The Lakes High School football team lost its starting quarterback, running back and the league’s top two-way lineman from last year.
Those were some of the key pieces in the Lancers’ run to the Tacoma Dome for the 3A state semifinals, where they lost to eventual state champion Eastside Catholic.
Only at Saturday’s Lakes practice, there was still a tall, strong-armed quarterback, an explosive running back and an athletic line both offensively and defensively.
That’s Lakes football for you.
“Everyone knows that we went to the semis, so they’re expecting a good team,” said senior defensive end/linebacker Xavier Banner. “But our expectations are always high for ourselves.
“It’s Lakes football. We always push everyone to do their best.”
How high are the expectations?
“I definitely believe we should go to where we were last year, if not further,” said senior Cale Lindsay, who was a TNT All-Area tight end last year and is being recruited by colleges primarily as a linebacker.
“That’s our mentality.”
The defense isn’t as big as last year’s, but it’s faster. Coach Dave Miller, entering his 17th year as the Lancers coach and his 31st year overall in the program, said this is one of the fastest defenses he’s had.
That’s because of Melvin Miller, who missed about half of last season to injury, and Cody Roe, who moved from Killeen High School in Texas.
Melvin Miller will double as the team’s running back. Andrew Bostic rushed for 1,419 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, but he and his family moved to Maryland.
“(Melvin Miller) has put on 20 pounds of muscle. He’s a big-time athlete,” Dave Miller said. “He’s going to be the guy, but we have a pretty good stable of backs. Coach (Willie) Freeman does a great job with them.”
Then there’s Lindsay at middle linebacker, if he can heal from a hamstring injury he suffered in the spring that’s kept him out of the first week of fall practice.
And Banner is an explosive edge rusher, which is different from his older brother. Zach Banner, a 6-foot-9, 345-pound Lakes grad, should be the starting left tackle at USC this year.
“We are very competitive. I’m always like, ‘I’ll beat you,’ ” Xavier Banner said of he and his brother. “But then I went down to one of their practices (at USC) in June, and I was like, ‘Never mind.’
“I try to take from his attitude. You watch him and you know he’s a nasty player. He’s clean, but he gets after it. I feel like I’m similar.”
Xavier Banner moved to defensive end last year. But Lakes hired defensive coordinator Devin Snyder from Cascade Christian to replace former NFL, UW and Lakes linebacker Hillary Butler, who left after one season because of the district’s concerns over his pot business.
Snyder has adopted a 3-4 defense compared with last year’s 4-3. That should help Lakes better defend against the growing number of spread offenses the Lancers expect to face as a member of the 3A Pierce County League. Lakes played in the 3A South Puget Sound League last year.
“I think we’ll be a little more adaptable,” Dave Miller said. “Eighty percent of the teams we play are spread offenses. When we played Auburn Mountainview, we struggled with the transition of playing a spread offense, compared to when we played a veer offense that Sumner had.”
Sure, this Lakes team is younger. But it looks much like last year’s squad.
“When you have a good program, you’re developing those younger guys in the hope that when they’re juniors they can step in,” Miller said. “The way we work it, the freshman year is a learning year, sophomore year is a prep year, and the next two years you should be playing varsity.
“All the young guys — they’ve learned the fundamentals, they understand Lakes football, and now they’re ready to take the baton.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
TNT Preseason Prep Practice Tour
Lakes was the third stop on The News Tribune’s preseason prep practice tour, which will include 18 stops until the first Football Friday of the season. What’s online:
▪ Videos and links to every stop on the practice tour
▪ South Sound quarterback competition to find the best arm in the region
Find it at thenewstribune.com/high-school.