First on the to-do list for the Inglemoor High football team: End the four-year streak of a loss in the season opener.
Second? That’ll have to wait until Sept. 9, when the Vikings are scheduled to play Lake Washington. For the moment, Inglemoor football is focused on Inglemoor football.
“Last year, we had little-to-no team chemistry, and that’s been a big focus for us this year,” said senior tackle Mario Tupou after practice on Aug. 18, as the team waited to share post-practice dinner together. “That’s why we’re staying here and building our team unity: so we can play for each other — unselfish football.”
“A lot of defense is just being on the right page,” said senior linebacker Max Larson. “When you have 11 guys doing their own thing, there are going to be big holes and gaps and missed assignments. Communication is huge, and another year under our belts helps us make adjustments.”
A large junior class stepped onto the field last fall with little experience, and the result was tough to watch: Inglemoor allowed an average of 44 points, 0-9 on the season.
Offensively, Inglemoor scored less than nine points per game.
“Last year was a disappointing year, for a lot of reasons, so one of the things we’ve been talking about is learning from that,” said coach DJ Baddeley, entering his fourth season as head of the Inglemoor program. “Guys that are returning are hungry.”
Quarterback Brayden Mills, who played in eight games last season and averaged around 110 passing yards per outing, returns for his senior season. Mills, a pocket passer, said the year of experience should benefit Inglemoor.
— John William Howard (@JowardHoward) August 19, 2016
“Everybody knows what’s going on a little bit more and plays with more confidence,” he said.
The Vikings’ leading rusher, Jalen Woodley, returns as well. Woodley averaged 7.3 yards per carry last fall as a junior, and will double as a safety on defense.
Baddeley said Woodley would be closely tied to Inglemoor’s identity of a run-first team. Woodley is a standout during track season, having made the state championships in the 300 meter hurdles and long jump, and helped the Inglemoor 4×100 meter relay team win a Wesco-KingCo District title.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior said his personal goals weren’t really about yards or touchdowns, but rather a chance to get noticed. Woodley racked up nearly half of Inglemoor’s rushing attempts last season.
“My goal is to do whatever it takes on the field to show college coaches that I’m ready to play at the next level,” Woodley said. “That’s my goal, put myself out there.”
Woodley, Tym Merchel and Alex Crotteau, all seniors, did the heavy lifting for the receiving corps last season. Crotteau led the team with 33 receptions and 364 yards.
Possibly the biggest pickup for the Inglemoor offense lies in senior Chinedu Ugokwoli. Better known as a basketball player, Ugokwoli decided to come out for football for his junior year. He ended up playing in three games with three receptions, but was a deep threat during preseason practices.
“[Ugokwoli] has made some strides,” said Baddeley. “He’s got some work to do, but athletically he has some tools. At receiver, we feel like we have a good mix in terms of the guys we have.”
Defensively, the Vikings will have much of their 2015 personnel back in the fold. Junior Cole Kindschi led the team with just under eight tackles per game, followed by Larson with five tackles per game.
Inglemoor is scheduled to kick off the season against Cascade High School at Everett Memorial Stadium at 5 p.m. on Friday.
The Vikings’ home opener at Pop Keeney Stadium is scheduled for Sept. 23 against Eastlake.