LYNNWOOD — Two numbers immediately stand out for this year’s Lynnwood football team: 28, as in the number of consecutive games the Royals have lost and 26, as in the age of new coach Andrew Burton.
What do both figures mean to Burton, who plans to build a thriving program?
Zero, zip and zilch.
Already, Burton likes what he sees. Since the first day of practice, he said the Royals have come ready to work hard.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Burton, an Edmonds native. “They do not have any of the indicative qualities of a losing program.
“These kids are winners.”
Lynnwood players said Burton brings a new intensity to the team.
“He’s very energetic,” said senior Paul St. Marie, an offensive and defensive lineman. “I like how he runs practice.”
Burton’s two-hour practices are one hour shorter than what the returning Royals are used to, but the efficiency has increased.
“We get more done in two hours,” St. Marie added.
“There’s a lot of players behind him,” senior running back and defensive back Randall Eldridge said of Burton.
Despite his youth, Burton has already coached several years at the high school and collegiate level.
The Royals appreciate Burton’s football know-how. “He’s young but he’s done lot of coaching,” said senior Foster Hill, who plays quarterback and defensive back. “His coaching style fits our players very well.”
Hill is fully recovered from a left shoulder dislocation he suffered in the first game against Mountlake Terrace. The injury kept him off the field for all but the final three games.
“I haven’t really seen any repercussions from last year’s injury, Burton said. “(Hill) just works extremely hard.”
On offense, Burton said Lynnwood, which opens its season against Squalicum Sept. 12 at Civic Field in Bellingham, hopes to first establish an efficient passing attack, and then complement that with a strong running game. Above all, Burton said he enjoys the chance to mold the young Royals.
“You really get to influence athletes from the ground up – not just in football but as a person too.”
“He chooses football and he compares it to life,” St. Marie explains. “He has us fired up and ready to play.”
Burton credits senior leadership as an important part of the Royals’ new beginning. Setting an example is vital, Eldridge said. “We got a young team.
“Without good leaders, we won’t do anything.”
Eldridge leads by example.
“I do what I do and hope that they follow,” he said.
St. Marie leads by doing what Burton believes is best for the team. Last year St. Marie played running back but this season Burton moved the 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior to the offensive line.
“Paul’s going to be a big surprise,” said Burton, who believes St. Marie has retained all of his speed despite adding considerable weight. “He’s made it a lot of fun to coach. He’s come a long way.”
Despite some initial disappointment, St. Marie has adapted.
“I don’t enjoy the line, but I’m doing it to help out my team,” he said.
In a year full of considerable changes, efforts such as St. Marie’s have Lynnwood hoping for a successful, competitive season.
“Everybody’s looking forward to getting a win,” Hill said. “That’s what everybody’s gunning for.”
Meanwhile, Burton will measure success not in numbers but in effort and improvement. So far, Lynnwood appears headed on the right track.
“This is a highly motivated group,” Burton said. “You ask them once and they do it.”
“The number one thing we want to do is reach our potential. We want to be competitive and just leave it on the field.”