At the end of practice on a recent Thursday, the shout-outs to teammates and hand claps filled the air on the Lake Washington High football field.
As the players gathered in front of head coach Andy Arena, he nodded his head in approval at the appreciation flowing forth.
Arena has stepped into the Lake Washington High top coach’s slot for the first year, and he can already witness a difference in his football squad this season.
“Our guys have had a great offseason, and they’ve been lifting and working out together as a team. They’ve been bonding together,” said Arena on the second day of practice Aug. 17. “I’m really excited about the work our kids have put in.”
The LW leader added that the Kangs will try and avoid injuries this year, and plenty of weightlifting should keep his guys healthy.
Arena was LW’s assistant head coach the last three years and was Evergreen High’s head coach for two years before that. He noted that last year, the Kangs were young and struggled early on, but caught some momentum and concluded the year 2-1. Overall, they finished 4-6.
LW will kick off its season at home with a nonconference matchup against Marysville Getchell at 7 p.m. Friday. A huge home 3A KingCo contest on its schedule is a cross-town rivalry battle against Juanita at 7 p.m. Oct. 6.
Will Pliska, a senior 6-foot-5 offensive and defensive lineman, said the Kangs are talented and need to stay healthy and consistent to get the job done.
“It’s a lot of energy, a lot of people just getting after it, so it’s been great,” he said of the team’s early practices.
Added senior running back Ryan Clifford: “I think those Friday nights, if we come out with our mind right, we can get any team we want.”
LW will crank out a pistol, zone-scheme offense and a stack defense, where the Kangs will apply tons of pressure and play solid coverage, according to Arena.
Top returners will include senior runners Clifford, Tim Neville and Franco Oliveri, along with sophomore workhorse James Gardner.
The Kangs have heaps of size, speed and experience with their defensive-line returners, including seniors Walterius Jones and Jacob Smith. Tops in the secondary are senior cornerbacks Brayden Boyes and Cody Wilson, who’s also a threat on offense as a slot receiver. On the quarterback front, senior Michael Buchanan and junior Zeke Pelluer are in the running to get the offense rolling.
Domonic Roussell, a senior 6-3 wide receiver, said he’d like to see the team grow from last year, play hard each day and support each other.
“It’s our senior year, so we should be able to have that fire in our bellies to just act like every game is our last,” he said.
Added Jones, a senior 6-foot nose guard, about the best part of being a Kang: “Just being around your brothers. These are guys you grew up with. Just being able to have fun and run around, just talk and have fun and play some football.”