Everett’s Jacob Leonard (bottom) gets a handoff from Murdock Rutledge during the 3rd Annual Squalicum Jamboree this past Saturday afternoon in Bellingham. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Everett’s Jacob Leonard (bottom) gets a handoff from Murdock Rutledge during the 3rd Annual Squalicum Jamboree this past Saturday afternoon in Bellingham. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Everett has championship mindset after breakout season last year

By David Krueger

Herald Writer

EVERETT — The Everett football team surprised a lot of people last season.

The Seagulls started the year 3-0 on their way to a 5-5 season. To put that in perspective, Everett had three victories in the previous three seasons combined (3-27).

This year, the Seagulls are hoping to surprise teams once again. Now in the Wesco 3A South — for football only — Everett head coach Doug Trainor and his squad have a pretty clear-cut goal for their 2016 campaign.

“We want our team to experience playoff football,” Trainor said. “I think that’s the next step for the evolution of this program. When your kids taste playoff football their whole offseason mindset changes. It just flat out changes. All of a sudden, you can’t live without playoff football. So we need to get there. We need to get there for the future generations of Seagulls. We need to get there for other sports too.

“That changes your dynamic athletically. That changes your school.”

The Seagulls want to take it one step further: finish at the top of the new-look Wesco 3A South, which will feature Everett, Edmonds-Woodway, Lynnwood, Meadowdale, Mountlake Terrace, Shorecrest, Shorewood and Snohomish.

Glacier Peak, which had won three of the last four Wesco 3A South titles, is now in Wesco 4A.

“We feel it’s super open, which is really fun,” said Murdock Rutledge, Everett’s senior quarterback who had a breakout season a year ago. “We don’t feel like, ‘Ugh, we need to go play Arlington. We’re going to get beat.’ We’re going to play every team and expecting to win. Our goal is definitely a league title. We feel like we can do that.”

Everett has spent the past three seasons in the Wesco 3A North, with Arlington, Marysville Getchell, Marysville Pilchuck, Oak Harbor and Stanwood.

Rutledge sees at least one benefit to moving to the south.

“I like not having to drive all the way up to Oak Harbor or Squalicum,” said Rutledge, who drove with the Seagulls to Squalicum’s preseason jamboree last year. “Those were long drives. I did not like those. But I’m excited to play some new teams. … We get to change it up and I think it will be fun.”

Trainor has seen his Everett team work toward the goal of a league championship since the end of last year.

“These guys want to win a league title. They’ve set that expectation,” he said. “They’ve raised the bar in their offseason preparation for it. It’s definitely within our grasp, I think. … We expect to compete against everybody. Everybody on our schedule we can look at and go, ‘Yeah, we can compete with them. But we’ve got to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s to get there.’”

Everett returns a lot of firepower on both sides of the ball, including Rutledge, wide receivers Elijah Ross-Rutter, Josiah Chavez, Louis Davis and Brett Allred, running backs Jacob Leonard and Aldo Yeo and several linemen. In fact, Trainor says there isn’t a position group where there isn’t at least one returner who had a good amount of varsity experience last season.

That makes things a bit easier than last season for the second-year coach.

“Kids know the routine, they know we mean business,” Trainor said. “They come out and we’re focused. … They know what we want and the expectations that we have. They know what our plays look like.”

The Everett players agree that year two under Trainor and his staff has been much easier to jump into.

“We definitely kicked it up a notch,” said junior lineman Tanner Hollenbeck. “We’re all practicing harder. This is our second year in the system so we all know our assignments better. We definitely all trust each other more this time. Now that we know each other, we know our capabilities and that we can push each other to get better.”

“It’s all about trust, focus and intensity,” added Ross-Rutter, a junior. “We want to have our practices more focused. We’re excited. We want to win. We’re going to win.”

That attitude is part of what Trainor calls a “competitor’s mindset” — something he’s tried to instill in his Seagulls.

“You’ve got to really develop that competitor’s mindset that you will just will not be denied,” Trainor said. “How badly do you want this and how badly have you worked? They have worked hard and they do want it.”

The Seagulls maintain that they really want it. And they’re excited to get back out on the field and show just how far they’ve come since their season-ending victory over Mount Vernon a year ago.

Everett’s first opponent is WJ Mouat, a school in Abbotsford, British Columbia. After that is the annual Battle for Broadway against crosstown rival Cascade.

Then the Seagulls kick off their league schedule with games against Meadowdale, which finished tied for second in the 3A South last year, Shorewood and Snohomish, which was a 4A team a year ago before moving down to 3A for the 2016-17 school year.

“If you play the same teams every year you definitely know what to expect from those teams,” Hollenbeck said. “When you get brand new teams it’s kind of like a whole new world. It’s a lot more fun. It’s really exciting.”

“We definitely think that, if we want to win it we can win it,” Rutledge added. “There’s no team that’s super far ahead that we feel like we couldn’t beat. We feel like anyone we play we can beat and that it’s a pretty wide open league.”

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