The Lynnwood football team made some significant strides during Dorian Manza’s first season as head coach.
The Royals’ 2-8 overall record might not have reflected the progress, but the upbeat feeling among the players as they head into the 2008 season does.
A strong returning senior class along with a new Class 3A league is generating excitement for a program that hasn’t had a winning season since the late 1990s.
The hope is the Royals will be able to change that this year.
“(Last year) was really a step forward for the program,” said senior running back/defensive lineman Geoff Meinken. “Starting off 2-1 that was really nice and then it kind of went a little downhill from there, but the last couple of games were really close. … We could have been 5-4 really easily, So we look at that as a step forward and maybe a step toward people recognizing Lynnwood’s resurgence.”
Manza agrees that had a few breaks gone their way last year, the Royals could have ended up with a better record. Lynnwood lost its last two games each by less than a touchdown.
“We did feel like we had a lot of missed opportunities,” the second-year head coach said. “We didn’t capitalize on some opportunities that we had to win some football games.”
Still, the positive feelings about last season have generated momentum in 2008. Weight room participation was high and Lynnwood had a successful team camp this summer.
“We feel like we’re continuing to improve and get better,” Manza said. “The confidence level is a lot higher.”
Lynnwood returns solid experience in its skill positions, especially with Meinken, who has verbally committed to play for Washington State. Meinken, at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, is by no means is the prototypical running back and he not only brings size but speed. Meinken runs a 4.6 40.
“He’s just a load once he gets running downfield,” Manza said. “If he gets some momentum behind him, he’s really tough to tackle.”
Also returning in the backfield is senior Fabian Duron, a 5-8, 205-pound fullback and senior quarterback Jared Shippey, who started three games at the end of the season when Andrew Beatty went down with an injury.
Shippey expects Duron, a three-year starter, to be a key part of the offense, especially in short yardage situations.
“He’s a power running back,” Shippey said. “If we need a short gain, third and one, just give him the ball up the gut. Let him go. He’s got speed. He can just lower his shoulder.”
Playing in the final three games last season prepared Shippey.
“Getting some game action for varsity helped a lot,” he said.
The players noticed Shippey felt comfortable in his role almost from the moment he stepped into the huddle.
“Shippey did a nice job coming in. He gained everyone’s respect really fast,” Meinken said. “He just played well. … He kept us in the games. I think he’s going to do fine this year.”
At 5-11 and 175 pounds, Shippey isn’t exactly the biggest quarterback in the league, but he’s done all that Manza has asked of him in the offseason and fall practices.
“He’s making good reads. He runs the offense very well,” Manza said. “He’s a smart quarterback. He’s got a good arm. The only thing he lacks is size. He’s quick too.”
Shippey will have a pair of fleet-footed wide receivers to throw to in senior Dylan Burnett-Lewis, a three-year starter on defense who finished second in the javelin at the state track championship, and senior Sean Davis, a junior varsity player moving up to varsity.
“Both are really fast,” Meinken said. “Sean is a really great route runner and Dylan is obviously a track athlete. He’s fast. He can jump. He’s just a great athlete. What we have this year is a lot of experienced athletes. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to go out and surprise some people.”
The biggest concern for the Royals is their offensive line, which saw the departures of most of last year’s starters.
“We’ve got to build them up. We’ve got to get them better,” Shippey said. “That’s probably the area we need the most work on. Other than that, we’re real solid all around.”
The new 3A league, which includes Meadowdale, Everett, Shorecrest and Glacier Peak, the new school in Snohomish, should also be an advantage for Lynnwood. The schools are closer in size to Lynnwood.
“We know we can compete against all the teams in our league,” Shippey said.