Fall camp is at the midway point, and a smattering of spectators at Timberline High’s football practice Tuesday in Lacey brought up one popular topic.
Stewart is not only easily the school’s most-recognizable football star, he’s in his own camp in the NFL, trying to secure a spot in the rotation with the Carolina Panthers.
But inside the fence, on the field, second-year coach Nick Mullen was orchestrating an offensive drill, secretly hoping his scout-team defense would hold up.
When the offense moved the ball closer to the goal line, Mullen looked back at his assistants, “I hate being an offensive coach,” he said.
And for the next few plays, the second-team defense stuffed the offense – so inspiring that Mullen jumped in the pile to celebrate while the offensive players did 20 push-ups as punishment.
Mullen, the ex-Bethel High tailback, spent his formative years on the defensive side of the ball – as a lineman at the University of Puget Sound, and the defensive coordinator at Franklin Pierce.
Defense was not the problem last season as the Blazers compiled a listless 3-6 record under Mullen. A pound-you-into-the-ground offense attack was a big reason they struggled.
“Didn’t run it,” Mullen said matter-of-factly. “In high school football, run it and you win ballgames.”
There is a coalition going in Mullen’s camp this season that wasn’t apparent in his rookie campaign. His players know him, for one. And they know what to expect.
“He’s opened up a lot more to us,” senior safety Ronnie Hamlin said. “It goes both ways. He trusts us. We trust him. He’s shown us what a team can look like, and what we should look like.”
Immanuel Garraway should still be one of the better tailbacks in the new Olympic Western League (OWL), and Dylan Swanstrom is an outside runner. Plus, new starting quarterback Delas Raiford is a better runner than the graduated Mike Jones.
The real change comes with the hiring of Byron Jones as Timberline’s offensive line coach. Jones is an ex-Blazers player.
“Our linemen are doing a lot better,” Hamlin said. “Looks like the new coach is teaching them some new stuff.”