First-year Interlake coach Jason Rimkus can pin down the exact moment senior quarterback Matt Malos bought into his new offensive scheme.
The Saints were playing in a scrimmage at the University of Puget Sound football camp, and their opponent had stacked the box with nine defenders. Receivers were clamoring to throw the ball, to take advantage of the man defense and stretch the field.
Rimkus asked Malos what he wanted to do.
“He essentially said ‘let’s ram it down their throat’,” Rimkus said. “That’s when I knew he was in.”
Quite the departure from the pass-happy offense the fleet-footed Malos had been directing the past two seasons. At the helm of Interlake’s high-flying spread offense, the quarterback had lit up opposing defenses for big numbers through the air and sometimes bigger numbers on the ground.
When Rimkus was hired to replace Sheldon Cross (who left for a position at Washington State University), he brought his defensive-minded schemes with him. A defensive back at Bothell and Pacific Lutheran University, Rimkus wanted a pro-style, ball control offense to match his 3-4 defense.
“There was going to be a challenge and I expected that because they were successful with what they were doing,” Rimkus said. “All of a sudden, the lights went on for them.”
Making the switch meant a big transition for Malos from day one. The senior had to work on drops from under center, quick passes, rollouts and play actions. He had to relearn to take snaps under center, something he hadn’t done since junior football.
“I really thought I was more of a spread-type quarterback, but if this is what I have to do to help this team win, so be it,” he said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help this team.”
Malos also lost two of his biggest weapons to graduation in running back Brett Kirschner (Montana) and wide receiver Dylan Amell. The offense does bring back experienced players in skill positions, such as senior wide receivers Scotty Gehlhausen and J.T. Capers and junior running backs Jacob Marks and Dylan Todd, who Rimkus calls “Thunder and Lightning”.
“We want to focus on going at teams,” Rimkus said. “Jordan can run around you and Jacob can run through you.”
“It’s exciting,” Todd said of the new offense. “We just want to make plays. I watched Brett make plays running the ball, now I want to go out there and do the same thing, break all his records and make them my records.”
Rimkus said he expects his breakout players to come on the offensive line. Only senior Colton Faber returns from last season, but the unit showed great improvement at camp at the University of Puget Sound.
“I was pretty surprised at how fast we brought it together,” Faber said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll be ready to go once the season starts.”
Rimkus also said he expects to see big years from a pair of first-year starters in sophomore wide receiver Kamana Adriano and senior tight end and linebacker Dominic Jackson, who Rimkus called the “Tim Tebow” of Interlake’s football program.
“We have a lot of skills kids that we want to touch the ball,” Rimkus said. “We have to find a way to spread it out to them.”
In a year of change, the defense is no exception. The team will shift to a 3-4 base.
“We’re built on speed and we value speed,” Rimkus said. “I don’t care how big you are, it’s how big your heart is and how much you want it. The kids are learning that.”
The players say there will be a big change on that side of the ball this year, especially with Rimkus’ defensive expertise – in addition to his playing days, he also coached defensive backs at his alma mater and at Western Washington University.
“You’re going to see a big change in our defense,” said Capers, who will play defensive back. “We have specific jobs and we know where we need to be. It will be a big improvement.”
The Saints open the season Sept. 3 against Newport. The two teams haven’t met since 2007 and now sit two classifications apart – the Knights are a 4A team while Interlake is still in Class 2A.
“I want the kids to want to play the best, always,” Rimkus said. “You can only build that way when you play the best competition.”