Their regular gaze is almost a snarly sneer – at least in August, with the football season right around the corner.
The last thing Lakes High’s Dominic “Dre” Milton and Kevin Thompson want to do is sit and talk about football. They are hitters, not orators. They prefer moving, not standing.
Once in a while, a light-hearted mood comes over both seniors – especially Milton, when he mentions a nickname he is considering writing on his body in a tattoo.
“Orange Hulk,” he proudly exclaims.
The bitter disappointment of last season’s Class 3A state quarterfinal clash with defending champion Bellevue is a thing of the past. The Wolverines came into Lakewood and won, 35-14. The loss ushered out a group of popular and affable seniors – 26 of them – led by lineman Zach Banner, safety Ma’ne Manaea, receiver/quarterback Cedric Dozier and tailback Levonte Littlejohn.
“For me, it was a hard loss,” Milton said. “We were playing together for the last time. There were tears a little bit.”
Now is time for Milton and Thompson to take the reins and lead the program in a season that starts with lesser expectations.
“If people doubt us,” Milton said, “keep doubting us.”
These two are partners. They occupy both inside linebacker spots in Lakes’ 3-4 defense – with Milton on the strongside, and Thompson on the weakside. They are also the team’s top two tailbacks.
Yet, their personalities are very different, Lancers coach Dave Miller said.
“Dre is edgy, a guy you have to rein in a little bit because he is a bad-ass, but in a good way,” Miller said. “Kevin is the All-American kid, almost a 4.0 grade-point average and a school leader.”
Harmony and unity weren’t always their causes. In fact, this used to be a fierce toe-to-toe rivalry back in 2010 when they were both sophomores and defensive starters.
“It’s been a love-hate relationship,” Thompson said. “We’ve been playing the same position for four years, and he is always trying to beat me.”
Miller said he noticed in years past, the two got after each other more in the running-back group – with only one football to carry.
“You have to monitor stuff like that, and continue to stress they are teammates first,” Miller said. “It never got to a point (of nasty) and I think the reason they are so good now is they have pushed each other for years.”
At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, Milton is strong and physical – almost a “Sam Mills type,” said Miller, referring to the undersized former Pro Bowl linebacker.
Thompson is smaller (5-8, 190), but has elite speed – and could end up leaving as one of the school’s all-time best running backs, even after one season as a regular.
And first-year defensive coordinator Mickey Ahrens’ scheme calls for more blitzing, which means more chances for Milton and Thompson to make game-changing plays in the backfield.
“He is the big hitter. I am the sure tackler,” Thompson said. “Either way, nobody gets around us.”email@example.com
On the Throne
Since returning to SPSL 3A in 2008, four-time champion Lakes has won all 26 games in annual pursuit of league crown.
In the Spotlight
First, Reggie Williams ... then Jermaine Kearse ... and now Sammie Long. University of Washington commit is ready to break out at receiver for Lakes.
Change is Good
Peninsula has scrapped its punishing ground attack in favor of the multi-spread offense – at least for the next few seasons.
By the Numbers
Bonney Lake’s Chris Brown, Auburn Mountainview’s Domenic Rockey and Lakes’ Rhys Gervais (a transfer from Puyallup) all return as 2,000-yard passers.
Lakes (11-1 record in 2011), Bonney Lake (6-3), Peninsula (8-2), Auburn Mountainview (6-4), Decatur (4-5), Enumclaw (1-8).
Mark the Date
Oct. 19: Bonney Lake at Lakes, Harry E. Lang Stadium, 7 p.m.
SPSL 3A FOOTBALL PREVIEW
AUBURN MOUNTAINVIEW LIONS
Coach: Jared Gervais, second year
2011 record: 6-4, 3rd in league; lost in 3A districts
Offense: Coordinator (set) - Jared Gervais (spread). Returning starters - 6. Top players - OL Nicholas Aumua, 6-3, 245, sr.; WR Devin Bryant, 5-9, 175, sr.; WR Joey Cassano, 5-8, 180, jr.; RB Ray Hardaway, 5-11, 190, jr.; QB Domenic Rockey, 6-2, 185, sr.; OL Dakota Weir, 6-2, 260, jr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) - Kevin Nishimoto (3-3 flex). Returning starters - 5. Top players - LB Nicholas Aumua, 6-3, 245, sr.; DB Brandon Bodine, 5-11, 180, sr.; DB Ray Hardaway, 5-11, 190, jr.; LB Tyler Hartson, 6-2, 195, sr.; LB Maino Mose, 6-0, 205, sr.; DB Elliot Pelfrey, 5-10, 175, sr.
Outlook: For the first time, this group of seniors has had a coach for more than one year in Gervais, who expects the offense to take a leap forward in 2012. Rockey improved his arm strength and is quicker overall. Bryant, a rising college recruit, vowed to fix dropped-pass issues at key moments. Both improved players are in line for big seasons.
BONNEY LAKE PANTHERS
Coach: Jason Silbaugh, first year
2011 record: 6-3, 4th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) - Jason Silbaugh (spread). Returning starters - 6. Top players - QB Chris Brown, 6-0, 180, sr.; WR Robert Combs, 6-0, 185, jr.; OL Cameron Donor, 6-3, 275, jr.; RB E.J. Harris, 6-0, 215, sr.; WR Kaleb Zahnow, 6-1, 190, sr.; WR Zach Zaragoza, 6-0, 215, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) - Matt Ledbetter (3-4/4-3 multiple). Returning starters - 4. Top players - LB Cormac Carroll, 6-1, 215, sr.; DL Brandon Kilstrom, 6-1, 225, jr.; DB Ethan McElderry, 5-9, 175, so.; DL Marcos Rodriguez, 5-10, 195, sr.; DB Zach Zaragoza, 6-0, 215, sr.
Outlook: With an eye on the next decade – and not just 2012 – Silbaugh will put the shackles on what has been a pass-happy offense. With an all-underclassman offensive line, and Harris and McElderry in the backfield, the Panthers will run the ball. The change should benefit Brown – the area’s passing leader (2,912 yards, 34 TDs) – in play-action plays.
Coach: Leon Hatch, sixth year
2011 record: 4-5, 5th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) - Leon Hatch (spread). Returning starters - 4. Top players - TE Jared Cooper, 6-1, 215, jr.; RB Isaiah Diggs, 5-6, 160, so.; OL Kyle Gleed, 6-2, 270, sr.; QB Isaiah Hatch, 5-9, 170, so.; WR Spencer Smith, 6-1, 190, sr.; WR Kevin Young, 5-11, 170, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) - Aaron Aegerter (4-4). Returning starters - 4. Top players - DB Isaiah Diggs, 5-6, 160, so.; LB Josiah Eki Goulding, 6-1, 220, jr.; DL Kyle Gleed, 6-2, 270, sr.; LB Noel Maafala, 6-1, 215, sr.; DB Kyle Young, 5-11, 170, sr.
Outlook: Early last season, the Gators were high on a four-game winning streak. But they surrendered 187 points over their final four games, and lost them all. Will they take the next step? Hatch points to a new-found “team first” attitude shared by his blue-collar players. They will miss the leadership of tailback Nick Karis (knee), but Diggs is ready to shine.
Coach: Mark Gunderson, first year
2011 record: 1-9, 6th in league.
Offense: Coordinator (set) - Von Moroz (power I). Returning starters - 6. Top players - RB Bryson Grant, 6-2, 185, sr.; WR Zack Mason, 6-0, 185, sr.; QB Peter Nordby, 6-1, 165, jr.; WR Perry Rockwood, 5-11, 165, sr.; OL Chandler Streuli, 6-3, 290, jr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) - Mark Gunderson (5-2). Returning starters - 6. Top players - LB Bryson Grant, 6-2, 185, sr.; DL Richard Heer, 6-2, 245, jr.; LB Tyler Osborn, 5-10, 160, sr.; LB Mauricio Portillo, 5-11, 210, jr.; DL Chandler Streuli, 6-3, 290, jr.; DL RJ VanHoof, 5-10, 250, jr.
Outlook: He used to be a ballboy for his father, Gordy, in some of those glory years in the 1980s. Now, Gunderson takes over at his alma mater – and has not shied away from talk of the playoffs even in his first season. Two big influences are former coach Frosty Westering at PLU (team-building) and Jim Sutrick, now at Foster (game management).
Coach: Dave Miller, 13th year
2011 record: 11-1, 1st in league; lost in 3A quarterfinals.
Offense: Coordinator (set) - Dave Miller (spread). Returning starters - 2. Top players - OL Ryan Ethington, 6-2, 245, sr.; QB Rhys Gervais, 6-3, 190, sr.; WR Sammie Long, 6-4, 195, sr.; RB Dominic Milton, 5-10, 220, sr.; WR Marquin Russell, 6-0, 185, sr.; RB Kevin Thompson, 5-8, 190, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) - Mickey Ahrens (3-4). Returning starters - 2. Top players - DL Gerald Goldwire, 6-2, 250, sr.; DB Sammie Long, 6-4, 195, sr.; LB Dominic Milton, 5-10, 220, sr.; DL Benning Potoa’e, 6-4, 235, so.; DB Marquin Russell, 6-0, 185, sr.; LB Kevin Thompson, 5-8, 190, sr.
Outlook: This could be a rewind back to 2010: Lots of key seniors graduated. Statewide expectations are down. And slowly the edge of being that rare underdog is forming in Lakewood. Reasons for optimism? The passing game with Gervais, Long and Russell should be dynamic, and the defense should blitz more, creating more big plays.
Coach: Ross Filkins, 18th year
2011 record: 8-2, 2nd in league; lost in 3A districts.
Offense: Coordinator (set) - Steve Levenseller (spread). Returning starters - 7. Top players - QB Austin Filkins, 6-3, 200, sr.; OL Robert Gallucci, 6-3, 235, sr.; OL Daniel Portillo, 6-0, 220, sr.; WR Max Reyes, 5-9, 175, sr.; OL/TE Kyle Self, 6-4, 210, sr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) - Joel Epstein (3-4/4-3 multiple). Returning starters - 7. Top players - DB Blake Dukowitz, 6-2, 180, sr.; DL Robert Gallucci, 6-3, 235, sr.; DL Zack Howard, 6-4, 235, jr.; DL Daniel Portillo, 6-0, 220, sr.; LB Jimmy Price, 6-1, 225, sr.; LB Kyle Self, 6-4, 210, sr.
Outlook: So what follows a season in which multiple rushing records were set? The Seahawks overhauled their offensive system to more of a multiple shotgun spread attack – with an eye on the type of athletes coming up in the program. Levenseller spent weeks in the offseason at Washington State and Idaho (where his brother, Mike, coaches) studying those wide-open concepts.