By Aaron Swaney, Aaron Lommers and David Krueger, Herald Writers
GLACIER PEAK GRIZZLIES
Last season: 4-0 in league (first); 9-2 overall (lost to Mt. Si in the first round of the state playoffs)
Head coach: Rory Rosenbach, sixth season
Herald’s power ranking: fifth
Key returners: Nick Hensley, OL/DL; Kaianoa Wong, WR/DB; Mosese Fifita, OL/DL; Trey Chambers, WR/DB.
Glacier Peak has a lot of spots to fill, but, as Rosenbach said, that’s common with high school programs. Rosenbach seems confident in his guys — so much so that the Grizzlies ordered brand new uniforms — and once position battles are locked up Glacier Peak should be ready to go.
Having the bulk of the offensive and defensive lines return is a huge positive, and with big offseason obstacles at Meadowdale (new coach) and Mountlake Terrace (injury to Devante Downs), Glacier Peak just might have enough to repeat as conference champs.
“I think there’s a lot more parity in the league this year,” Rosenbach said. “So every week’s going to be a battle. But I like our chances if we continue to jell as a team and compete every week we’ve got a chance to be in every game and be playing for a league championship again.”
Last season: 3-1 in league (second); 7-3 overall (lost to Eastside Catholic in quad-district playoffs)
Head coach: Mike Don, first season
Herald’s power ranking: ninth
Key returners: Josiah Evans, DB; JoJo Alkhedairy, OL/DL; Charlie White, TE; Brett Schafer, K; Marzell Simmons, DL; Malik Braxton, RB.
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 in Don.
Malik Braxton, who finished last season playing quarterback, moves to running back and will be looking for daylight behind an offensive line anchored by returning All-Wesco first-teamer JoJo Alkhedairy.
All of the change doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the Mavs usual success. One thing former coach Mark 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.
MOUNTLAKE TERRACE HAWKS
Last season: 2-2 in league (third); 5-5 overall (lost to Kennedy in the quad-district playoffs)
Head coach: Tony Umayam, 10th season
Herald’s power ranking: 13th
Key returners: Jevin Pahinui, OL/DL; Chance Ragsdale, RB/LB.
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 junior Ryan Lacasse will give the Hawks a formidable backfield.
Justin 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.”
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.
Last season: 1-3 in league (fourth); 3-7 overall
Head coach: Brandon Christensen, fourth season
Herald’s power ranking: N/R
Key returners: Aaron Kelly, DB/WR; Matt Brennan, RB/LB; Nick Hendricks, QB.
This is the fourth season of Christensen’s tenure as the Scots coach and the numbers in the program are growing. This year he’s got a mix of seniors and sophomores who will be counted on to help the Scots make the push for the playoffs.
Shorecrest returns a lot of talent at key positions, including the main three skill positions on offense. At wide receiver, Kelly is a 6-foot-4 lanky, athletic wideout with good hands. Throwing the ball to Christensen will be another returner in Hendricks, a short but athletic quarterback who will rely on his speed and quickness.
Running the ball is Matt Brennan, who is a member of the Washington U-17 rugby team. “He’s a real energy guy for us; real high-intensity player,” Christensen said.
The Scots will rely on a large group of sophomores as well, including Will Brennan, Matt’s younger brother, and Briggon Weaver, a lacrosse player.
Parity is the word in the Wesco 3A South and if Shorecrest’s sophomores can learn quickly the Scots have a shot at a playoff spot.
Last season: 0-4 in league (fifth); 2-8 overall
Head coach: Rob Petschl, fourth season
Herald’s power ranking: N/R
Key returners: Austin Upton, FB/CB; Anhexlos Pere, RB/S; Jonah Hoverson, WR/LB; Chris Lee, OL/DL; Cameron Testerman, OL/DL; Warren Cho, WR/DB.
Shorewood didn’t win a league game last year, but Petschl is hoping he’s got enough returning talent and young newcomers to not only win a game but make a playoff push.
It starts with first-year quarterback Aaron Okamura, younger brother of former Thunderbirds running back Josh. Okamura is on the small side (5-foot-8, 150 pounds) and will be more of a running quarterback than pocket passer. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some nice big targets to pass to, including Jonah Hoverson and basketball-turned-football player Zane Hopen. Both stand 6-foot-3.
Okamura will be handing off to two of the most experienced Thunderbirds players. Fullback Austin Upton and running back Anxhelos Pere were both named to the All-Wesco second team a year ago.
The offensive line will be anchored by Chris Lee and Cameron Testerman and will be key to Shorewood’s success. If the Thunderbirds can get the running game going and get some quick strikes in the pass game, expect Shorewood to be much improved.