LYNNWOOD — The best thing about Meadowdale High School’s summer football camp, according to head coach Mark Stewart, is that it’s held in July.
What’s the worst thing? Once again, that it’s held in July.
Meadowdale’s camp, which ran July 12-16 for about 3-to-4 hours per day at the high school, is a chance for Stewart to size up his squad and usher in wide-eyed freshmen. Stewart estimated that 50 kids attended the camp, including 90 percent of the varsity athletes expected to contribute this fall. The week of activities is like a regular-season carrot dangling just out of reach, Stewart said.
“We get a little bit more focus. We don’t have that ‘Hey, a game is coming up next week’s pressure.”
And there lies the paradox. It’s summer and kids are on vacation. The first game seems so far away, and prior commitments cause some Mavericks to miss a few days.
For those who can make it, another opportunity — a team camp in Wenatchee — provides an even stronger taste of game action for Meadowdale. Along with several other Western Conference teams, including Snohomish, the Mavs attended the July 18-22 Wenatchee camp, where teams scrimmage in a 7-on-7 format.
“You try to make corrections,” Stewart said of the Wenatchee experience. “If you make a mistake, it becomes a little bit more glaring. It becomes a bit more of a test.”
Senior fullback Travis Anderson called the Wenatchee camp one of the best experiences he will have this year. The atmosphere and the attitude at the camp are great, added Meadowdale senior right tackle Joe Mustard.
Meadowdale’s first fall practice is Aug. 18. Two weeks later, the Mavs play Kamiak in a season-opening game Friday, Sept. 3 at Kamiak High School.
“We’ll figure things out real quick,” Stewart said.
After qualifying for the Class 3A playoffs the last two years, this season Meadowdale leaps to 4A. The Western Conference competition remains the same, but instead of battling just Lynnwood and Shorecrest for the South Division 3A playoff spot the Mavs now must fight the big dogs for a postseason trip. Meadowdale, which returns a strong core of seniors, plans to rise to the challenge.
“We have high expectations,” Stewart said. “We want to be at the top.”
To get there, Mustard (5-foot-10, 235 pounds) knows what needs to happen. Two seniors graduated from last year’s dominant o-line, but Mustard and four other seniors look to continue opening running lanes for Anderson (6-1, 210) and the rest of the Mavs backfield.
“We’re just gonna work hard and focus on the (offensive) line,” Mustard said.
Anderson is confident his teammates will deliver. “We’ve got some great guys,” he said. “I think our line’s gonna be just as good, and maybe better.”
Senior Demetri Huffman takes over at quarterback for graduated star Eric Marty. A 6-1, 175-pounder, Huffman started at cornerback last year. He is a step quicker than Marty and he said that his defensive experience as a corner will help him guide the Mavs offense.
“Being in the secondary,” Huffman said, “you know the defensive coverages. I’ll know what to do against defenses and which reads to make.”
Marty may be gone, but Huffman said he left behind an important lesson. “He taught me a lot about what it is to be a team player.”
Teammates already see a resemblance.
“I think (Huffman) can be as good as Marty, if he puts his mind to it,” Anderson said.
So as Meadowdale’s vets rev up for what they hope will be another strong season, the rookies are just getting started. Stewart said his freshmen, including quarterback Teagan Dooley and Tyler Tallman, worked hard during the camp.
The new guys enjoyed the experience.
“It’s been really run and pretty educational,” Dooley said. “It helps you get ready.”
Tallman said he appreciates Stewart’s style, whether the coach is working one-on-one with the youngsters or simply respecting them enough to match them up against older players.
“It seems like he isn’t just coaching,” Tallman said of Stewart. “He cares about you.”