Sports

Lakewood football counting on improvements to defense

LAKEWOOD — The meteoric growth of the Lakewood youth football program and high school coach Dan Teeter's investment of time and players into the youth program has paid off in numbers as the high school program boasts a large freshman and sophomore class.

What remains to be seen is how much of an impact the young talent will have this fall under the Friday night lights.

"I'm really excited about the freshman and sophomore classes," Teeter said. "There's a lot of them, and I'm excited about what they've done in the weight room. They're doing what it takes to build a program."

That mentality may owe thanks to the addition of arena youth football in the county a few years ago. Since then, football enthusiasts can choose to play the sport virtually yearround now, and those players are finally reaching high school age. An all-conference pick last year as a sophomore despite the team's lackluster 3-7 season, junior quarterback Justin Lane is one of the oldest Cougars to emerge from these offseason opportunities. A few more have opted to come to Lakewood as freshmen, including quarterback Justin Peterson from the three-time champion Marysville Wolverines, who may see some varsity time as a wide receiver.

But Lakewood will need to balance their solid passing game with a stronger ground game and defense. Senior running back Quincy Robinson will likely take more handoffs this year, hoping to keep defenses honest and let the aerial attack perform up to its potential.

Last year, Lakewood was in the awkward situation of learning their defense as the season went along, due to defensive coordinator Mitch Robbins coming on shortly before the season began. This year, Robbins has had the whole summer to plan and teach the defense, which will have some new qualities Teeter was reluctant to share.

"The defense is going to look different this year in terms of scheme and philosophy," is all the coach would say.

But he is optimistic about how the team is picking up the program and is looking for leadership from his linemen — sophomore Thomas Raught, juniors Alex Wilson and Branden Vandensteenhoven and senior Nathan Diggs — to make it work.

"I've been playing for Lakewood football since seventh grade. Every year we keep improving and we're going to keep improving this year," said Diggs, who said he expects to contribute to the team's success this year by helping to lock down the line. "We're going to the playoffs — that's our goal."

They'll face a tough road. District 1, which encompasses Lakewood's Cascade Conference and state champion Lynden's Northwest Conference, sends four teams to the state tournament. They'll have to battle defending league champs Archbishop Murphy during the regular season and take on a Northwest foe to meet their goal.

The season begins Sept. 4 at Lakeside High School in Seattle.

Lakewood Cougars

head coach: Dan Teeter, four years

last year's record: 3-7 overall, 3-4 conference

key players: junior quarterback Justin Lane, senior tackle Nathan Diggs, senior running back Quincy Robinson, senior wide receiver Sam Johnston.

key game: Diggs picks Lakewood at Granite Falls, Oct. 2.

key question: The team scored 278 points in 10 games last year. Have they hit upon the defensive plan to keep from giving up another 349?

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