By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD – At Thursday’s afternoon practice on the second day of training camp, Meadowdale head football coach Mike Don smiled like he had a trick up his sleeve when he talked about his football team.
At the end of the 2013 season, the Mavericks stumbled late in the regular season before righting the ship in the playoffs and advancing to the 3A state quarterfinals – an experience that’s hard to put a value on.
This year, many of the players that played key roles in that run are seniors.
“It’s nice to have a bunch of older kids,” Don said. “(It’s) a good group of seniors with a lot of returning kids and a lot of kids that are going to step in and take pretty predominant roles. I think getting to the playoffs and making runs in the playoffs is always good for you as a team. Part of it is, losing in the playoffs is also good because it gives the kids an idea of how close they are and how much harder they have to work to get just a little bit further.”
Don said of the 22 starters, only a handful won’t be seniors. The most important of those returners will likely be running back Malik Braxton, who at times put the team on his back during last year’s playoff run.
“He’s going to be even better,” Don said. “He worked really hard this offseason and he’s done a good job of changing himself. He got bigger, stronger and faster. I think he put on 10 pounds of muscle. He’s was able to fix some things running wise. He’s going to be pretty special.”
The Mavericks lost their final three-regular season games last season before turning things around in the playoffs with victories over Timberline and Lakes. With games against Lake Stevens, Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds-Woodway and Glacier Peak in the first four weeks of the season, Meadowdale can’t afford to a slide like the one it had a year ago. A similar stretch could cost the Mavericks a spot in the postseason.
“It forces our kids to really focus up in the beginning of the year,” Don said. “We can’t have that build up like we did last year, where we kind of hit stride late in the year. We’ve really got to hit the ground running.”
“They discuss what’s going on with the team and they really try to figure out how to take our team to different levels as a group,” Don said. “They’ve done a really good job of that this year.”
Head Coach: Mike Don (2nd year)
Key Returners: Malik Braxton, Sr., RB/DB; Charlie White, Sr., TE/LB; Nick Neely, Sr., LB; Tim Smith, Sr., OL/DL; Brett Schafer, Sr., K; Garrett Walsh, Sr., FB/DE.
Coach’s Quote: “We are just looking to take a group of kids returning from last year and keep building on what we started last year. I think we’ve got a good group of kids and if we can develop a few new starters then we have an opportunity to be a pretty good team.”