A mountain of fill dirt, located just beyond the east end zone of the Lakes High School football field, towered over the Lancers as they ran through drills on the first day of practice Wednesday in Lakewood.
The sight was a clear reminder that the school is a construction zone with new buildings popping up and others headed for demolition.
The Lakes football team, however, is undergoing no such renovation. Coach Dave Miller has the luxury of 18 returning starters, including nine players with scholarship offers from Division-I programs.
At the end of the practice, Miller reminded his players not to “buy into the hype” heaped upon the team from outsiders.
“I don’t want to shield them from it, because people are going to tell them that they’re great or whatever, no matter what I say,” said Miller, who guided Lakes to the SPSL 3A title and the state 3A semifinals last season. “I want them to know that they’re going to have to work for everything. No team is going to roll over for us.”
The Lancers seem to be listening.
“We just have to stay humble,” said senior defensive end/tight end Darius Waters, who has given a verbal commitment to play at the University of Washington. “It doesn’t matter how many guys we have that go D-I if we don’t reach our goals.”
Temperatures climbed into the 90s as teams marked the first day of practices across the state. Few teams have the experience and talent Lakes has. At Gig Harbor, coach Darren McKay said he is fielding his youngest team in 10 seasons.
“This is the fewest seniors I’ve ever had here,” he said. “But we’ve got some young kids ready to work, ready to prove themselves.”
The Tides’ All-Area quarterback, Chet Thompson, graduated and has been replaced by one of the state’s most prolific passers. Senior transfer Barrett Schmidtke threw for nearly 5,000 yards in two seasons at Life Christian but will be guiding Gig Harbor’s no-huddle spread offense this fall.
“I’m very comfortable here,” Schmidtke said. “I know the spread system. The only difference is that here it’s no-huddle, but that’s not too big of a change.”
“Barrett is fitting in well,” McKay said. “He’s picked the offense up quickly, and having him here lets us put Troy Castle, who was going to be our quarterback, in the slot and (allows him to) return punts.”
Schmidtke will have one of the state’s top recruits to throw to in tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The 6-foot-7, 253-pound junior creates mismatches when he splits out wide, drawing double-teams from defensive secondaries.
“Most of the guys aren’t over 6-foot, but there were some guys that were 6-3, 6-2,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “We saw some bigger guys in the playoffs. I like a challenge.”
Seferian-Jenkins has been offered a scholarship by 13 schools and lists California, Florida, Oklahoma, UCLA and Washington as his leaders. Colleges can make formal scholarship offers to juniors, such as Seferian-Jenkins, on Sept. 1. He said he won’t commit to a school anytime soon.
“I’ve got another year to think about that,” he said. “Right now, it’s about this team. Today is the first day of our season, and we all have to give 100 percent to get where we want to be.”
Doug Pacey: 253-597-8271