By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
The Edmonds-Woodway football team definitely has some holes to fill in its lineup.
While the Warriors have a number of skill position players returning, including junior quarterback Davis Giles and senior running back Desmond Young, the team will have an almost entirely new offensive line.
Senior Jack McCole is the lone returning full-time starter on the line.
Warriors coach John Gradwohl and his staff have spent much of June evaluating personnel and different combinations during practices as they start building toward the 2012 season.
The process of developing an offensive line starts from the inside-out.
“You try to find the kids’ strengths and weaknesses,” Gradwohl said. “Our guards have to be a little faster than our tackles. We start with the center and work our way out. We’re trying to put guys in a position to succeed. You don’t always pick it right the first time.”
As with most teams, the line is the key to Edmonds-Woodway’s success. It took a while for the offensive line to develop last season. Edmonds-Woodway lost its first three contests, all of which were non-conference, before stringing together five straight victories to advance to the playoffs.
“We’re trying to put together another line that works well together,” Gradwohl said. “That’s a lot of work.”
Senior Matt Cuzzetto, who saw time at quarterback last year but who will likely be at wide receiver and running back this season, said that patience is going to be needed as the players settle into their positions.
“The kids are brand new,” Cuzzetto said. “They have to learn all the new assignments. With our offense you need a lot of team unity as a line. We, as running backs and wide receivers, all are based off where the line goes and what they do.”
A major difference this offseason as contrasted with last year for the Warriors is that they return a starting quarterback who helped lead the team to the state playoffs. Last year, Edmonds-Woodway had four players vying for playing time at quarterback.
“I didn’t do a very good job of managing that,” Gradwohl said.
Giles is joined by sophomore Nick Morales, who played on the freshman team.
“This year with two it is a lot easier to manage,” Gradwohl said. “We’re getting them both the reps they need.”
No player is guaranteed a starting position at this point but Giles does have a year of experience.
“Davis Giles acquired a lot of confidence from last year,” Gradwohl said. “He had a lot of reps.”
Cuzzetto noted that with Giles back, the passing game is progressing nicely.
“We’re used to one guy,” he said. “We get our timing down. Especially with wide receivers, there are a lot of routes. You need timing. Different quarterbacks are a lot faster or slower. With Davis, we’ll get our timing down. It’ll be a lot crisper when it comes to game time.”
Giles feels more comfortable after playing in the majority of games last year.
“I know the reads now,” he said. “I know how things should be. … I can help get everybody in the right place.”
Like the rest of the team, Giles is closely watching how the line is developing.
“I like the guys we have,” Giles said. “We’re working hard to kind of get that flow and know what the other guy is thinking. We have good plays. We have bad plays. We just need to be more consistent.”
Also returning in the backfield with Giles is Young and junior fullback Mac McLachan.
Young, in particular, had a breakout season as a junior and Gradwohl is looking for more of the same.
“For a kid who is not too big (5-foot-10, 155 pounds) he runs very hard,” Gradwohl said. “What makes him dangerous is that when he gets to the second level, not too many people are going to catch him.”
Another key player on offense is senior wide receiver Jacob Roiling. Along with Cuzzetto, who likely will see an expanded role on offense this season, the Warriors have a strong core of skill players.
“It’s nice to have those guys who we can count on,” Giles said.
Two other guys Edmonds-Woodway are counting on are two familiar faces who didn’t play football last year: junior Travis Bakken and senior Troy Rheinford. Bakken is a standout on the basketball team, while Rheinford plays both basketball and baseball.
“We’re excited about them,” Gradwohl said. “They are two really good athletes.”
The two stepped away from football but have committed to playing this year.
Giles is friends with both players and encouraged them to rejoin the team.
“I’ve been egging those two guys to get back out here,” Giles said. “I’m loving Travis at O-line and D-line. He’s a great guy to have out there. Troy is an aggressive guy at linebacker and wide receiver.”
Rheinford drew cheers from his teammates last week during a scrimmage at Lynnwood High School when he laid out a perfect block that sent a defender sprawling to the ground.
On defense, Gradwohl is having to retool the secondary with Cuzzetto the only returner back there.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys rotating through there,” Gradwohl said.
Overall Edmonds-Woodway made some good progress in June, Giles said.
“It went great,” he said. “We have a lot of new guys this year. … They’ve really proved they belong out here.”