John Blasco Jr., a junior offensive lineman for the Stadium High School football team, shakes his head when he looks at last year’s film. He said he thought he was so good.
But when he looks now?
“I see myself and say, ‘What were you doing?’” Blasco said.
A few of his teammates can relate to that.
Last year’s squad, the first under now second-year coach Thomas Ford, finished the season 0-10 and last in the 4A Narrows League, including back-to-back losses by more than 50 points to Gig Harbor and Bellarmine Prep.
But this year, with the first game of the season a week away against Fife, the Tigers look completely different.
“The reasonable expectations are to be the best team Stadium has seen in a while, have a winning record,” Blasco said. “I think we can get to the playoffs.”
That’s not just because of all the new faces, including quarterback Hunter Wendling, who transferred from Tahoma in the middle of the school year last year and will start for Stadium. There’s less disorganization. Thursday’s practice at Jason Lee Middle School was fast-paced, and coaches don’t have to get on players, the players do that for them.
Ford said Stadium Bowl is out of commission because of structural issues, but he hopes it will be ready in time for Stadium’s game against Wilson (the Rams will be the home team) on Sept. 11.
Between 40-50 players were in the weight room daily this past offseason as opposed to about 20 last year, Ford said. Fourteen players were named all-campers when the team attended a camp at Linfield College, where Ford played in college as a running back, compared to two the year before.
“I think in camp this year you could see the collective group bought in,” said Ford a former assistant at the University of Puget Sound. “I didn’t have a lot of time with those seniors last year. They were bought into working as hard as they were going to work, but not necessarily as hard as they possibly could go.
“It’s tremendously different.”
Wendling’s reaction to coming to a school that has won four games over the past three years?
“I was excited,” he said. “Because I knew I could try my best to put an effort into getting them a win and hopefully a few wins this year.
“I’m definitely trying to make this program a winning program and Coach Ford is, too. So we are all on the same page.”
Last year’s quarterbacks, Dylan Hartman and Cody Schoeler, are now catching passes instead of throwing them. Wendling, a 5-foot-10, 150-pound sophomore, has impressed in camp, thus far throwing to them, as well as Max Novak, who transferred from Federal Way.
“Hunter Wendling has been excellent,” Ford said. “We’re lucky to have a guy like Hunter. Technically, he’s really, really sound. He’s intelligent and a good student of the game. It’s almost like coaching a collegiate quarterback in terms of the mental side. He really understands progression and what the defense is doing.
“He’s a pretty advanced guy to be a sophomore in high school.”
Ford said his running backs, Jamon Chambers and Eric Auelua — also transfers from Federal Way — have looked good all camp as they did in Thursday’s practice. And Blasco has been a leader on the offensive line.
“I’m excited,” Ford said. “We’re a team where there’s a little bit of buzz about where there isn’t really reason to be. We didn’t win a game. But people are talking about the good things that are happening.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
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