After earning just three victories last year, both the coaching staff and some key returnees of the Mountlake Terrace Hawks concluded some changes were needed if the team was going to be more successful on the field in 2017.
Now with a renewed determination and some revamped practice techniques, the Hawks are ready to see if adjustments made this summer will lead to more wins this fall.
Terrace will kick off their 2017 campaign on Friday, Sept. 1, when they travel to Bellingham to face the Sehome Mariners; game time at Civic Stadium is set for 5 p.m.
In preparing for the new season, a tone of seriousness was set early on among a number of key returning players, much to the delight of Coach Kelly Dougan.
“This new group of seniors — they’re committed, they work hard, they love football, they want to win,” Dougan stated. “So the attitude overall is much better. The work ethic is better; the commitment level is higher.”
Senior Keegan Grayson is expected to play a big part on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball for the Hawks this season. But it’s the effort he’s put in early on to help change the team’s mindset that may prove to be Grayson’s biggest contribution to the team.
“It’s a whole new attitude this year,” Grayson said. “Last year people came to practice and just wanted to mess around. This year we came to work and get better.”
Junior Brandon Bach has also been leading the charge to push teammates harder during the leadup to the season opener. “Last year was a lot of messing around, not really caring, stuff like that. But this year we’re all focusing,” he explained.
A change in how the coaching staff operates practices has helped keep the team mentally engaged this summer. Drills have been run for shorter intervals and at a faster pace, Dougan said.
“The emphasis is on being efficient, hustling and quick learning opportunities,” he pointed out. “We changed it up because they’re attention span is not as long as you would like it to be. Everything we do is in five to ten minute segments. We’ve found that to be pretty good for us.”
The changes have been accepted well by the players, which has led to higher spirits among the coaching staff, Dougan said.
“We really enjoy coaching these guys,” he shared. “This is a fun group of kids to coach. They’re extremely coachable; they like to learn.”
While attitudes and practice rituals for the Hawks have changed significantly, only a few adjustments are being made to the offensive and defensive schemes of the team. Grayson, Bach, senior Jeswin John and junior Dominique Latham will get opportunities to catch passes from returning junior quarterback Jesse Martineau; running backs JaBrae Richardson and Moussa Traore will get plenty of carries in what is expected to be a balanced no-huddle offensive attack.
On defense, Grayson and Bach will lead the defensive secondary while senior Michael Phu and junior Alex Paluck will anchor the defensive line.
While the Hawks have instituted some changes in how they prepare for games this year, it’s nothing compared to the transformation that their season-opening opponent Sehome has gone through. After going without a win in 2016 (and losing 17 games in a row overall), the Mariners have a whole new coaching staff and a schedule that will include no Northwest Conference games this year. School officials are hoping the football program will rebound with renewed spirit and more participants in 2017, starting with a strong effort against the Hawks on Sept. 1.
The schedule becomes much more difficult after the season opener as the Hawks face Cedarcrest and Everett – teams that defeated Terrace last year – over the following two weeks. Then after a road game against Shorewood, the Hawks face a brutal stretch of Wesco League match-ups against Meadowdale, Lynnwood, Edmonds-Woodway and Snohomish, all teams that qualified for postseason playoff games last year.
Mountlake Terrace Hawks 2017 Football
Coach: Kelly Dougan (third year)
2016 record: 2-5 in Wesco League play, 3-7 overall
First 2017 game: Friday, Sept. 1, versus Sehome at Civic Stadium in Bellingham, 5:00 p.m.
Key players: Keegan Grayson (senior wide receiver, safety); Brandon Bach (junior wide receiver, safety); Jesse Martineau (junior quarterback); JaBrae Richardson (junior running back, linebacker/defensive secondary); Moussa Traore (senior running back, linebacker/defensive secondary); Jeswin John (senior wide receiver, defensive secondary); Michael Phu (senior offensive line, defensive line); Alex Paluck (junior offensive line, defensive line)
–Story and photos by Doug Petrowski