Meadowdale defense prepared to lead the way | Football

Quarterback battle continues into first week of 2017 season
By David Pan | Aug 31, 2017
Photo by: David R Pan Meadowdale senior Will Schafer catches a pass during an offensive drill.

A lot has changed for the Meadowdale football team.

A year ago, the Mavericks headed into the season with an experienced and high-powered offense led by some of the league’s top players, including quarterback Drew Tingstad, running back Kela Marshall and wide receiver Haelin Roberts, all of whom are continuing their football careers in college.

Despite the loss of those three first-team, all-league offensive players and fellow first-team tight end Zach Plummer, Meadowdale returns arguably just as potent an offense, at least in terms of the skill positions.

Senior wide receivers Will Schafer, Austin Goulet and Drew Harvey, senior running backs Jashon Butler and Matthew Johnson and senior tight ends Jaxon Foltz and Will Moloney should present major issues for opposing defenses.

What had yet to be determined in the days leading up to Friday’s season opener against Monroe is who will be leading the offense.

Junior Nate Hebert and sophomore Hunter Moen were still battling for the starting quarterback position.

Meadowdale coach Matt Leonard said he would prefer to name a starter this week, but he wasn’t making guarantees.

“Right now I still don’t know,” Leonard said on Tuesday. “Everything is up in the air. … Both have really strong skill sets.”

Not having an established quarterback has presented challenges for the Mavericks, as both candidates have shared first-team reps. Hebert is a right-hander and Moen is a left-handed thrower.

“It’s different than the last couple of years,” Schafer said. “They’re two different balls coming at you. You’ve got two different voices. You have to start trusting both of them. They’re just competing against each other every day, making each other better. So that’s a plus.”

Catching the ball actually has been the easier part of the quarterback battle.

“It’s all about placement,” Schafer said. “As long as it’s in the right spot, the receiver should be able to catch the ball.”

Leonard is looking for strong leadership qualities in a starting quarterback.

“He has to be a guy who commands the huddle,” Leonard said. “He has to make good decisions with the football. We run a very complex offense. He’s got to make all the throws, read the checks and throw the ball downfield.”

Herbert or Moen will have an experienced offensive line to work behind with first-team, all-league junior lineman Alex Maxwell, and senior linemen Eric Lee, Hunter Clift and Jeremiah Ku.

“We’re definitely a little bit more physical than last year,” Butler said of the offensive line.

Butler, a first-team, all-league defensive back, appears poised for a breakout season,

“Jashon is as good a back around here,” Leonard said.

While Butler brings speed to the backfield, Johnson will take on the bruising, short-yardage role that Marshall excelled at last year.

In contrast to the offense, the Meadowdale defense is ready to go with 10 seniors among the 11 starters.

“All of those kids played meaningful minutes last year,” Leonard said.

Meadowdale’s offense was ahead of the defense at the start of last season. The reverse is true in 2017.

“We all know our job,” Schafer said. “It’s just a matter of doing it. It’s kind of a different story with the offense.”

The advantage of having such an experienced defense, Leonard said, is that it will take some of the pressure off of the offense. The Meadowdale coach said he may even go so far as to call a more conservative game plan.

“Hopefully, it gives us some time with the offense,” Leonard said. “They won’t have to go out and win a game early on. I feel comfortable knowing that we have that experience on defense. We’re going to lean on those guys, the experience on the other side of the ball.”

Added Butler, “Our defense will set the tone. So if our defense is great, then all around we should be good on offense.”

Memories of last season’s state semifinal appearance, the first in school history, provide added motivation for the Mavericks.

“Last year was obviously a huge success for us,” Schafer said. “We have bigger dreams as a program. I know coach Leonard wants to win a state championship and so do all of us. We’ll just use last year – what we did day in and day out – and get a little better from that. Who knows where that takes us?”

Leonard is excited to see the seniors and rest of the team write their own story this season.

“Everything is different. Every year is a little bit different,” Leonard said. “I hope the players create their best version of 2017.”

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