By Aaron Lommers For The Enterprise
LYNNWOOD — A year ago, the Meadowdale Mavericks were one game away from the Tacoma Dome, falling to Union in the 3A state quarterfinals 49-7.
Practice for the 2010 season recently kicked off and the Mavericks return just three players on offense and five players on defense.
Does that stop the Mavericks from aiming toward the Tacoma Dome again? The answer is a resounding “no.”
“Everyone is confident in themselves and each other that we are going to do as good or better than we did last year,” junior quarterback Nathan Ball said.
Ball takes over at quarterback for Danny McDonald, who graduated after last season. McDonald is just one of many skill players the Mavericks lost to graduation.
“They are pretty big shoes to fill after the year Danny had last year,” Ball said.
But Ball is relishing his new role.
“It’s cool being able to motivate guys,” he said. “It’s cool having that pressure and that spotlight on me.”
The road back to the state playoffs started on a late Wednesday afternoon last month, but players and coaches all say they like what they saw.
“It surprised me even, just the first day of practice how energetic and motivated we are,” Ball said.
“I like what I see,” head coach Mark Stewart said. “We’ve got some guys that can play some football.”
A challenge for the Mavericks will be figuring out who is going to put the ball in the end zone this season after McDonald, and the likes of Connor Hamlett, Sam Werner, Naji Moore-Taylor and others graduated.
“You think these guys can score, but you are kind of wondering who is going to go out there and score,” Stewart said. “Last year, we kind of knew what the guys could do, so that’s the difference.”
Stewart named a few players he believed could find the end zone quite a bit this season.
Sam Thomas is a halfback and wide receiver that carries a big load at 220 pounds, and Kyle Gage is a running back and defensive back that weighs 190 pounds. Both players should be able to energize the Meadowdale offense.
Stewart said they will be running behind an offensive line led by 6-foot-1, 235-pound Adam Bjodstrup, a returning guard that Stewart says has been doing “a nice job,” at practice.
The defense will be led by senior Riley Pearson, a three-year starter at linebacker.
“I feel like me being a three-year starter, I think its my job to help them through things and help them see the games at a higher level, and also set a good example on the field for my teammates,” Pearson said.
Ball and Pearson seem to believe the Mavericks will be right back where they were last year. Stewart seems more cautiously optimistic.
“As far as expectations for this year, you know, it’s nothing less than last year. We want to go out there and win every game and live up to our potential,” Pearson said.
“I think they have worked hard at camp. I think they know what it takes to be successful. It’s just up to them to go out there and do it,” Stewart said. “I think we are going to be competitive and I think we will have a shot of finishing high in the league, but we’ve got to work hard.”
Many of the players that led Meadowdale last year may be gone, but the players that are there don’t seem to worry.
“From what we lost I think we made up for with a lot of hard work in the offseason,” Pearson said. “I think what we are lacking in experience we are making up in mental toughness.”