Dane Wagner threw four passes for the Bonney Lake High School football team last season. Maybe. He said it might have been three.
Of those, two were intercepted — and apparently they weren’t those blame-the-receiver ones, either.
“They weren’t very good passes,” Wagner said.
Fast forward to Thursday. The senior hasn’t looked at all like the wide-eyed, unprepared backup quarterback who entered that game against Auburn Mountainview last season for since-graduated Isaiah Weed.
Wagner, a 6-foot-3 senior, stood tall in the pocket and flashed a strong arm, once lobbing a pass to his left after a three-step drop and hitting a streaking Adam Fahsel in stride.
“I think I’ve grown into a better leader,” Wagner said. “Coach (Jason Silbaugh) has really emphasized that a lot with me. He thinks I’ve grown a lot since my freshman year and I believe that as well.”
The throw was enough to garner a high-five from his coach.
“He’s been awesome,” Silbaugh said. “He’s got a super-strong arm. You don’t see the ball come off his hand, it flies off his hand. I think his potential is huge.
“And the nice thing is, nobody really knows about him.”
The Panthers also have some key juniors returning as starters — such as wide receiver/safety Cody Miller, running back/safety Jason Day and defensive end/tight end Caleb Davis.
“I think we can really surprise some teams,” Miller said. “We have kids who have really put in the offseason work that they needed to. Like Dane. He has really come back and is looking awesome this season.”
Said Davis: “We may look small, but we got speed and we got strength. We’ll be able to punch people in the mouth.”
Bonney Lake will need all the speed and strength it can get in this league.
Silbaugh said the 3A South Puget Sound League might be the best in the state.
“There are a lot of good leagues, but we’ve talked about it: Top to bottom, I don’t think there is a game in this league where you go, ‘That’s an easy win,’ ” Silbaugh said. “And the coaching in this league is, bar none, top to bottom, probably some of the best coaches in the state.”
If Bonney Lake is going to compete, it will need Wagner to look as good as Silbaugh’s witnessed since completing those pair of passes to the wrong team.
“He’s worked as hard as anybody on this field,” Silbaugh said. “I have 100 percent faith that he is going to take this team to where we need to be this year.”
The News Tribune will visit 17 high school football practices in the 14 days leading up to the first Football Friday of the season, breaking down some of the teams, players and storylines entering the 2015-16 season.
The tour will include three schools from the 4A Narrows League, four teams from the 4A SPSL, two from the 3A Narrows League, two from the 3A SPSL, one from the 2A Evergreen Conference, two from the 2A SPSL, one from the 1A Evergreen, one from the 1A Nisqually and one from the 2B Pacific.
Teams will be revealed each day, starting with the first day of official practices Wednesday, Aug. 19.
TNT PRESEASON PRACTICE TOUR
Practice preview: South Sound’s four most illustrious 4A schools enter new eras
Aug. 19: Timberline Blazers
Aug. 22: Kentlake Falcons
Aug. 26: Black Hills Wolves
Aug. 28: Yelm Tornados
Aug. 29: Clover Park Warriors
Aug. 31: Mount Tahoma Thunderbirds
Sept. 1: Eatonville Cruisers
Sept. 2: Charles Wright Tarriers
Sept. 3: Sumner Spartans
LEAGUE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS
In-depth look at some of the top storylines, team-by-team breakdown, games to watch and predictions from the 4A Narrows, 4A SPSL, 3A Narrows, 3A SPSL, 2A SPSL, and 1A Nisqually, as well as capsules from other area small-school teams.
State football overview: Dual-threat QBs have Auburn Mountainview, Gig Habor thinking state
Preseason TNT All-State football team: Graham-Kapowsin’s Foster Sarell on of nation’s top 2017 recruits
3A Narrows: Is that Xavier Cooper? Or Wilson’s A.J. Ruffin?
2A Evergreen: Team capsules
1A Nisqually: Team capsules. Story Saturday.
Small schools: Team capsules