ARLINGTON — With August and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association no-contact rule fast approaching, 21 teams descended on Lakewood High School for its seventh annual 7-on-7 camp Saturday.
The camp, quickly becoming quite well-known across the state, gives teams one last chance to scrimmage against other teams before the Aug. 1 deadline. After that teams cannot officially practice until Aug. 21.
A common theme among teams at the Lakewood camp was key players lost to graduation and solidfying the play of those who will replace them. The host Cougars, for instance, graduated two starting quarterbacks as well as their starting running back and top receiver.
Lakewood head coach Dan Teeter said those players who remain on the Lakewood squad are eager to prove themselves under the Friday night lights.
“We’ve got kids that are talented and have been working really hard in the offseason,” Teeter said. “They’re champing at the bit to get their chance. Days like today are perfect for them because it gets them game speed (reps).”
King’s, Lakewood’s Cascade Conference rival, lost 18 players to graduation, including quarterback Billy Green, last season’s Herald Offensive Player of the Year. Green now plays at Brigham Young University.
“Really all 18 were starters and studs for us,” Knights’ head coach Jim Shapiro said. “It was a great group of kids for us. One of our pinnacle classes. It’s fun as a coach to see those kids graduate because you kind of know that you did your job and they grew up and became men and are on to bigger and better things.”
Earlier in his 20-year career, Shapiro might have been worried about replacing his star quarterback. Not now. He has a system in place as two athletes — a sophomore and a junior — compete to earn the vacancy left by Green.
Shapiro hopes to have a choice made before practices start in mid-August.
“How do you replace a Billy Green?” Shapiro said. “We asked that question three seasons ago. How do you replace a Thomas Vincent? There’s someone else in the system. There has to be. We have a couple kids that are vying for that starting spot. … Today’s kind of our pinnacle moment of evaluation.”
Graduation is a common theme from year to year, with some teams losing almost entire offenses.
“It’s different every year,” Arlington head coach Greg Dailer said. “(We had) 14 seniors graduate. It’s basically a new team every year.”
Defending Wesco 3A champion Glacier Peak also has holes to fill because of graduation and are using the Lakewood camp to improve as much as possible before the official start of the season.
“That was last year. That was 2012,” Grizzlies’ head coach Rory Rosenbach said of Glacier Peak’s championship. “Every team is different. This is high school. This isn’t the NFL where we get to keep guys all the time. Guys graduate. I think all of the teams are in the same boat with a lot of guys graduating and you’re finding new guys to step up and take leadership roles. And that’s where we’re at now.”
Cascade Conference ‘anyone’s game’
With quarterbacks, defenders and seniors galore graduating, the Cascade Conference will look like a whole new league this year.
The league’s coaches are eager to see what happens.
“I think it’s anyone’s game this year in the Cascade league,” said Shapiro. “Typical names will be competitive, Archbishop’s always competitive, Lakewood’s always competitive but I think I’d keep my eye on Sultan and South Whidbey. They’re maturing ball clubs that looked great at team camp.
“It really could be anyone’s time.”
When pressed to pick a favorite, Teeter talked himself into giving the Knights, the defending Cascade Conference champions, the ever-so-slight edge.
“It’s going to be exciting. I don’t know that you can pick a favorite,” Teeter said. “In the past you’d always say Murphy because they’ve always been the top dog. But King’s and us have kind of knocked on that door the last couple years. King’s is the reigning champ so I’ll say King’s.”
Stanwood’s new boss
There wasn’t a very long adjustment period for new Stanwood head coach Dave Telford when he took the Spartans job in June.
“They asked me to take the job on a Friday and we went to a camp on a Sunday,” Telford said. “And we competed really well at camp. I’m really happy with how things are going and we’ll see as we go.
While it’s been hectic, Telford said he’s enjoyed a summer full of scrimmages, team camps and practices.
“It’s been as good as it can be. Our kids are working hard,” Telford said. “It’s been just kind of keep your head above water. I’m excited about the opportunity. I think we’ve got some really good athletes. We obviously have to spend more time together.”
Telford is leading a young Stanwood team that graduated 26 seniors last year, “and they played a lot,” according to Telford.
The first-year coach, who previously coached at Monroe, is looking for consistency and competitiveness from the Spartans.
“We want to be competitive,” Telford said. “When I’m talking about being competitive I’m talking about the fact that we should be able to win four or five games every year. That’s where we want to get to. We want to go out and know we’re going to get four or five wins in a bad year for us.”
Wanna get away?
So much for summer vacation.
Between football camps, all-star games, practices and other team activities, Lake Stevens head coach Tom Tri hasn’t had a lot of time to relax.
Tri coached the West squad in the East-West all-star game on June 21 and immediately headed up to Central to meet up with the Vikings at a team camp at Central. The Vikings have had other team activities since then, including an impromptu barbeque and sleepover on the Lake Stevens football field.
He was able to get away for a few days to Lake Chelan with his wife and two daughters to enjoy a four-day visit and take a break from the grind of the gridiron. So it hasn’t been all football this summer for Tri.
“Just mostly football,” he said.
Being a good host
In its seventh year, the Lakewood 7-on-7 camp is quickly becoming one of the premier camps in the state of Washington. This year, 21 teams attended the camp, which is held the last Saturday in July, before the WIAA’s no contact rule takes effect on Aug. 1.
Several local schools attended this year, including Kamiak, Lake Stevens, Glacier Peak, Darrington, Arlington, King’s, Mount Vernon, Stanwood and Lakewood.
The camp makes for a long day, with the first games starting at 9 a.m. and going all the way until the championship game at 7 p.m. Still, teams seem to be reaping the benefits of a good day’s work, and making that clear to Teeter.
“The Issaquah coach said, ‘You’ve got to start raising the prices coach. This is the best-run camp in the state,’” Teeter said. “There’s nothing I think is more important than a chance to compete.”
Teeter said it’s a lot of work to put on the camp, but it’s a lot of fun for him and his staff, as well as the players who get some valuable game-speed reps.
“I think my staff likes it because I have to go do other stuff so they get to call more offensive plays and have a little fun,” Teeter said. “I’ve got a staff I can trust and just walk away from. It’s fun, it’s hectic. … The support I have from the Lakewood community and families is awesome. We couldn’t do it without them.”