By David Pan Enterprise sports editor
The Mountlake Terrace football team can’t wait for the season to start.
Coming off arguably their most successful season in school history, which included a first-ever appearance in the state playoffs, the Hawks have a lot to prove.
“The players and coaches are eager to show that last season wasn’t a fluke,” said Mountlake Terrace head coach Tony Umayam. “We’re hoping that if we can continually have good seasons back to back … it’ll bring that stability to the program and legitimize the program.”
The Hawks’ culture already has changed quite a bit since Umayam took over the program six years ago. The program has had several seniors who’ve been strong leaders on and off the field.
“The culture has developed a much higher work ethic and expectations,” Umayam said. “I’ve had quite a bit of stability in my coaching staff, which has helped out quite a bit. I’ve had some very good coaches who’ve been with me for quite awhile.”
Mountlake Terrace returns plenty of familiar faces, especially on offense, but lost two of its top players in quarterback Brandyn Eckart and running back Casey Ellersick, both of whom are continuing their football careers in college.
“We could be starting nine, 10 seniors,” Umayam said. “Eight returning starters are coming back.”
The offensive line probably will be all seniors. The quarterback and tailback are the only two positions in which the Hawks will have new faces.
Sophomore Justin Pruett took the majority of snaps at Mountlake Terrace’s spring/summer practices and at the Central Washington team camp. He was the starting quarterback for the freshman team.
“We have at least three running backs that are going to be competing in the next few months for carries,” Umayam said. “That competition is a good thing. It has raised the level of their play. Hopefully, it will raise the level of their commitment in the offseason.”
Sophomore Chris Guerrero, junior Ryan Benham and senior Jordan Iese give Umayam plenty of options.
“We’re excited that we’re going to have that competition during practice in the fall,” he said.
The skill positions also return experience in wide receiver Hunter Rook, running back Zach Karels and tight ends Julian Snow and Mitch Haldane.
The defense only returns a handful of starters but those are some of the team’s best players.
The heart and soul of the defense revolves around Haldane, a first-team, all-league linebacker. By the time he graduates, Haldane might well be the best linebacker to ever play for Mountlake Terrace, according to Umayam.
Haldane, a three-year starter, simply is one of the Hawks’ most athletic players. Umayam expects him to continue his career in college.
“He has a nose for the football,” Umayam said. “He just happens to be a ball magnet. He’s aggressive and has that competitive streak.”
Also back are standouts Owen Fritz and Lance Fernandez along with Griffin Rash. Karels anchors the secondary.
“We’re going to be young but we’ll be pretty good on defense,” Umayam said. “We aren’t returning a lot of starters but the ones we are, are really good. We’ll be young in the secondary.”
A newcomer who’s caught the coaching staff’s eyes is Jope Motokana, a rugby player, who is showing promise at nose tackle.
Because of declining enrollment, Mountlake Terrace is dropping down from 4A to 3A in the fall. The Hawks still will have some of its traditional rivalry games, such as Edmonds-Woodway.
The competition, however, looks to be just as tough as ever. Meadowdale and Glacier Peak, two teams that made runs into the state playoffs, are among Mountlake Terrace’s rivals.
“I think overall the school and the community are excited about Hawks football, especially after last year,” Umayam said. “We don’t want to disappoint them. This is the type of season that can really help legitimize the program.”