Footballs were flying through the air, players were aggressively knocking down tackling pads and yelling words of encouragement to their teammates and more.
Seeds for the fall season are sown in spring practice, and Lake Washington High head coach Andy Arena and his players were thrilled to be back in action recently and they finished the sessions with a scrimmage on June 8.
“It’s great to be back out on the field. The offseason sure seems long and then all of a sudden, spring comes and it’s like, ‘Whoa, it’s here,’” said Arena after practice on June 7.
Arena said the main reason to get players out in the spring is so the coaches can evaluate where the kids are athletically and see where they fit in position-wise.
“Then you want to teach your scheme, if it’s changing or if it’s staying the same. You want to make sure kids are retaining the information,” Arena added. “Our biggest thing is teach the drills that we want the kids to know going into August, and then what can we find out about our team? Are we a passing team are we a running team? So, we try to look for those answers.”
The Kangs finished 7-4 overall last season with a 3-2 mark in 3A KingCo. The squad’s season ended with a 27-10 loss to Mountain View in the 3A district playoffs at McKenzie Stadium in Vancouver.
Lake Washington sports a pair of returning dual-athletes in Brady Gockel and Nick Anderson, who spent the spring with the Kang track and field and baseball teams, respectively. Both players were KingCo football honorable mentions last year.
Gockel (6 feet, 200 pounds) took second in state in the javelin and won district and KingCo titles. His top mark and personal-best throw was 178-09 at districts.
Arena said Gockel is an energetic inside linebacker/running back who gets the team going.
Gockel, who is part of the team’s leadership group with fellow seniors-to-be Anderson, Zeke Pelluer and Taylor Rickels, noted that “I like to try to help other people become the best they can, so I’ve enjoyed being a leader.”
On the leadership foursome, Gockel added: “Our role is to make sure everything is going fluently at practice. We try to just make the program become better overall.”
Anderson (5-11, 185) was an honorable mention on the baseball field and brings a football intelligence to the squad, Arena said of the outside linebacker-safety/halfback.
“Last year, we started off really strong, started off 4-0… this year we’re trying to finish, last year we didn’t finish very well,” said Anderson, who has been playing football since the third grade and enjoys being around his teammates and putting hits on opponents.
On the quarterback front, there’s Pelluer, who will lead the offense with his 6-4, 215 stature. Other top players, according to Arena, include Rickels (6-0, 160) at wide receiver and cornerback; senior-to-be Levani Eneliko (6-1, 245), a first-team defensive lineman last season; and senior-to-be Hudson Jones (6-1, 190), a wide receiver who is strong, tough to guard and is a solid blocker. Jones is coming off an injury in week three last year.
On Eneliko, Arena added with a smile: “Even our guys are having a hard time blocking him, and they know him. He’s looking really good.”
Rickels noted that coach Arena has taught the players to be gritty and more.
“He’s taught us a lot of things, like how to be great men, great teammates, great friends, hard workers, we’ve just learned a lot in this program,” he said.
Pelluer said one major difference with this squad is that there’s not 30 seniors like last year.
“We’ve got to learn as a senior class how to lead the team. (We) have leaders on defense… fill in all the gaps there, fill in the gaps on offense,” he said.
Gockel closed things out with an overall team outlook: “If we’re able to come together as a team and work hard, whether we face adversity or not, we’ll be able to see success.”