The sound of popping pads was on display during the first day of contact drills at the Interlake Saints spring football practice on Monday.
The Saints, who put together a formidable record of 7-4 during the 2016 season, were eager to take the field for hitting drills for the first time since losing to the Gig Harbor Tides 14-13 in the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs on Nov. 5, 2016. The Saints pushed themselves through a bevy of 40-yard sprints and focused intensely on their offensive and defensive schemes during the afternoon practice session. Interlake head coach Brian Hartline, who will be in his second year as the program’s head coach this fall, believes in focusing on the fundamentals this time of year.
“I think the goal right now is to just get the kids comfortable with everything that we are doing and just get better every day. That is all you can do. I’m not worried about the first game or anything like that right now. I’m focused on the team getting better from yesterday’s practice,” Hartline said.
The Saints 2017 roster will look different from last year’s squad that advanced to the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs. Interlake wide receiver/safety Naoki Harmer, running back/safety Zenon Moses and quarterback Duncan Varela will graduate this June. Varela will play football at the University of Puget Sound and Harmer has committed to Montana Tech. Saints’ middle linebacker Bradley Kidwell said Harmer and Moses were two of the best defensive players in the KingCo 3A Conference last season.
“We had two of the best safeties in KingCo [Division]. That is hard shoes to fill but we’ve got young guys who can step up and do the job. We’re losing a couple of guys but we got experienced guys who have been up on varsity and they know what they are doing. I think we have a good squad this year,” Kidwell said.
Hartline is confident defensive backs Blake Hall and Austin Hourn will shore up the back end of the Saints defense in 2017.
“Blake and Austin are both just outstanding athletes. They come downhill (hard hitters) like the other kids did (Harmer, Moses). I think they are both going to do a great job. They are both juniors and have a lot of time to develop,” Hartline said.
Hartline said there is currently an open competition for the starting quarterback position between junior Elijah Barnes and sophomore Charlie Galanti.
“The kid who obviously has got a leg up probably with experience is Elijah. We are expecting big things out of him. We got another young sophomore to be Charlie Galanti that is competing with him. He is going to go out there and push Elijah. We’ll see where things take us from there,” Hartline said.
The Saints most experienced group featuring a multitude of returners is on the offensive line.
“Corban Lawlor, Mitchell Soohoo, Paul Cemarka, Ethan Feaster, Bradley Kidwell and Lucas Varela are the most experienced athletes we have,” Hartline said. “Myles Chandler will be a force at outside linebacker and tight end.”
Barnes wants to see his team return to the postseason this fall.
“I’m just ready to get this season started. I’m really excited about this team. Last year we had an upset (loss) against Gig Harbor. We’re ready to bounce back this year and hopefully make it to the playoffs again,” Barnes said. “We’re just going to come out and do our best.”
Hartline wants to see the Saints advance to the postseason for the second consecutive season this fall.
“Obviously our goal is to get back to the playoffs and hopefully have a better result than we did. It was a a heart-breaker to lose to Gig Harbor the way we did (one-point loss), but the kids had a great experience and I had a great experience. I was really proud of what we did last year,” he said.