With a new head coach and a powerful running back, Meadowdale reached the quarterfinals of Class 3A state playoffs last fall.
This season, the Mavericks hope to pick up right where they left off.
Led by senior running back Malik Braxton, Meadowdale gets a significant test right out of the gate Friday, facing Wesco 4A favorite Lake Stevens in the season opener for both teams.
“That first game of the year is the first time you get to see how kids react on a Friday night,” Mavericks head coach Mike Don said. “You just get an opportunity to see kids step up and play big. You learn a lot about yourself and I think you only get that opportunity when you play a quality team like Lake Stevens.”
Unlike the Vikings, who rely heavily on the arm of junior quarterback Jacob Eason to move the football, the Mavericks employ a ground attack to get down the field. Last season, Braxton accumulated almost 1,000 yards on about 120 carries, including 207 yards in the state quarterfinal game, a tough 21-16 loss to Eastside Catholic.
“He did a great job in the playoff run,” Don said. “We got up early on Timberline (in the first round of the state playoffs) because he was able to run the ball effectively in the first half. He was out the entire second half and we didn’t score without him.”
Braxton — who has scholarship offers from Air Force and Idaho and has garnered recruiting interest from Eastern Washington, Montana, Montana State, Portland State and Army — said returning to a familiar system and a familiar head coach has led to a strong camp for Meadowdale.
“Last year, there was a new offense and it was kind of complicated,” said Braxton, who will play cornerback on defense. “Now, we just get more reps and get them faster because we know everything. It’s a lot better this year.”
Despite their deep playoff run a year ago, Meadowdale comes into the game against Lake Stevens as an underdog because of the lofty expectations for the Vikings.
That’s just fine with the Mavericks.
“It might sound weird, but I hope people underestimate us,” Braxton said. “We go up and play some big teams and they underestimate us. It’s fun being the underdogs and having something to prove every night.”
The game is just the first of a string of four tough opponents to open the season for Meadowdale, which plays Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds-Woodway and Glacier Peak to start the season.
But the Mavericks are focused on going “1-0 every week,” Braxton said, starting with Friday’s game in Lake Stevens.
“We know that they’ve got weapons (at wide receiver) and this quarterback,” Braxton said. “We know he’s good. We hear a lot about how we have to know how to stop him. They’re going to have to know how to stop us, too. We’re going to be there ready to play.”
Here’s a look at some of Friday night’s key games:
Meadowdale at Lake Stevens
Where: Lake Stevens Stadium
When: 7 p.m.
Key Players: Meadowdale—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. Lake Stevens—Tevin Grey, Sr., WR/S; Justin Brown, Sr., WR/DB; Riley Krenz, Jr., TE/S; Kolby Jones, Sr., OL/LB; Jacob Eason, Jr., QB; Andrew Cook, Sr., T/DE.
What you need to know: The Mavericks return several key pieces from last year’s playoff team. The Vikings, led by quarterback Jacob Eason, came on strong late last season to win the Wesco 4A championship. Both Meadowdale and Lake Stevens are among the favorites to compete for the championships in their respective leagues.
Herald pick: Lake Stevens
Jackson at Edmonds-Woodway
Where: Edmonds Stadium
When: 5 p.m.
Key Players: Jackson—Keynan Foster, Sr., WR/DB; Alex Cheesman, Sr., QB; Jason Cottingham, Sr., RB/LB; Bryan Betz, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan Fee, Jr., OL/DL; Jacob Saldana, Sr., RB/LB. Edmonds-Woodway—Chantz Justice, Sr., RB/FS; Tanner Caraco, Sr., OL/DL; Nick Morales, Sr., QB; Will Siegall, Sr., OL/DL; Nick Venema, Sr., RB/LB; Brandon Hohengarten, Sr., TE/DE.
What you need to know: Jackson struggled to a 5-5 record a season ago and missed the postseason, but appears poised for a comeback this year. The Timberwolves were picked second in the Wesco 4A preseason coaches’ poll behind Lake Stevens. Edmonds-Woodway dropped to Class 3A after winning the Wesco 4A South championship in 2013, and despite losing several key players, finished tied with Glacier Peak in the Wesco 3A South preseason coaches’ poll.
Herald Pick: Jackson
Arlington at Cascade
Where: Everett Memorial Stadium
When: 7 p.m.
Key Players: Arlington—Gareth Henderson OL/LB, Sr.; Anthony Parra, WR/LB/K, Jr.; Cam Scrimgeour, TE/LB, Jr.; Connor Bovard, WR/DB, Sr.; Noah Andal, WR/DB/QB, Sr.; Beni Madrigal-Reis, OL/DL, Jr. Cascade—Kejuan Coleman Sr., RB/S; Hamilton Kendrick, Sr., TE/LB; Malik Rackliff, Sr., QB/LB; Kelsi Colon, Sr., OL/DL.
What you need to know: Change is the theme for both teams. Arlington drops down to 3A where it will compete in the Wesco 3A North. The Eagles were picked to finished third in the preseason coaches’ poll. Cascade begins the season with a new head coach, Eric Dinwiddie. Former head coach Joe Cronin resigned in the offseason after leading the Bruins to a 9-2 record and a berth in the state tournament.
Herald Pick: Cascade
Kamiak at Marysville Pilchuck
Where: Quil Ceda Stadium
When: 7 p.m.
Key Players: Kamiak—Tyler Becker, Sr., QB/SS; Jared Pexton, Sr., WR/S; Jordan Mochmar, Sr., C/DE; JoJo Binda, Sr., RB/DB; Brady Methven, Sr., RB/LB; Brandon Beasley, Sr., RB/LB. Marysville Pilchuck—Austin Joyner, RB/DB, Sr.; Nic Alonso, DB, Sr.; Drew Hatch, LB, Sr.; Killian Page RB/LB, Sr.; Corbin Ferry, OL, Jr.; Bryce Vitcovich DL, Sr.; Hunter Trueax, RB, Sr.
Radio: KRKO 1380
What you need to know: Kamiak head coach Dan Mack takes his team on the road for a tough matchup in the season opener against the Tomahawks. Senior running back Austin Joyner, who has verbally committed to Washington State University, leads an explosive Marysville Pilchuck running game that should have the Tommies knocking on the door of the state tournament once again.
Herald Pick: Marysville Pilchuck
Snohomish at Glacier Peak
Where: Veterans Memorial Stadium, Snohomish
When: 7 p.m.
Key Players: Snohomish—Nathan Jacobson, Sr., OL/DL; Alex Fairhurst, Sr., OL/DL; Connor Browne, Sr., RB/LB; Boomer Vuori, Sr., RB/DB; Aidan Kutsch, Sr., WR/FS. Glacier Peak—Mosese Fifita, Sr., OL/DL; Spencer Pettit, Sr., K; Brandon Jensen Sr., OLB; Justin Guffey, Jr., WR/FS; Andrew McCoy, Jr., TE/OLB; Iain Black, Jr., RB/ILB.
What you need to know: Snohomish is looking for its first victory over crosstown rival Glacier Peak. The Grizzlies are 2-0 against the Panthers after squeaking out a 31-29 win in 2013.
Herald Pick: Glacier Peak