There has been a Mariner football sighting

By Aaron Coe

Herald Writer

There has been a Mariner football sighting.

After two frustrating years, it looks like the Mariner Marauders might be back.

Many of the things that took Mariner to the 1998 Class 3A state championship game are present on the 2001 version of the team:

Blinding speed at the skill positions. A relentless, attacking defense. A stable of running backs with vastly different styles, including electrifying back Markee Broussard.

Rival coaches of the new Western Conference South Division say this isn’t the team that won only three games in two years after the run to the title game.

"Mariner is much improved," said Kamiak coach Dan Mack, whose team got a taste of Mariner at a jamboree last weekend and will open against the Marauders on Friday night when the prep football season begins. "I think they’re going to be pretty good this year."

And Mack should know a good football team when he sees one. His Knights may have the best team in the conference, and despite Mariner’s resurgence, popular thought has Kamiak walking through the South Division on its way to a third straight state playoff appearance.

The Wesco has grown to the state’s largest league. Its 19 members are split into two divisions. The South contains six schools that were 4A last year: Edmonds-Woodway, Kamiak, Mariner, Mountlake Terrace, Shorecrest and Shorewood. Everett and Jackson moved to the 4A level after growing beyond the 3A limit of 1,199 students. Lynnwood and Meadowdale still have 3A numbers, but as the only 3A schools remaining in the area, both schools had nowhere to go but the new Wesco.

The North Division contains former 3A schools Arlington, Lake Stevens, Monroe, Mount Vernon and Stanwood along with 4A holdovers Cascade, Marysville-Pilchuck, Oak Harbor and Snohomish.

The Wesco 3A will be vacant for at least one year.

Mariner coach John Ondriezek likes the new alignment.

"I think it’ll be good for us," Ondriezek said. "We’ll basically be competing against schools similar to Mariner in terms of size and demographics. And we’ll be bringing back rivalries from the old 3A league. Most of the schools were 3A just a few years ago."

Ondriezek also likes what he has seen from his team so far. The Marauders are a little thin, he says, but the starters are good enough to play with anyone.

"I’m very excited about the opportunity our football team has this year," Ondriezek said. "This team worked extremely hard in the offseason. We don’t have great depth or size, but team speed will be an asset."

While the North is full of established programs that have long histories of success, the South contains teams that seem to be on the rise.

Kamiak has existed for only a decade and made its first state playoff appearance in 1999. Mariner is trying to return to glory after two long years. Edmonds-Woodway, which missed the postseason only after an overtime loss to Kamiak late in the season, seems on the verge of greatness. Jackson is full of skill-position players and has improved every year under coach Joel Vincent. Everett, which may be the most storied program in state history, rebounded with a winning season in 2000 after several years of futility.

Meadowdale and Lynnwood will compete in the South Division, but would play a winner-to-state game against the No. 2 team from the Northwest 3A League if either can muster a 6-3 record. Meadowdale was winless in 1999, but won three games after Mark Stewart took over the program last season. Though six wins will be difficult against 4A competition, the Mavericks will be tough this year.

Mack says hogwash to the notion that all the league’s strength exists in the North, which contains four playoff teams from last year, compared to just one in the South.

"I think people saying that are not knowledgeable about the programs in the South," Mack said. "They are just as strong."

Everyone will find out which half is stronger Nov. 6. That’s when the state playoff berths will be determined by playing division crossover games. The No. 1 team from each division will play the No. 3 team from the other side, while the No. 2’s will play one another. The winner of each game will qualify for the state playoffs.

The teams that emerge from one of the state’s strongest conferences should be battle tested and ready for a strong playoff run.

"Every game will be physical," said Edmonds-Woodway coach John Gradwohl, whose team will likely be in contention for postseason. "It’s going to be really interesting to watch."

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