs, just to pick up where he left off a season ago. Umayum will rely on changing his defensive scheme to make up for the loss at Downs’ position.
Pahinui will also be the Hawks strong side offensive tackle, attempting to pave the way for Ragsdale and Lacasse.
“He’s a guy that if we need to get tough yard, we run behind are all-league guy,” Umayum said.
Fresh face: Justin Hopkins, Jr., QB
Hopkins played quarterback at the freshman and JV levels the past couple of seasons and steps into the starting varsity role in 2013 after Beau Kennedy graduate last June.
“He’s different then all the quarterbacks I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Umayum said. “He’s more of the, at least size wise and his strengths, classic quarterback. We’ve had that 5-8 to 5-10 scrappy kid that makes plays and can really run and throw. Justin can run, but he’s the first one that has come through in the past nine years that is 6-2 and your classic quarterback.”
Hopkins is working on his footwork and getting quicker running the paths that the quarterback makes in the Hawks offense to be able to run the Pistol Wing-T offense they run.
If all goes as planned, Hopkins will likely be the Hawks starting quarterback for the next two seasons and Umayum is looking for him to own the position.
“(I expect) him to really start to own the offense and develop into the leader in the huddle to where he can make corrections on the field when there isn’t enough time for a coach to do so.”
The biggest question mark of the Terrace’s passing game is at the receiver position, where the Hawks don’t return a single player that caught a pass last season.
There is no question the Hawks took a big blow when they lost running back Devante Downs for the season with a torn ACL, but the good news is Chance Ragsdale is pretty good. It is impossible to replace the production of Downs, but Ragsdale along with Lacasse will give the Hawks a formidable backfield. After giving Kennedy Catholic a run for its money in the quad-district playoffs a season ago, many thought the Hawks were poised to make a run at the Wesco 3A South championship in 2013. Losing Downs will make that a little tougher to achieve, but the Hawks are a good football team that will almost certainly make the playoffs and, if everything goes right, could still win a league championship.