Mavericks refocus after first losing season in 15 years | Football

Meadowdale hopes to get back to district playoffs
By David Pan | Aug 30, 2018
Photo by: David R. Pan Junior quarterback Hunter Moen returns to lead the Meadowdale offense.

Meadowdale coach Matt Leonard issued two challenges to his players coming into fall camp.

Leonard wanted the Mavericks to be more physical and to push each other in practice.

The players have taken the challenges to heart and Leonard is hoping that translates into better performances on the field.

“We’re really working hard on the culture piece of toughness and accountability and what it means to compete against a good friend of yours,” Leonard said. “Really good friends try to beat each other and that’s what makes great teams.

“When we’ve been at our best, that’s when we’ve had guys who tried to push each other in practice. We got away from that a little bit last year as we got banged up.”

After qualifying for the district playoffs the two previous seasons and advancing to the state semifinals in 2016 under Leonard, Meadowdale finished 3-3 in league play, just missing out on the postseason in 2017. The banged-up Mavericks also recorded their first sub .500 overall record, 4-6, in 15 years.

The disappointment is fueling Leonard and his players.

“I think having the first losing season in 15 years, that’s a pretty big thing for us,” senior running back/safety Nate Hebert said.

Junior lineman Calvin Nguyen said that the players came into last year with high expectations because of the team’s prior successes.

“What coach Leonard has really been working on is us being tough and just working harder in practice,” Nguyen said. “What we do in practice translates into games.”

Leonard added he wants the Mavericks to come in with a chip on their shoulders and prepared to play with an edge.

The Mavericks face their first test against Inglemoor in a non-conference game at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 30, at Pop Keeney Stadium.

“We’ve heard a lot about you guys were a one hit wonder. You got hot,” Leonard said. “No. We’ve been good here for a long time. We have good kids and a great staff. … We’re on a mission. I’m definitely motivated by last year’s letdown and I know these kids are ready to go.”

Junior quarterback Hunter Moen, a first-team, all-league selection, returns to lead a retooled offense that saw the graduation of its top running back and wide receivers.

Senior wide receiver Tyler Gibson is impressed by what he’s seen from Meadowdale’s junior quarterback.

“He’s throwing balls he wouldn’t do last year,” Gibson said. “He wants to be better than he was last year and you can see that. He’s becoming more of a leader.”

Leonard eased up a little bit on Moen during his sophomore season. He is not holding back anymore.

“The biggest thing for him is just really developing that vocal piece,” Leonard said. “We’re a tempo, no- huddle team. I’m on the sidelines. He’s got to be the guy who gets things right. So I’ve really been on him since day one. … If someone is in the wrong formation, he’s got to get them in the right formation. We’re putting more on his shoulders and trying to get him to play a little faster and to take a little more accountability on himself. He’s fully capable of doing it. We didn’t really ask him to do it last year.”

The Mavericks have talented skill players in wide receivers Colton Walsh and Raymond Free. Walsh also is a standout on the basketball team and Free is a state-caliber long and triple jumper who took his junior year off.

Two-time, all-league senior lineman Alex Maxwell returns to anchor the offensive line. Leonard is looking for more out of Maxwell.

“What we really need Alex to do is he needs to make the unit around him better,” Leonard said. “That’s really the hallmark of a great player. They make everybody else around him better and we need him to do that. We need to get guys playing to his level.”

The defense saw more turnover with the graduation of almost the entire starting unit.

“There are just a lot of guys competing hard for jobs because there’s very little set in stone,” Leonard said. “We replace 10 defensive starters. So there are a lot of things to earn there.”

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