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Islanders head back to the gridiron | Prep football preview

Islanders football captains, from left, Jeff Lindquist, Blake Johnson, Joshua Skelly, Kyle Reitinger, Connor Bernal and Alberto Gonzalez at Mercer Island High School. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Islanders football captains, from left, Jeff Lindquist, Blake Johnson, Joshua Skelly, Kyle Reitinger, Connor Bernal and Alberto Gonzalez at Mercer Island High School.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

This Saturday, under the lights at Century Link Field, Mercer Island will get its first play of the season. It has been a long time coming for this group of Islanders. They’ve toiled in the offseason, and now it’s time.

On Sept. 3 the Islanders will kick off the 2011 season with a game against Seattle Prep, in the Emerald City Kickoff Classic at Century Link Field.

“The kids are really excited and the parents are all into it,” said head coach Brett Ogata of the game. “It’ll be all my coaches’ first time there and the players. I’ve been there one time before. It was really a neat experience, but it’s a little different view now that I’m the head coach. It’s a lot more work this time, but I know everyone is excited.”

But before the clock can start running on that game, the Islanders have been on their home turf, working the yards and plays to prepare for what lies ahead.

“These guys are really buying in and doing a great job,” said Ogata of the team. “It really comes from the leadership. It’s really good this year — it’s had a nice trickle down effect to everyone else.”

The team’s leaders come in the forms of senior captains Blake Johnson, Joshua Skelly, Alberto Gonzalez, Kyle Reitinger, Connor Bernal and Jeff Lindquist.

“We’re excited for this year,” said Johnson, who plays running back.

“There’s a lot of energy for this whole season,” added Gonzalez. “We want to be a different Mercer Island team.”

“Everyone has been buying in, and now we’re ready to roll,” said Reitinger.

The team in general is bigger, up by 30 kids, which Ogata attributes to the fact that kids are getting excited about football again.

“I think the team and myself and the coaches included are just excited this year,” said the coach. “We’re ready to play and I think there’s a lot of energy, players are excited, parents are excited, the school is excited. I think this whole season is just something that everyone is gearing up for.”

That excitement is only fueled by the prospect of Lindquist’s senior year. As one of the top-ranked quarterbacks, people already have expectations about the team’s offense. But, outside of that, Ogata said there is more to be watching.

“I’m going to be honest; I think everyone is going to talk about offense this year, but I really think a strength of our team is going to be our defense,” he said. “I’m really excited about our defense. Last year it was our first year with our new defensive coordinator (Shane Keck) — he’s an excellent coordinator. With a whole year the kids understand everything better, and are in a whole new place. I think the defense is going to be really good this year. The offense is going to be good. Obviously, (with) the name Jeff Lindquist, people are going to expect all these big things, but the truth is the defense is going to be the key to wins this year.”

After last year’s close Seattle Prep finish, when the Islanders squeaked in a win in the final moments of the game, the team is ready to win this year, and much more handily. But Newport, the following week, is another team that the Islanders have an axe to grind with.

“We should have won that game,” said Gonzalez. “We were up, and then they pushed past us.”

While the captains have discussed goals with the team, Ogata said, he’d like to see the team work together and always be ready to go, and to play at top level. To get there, right now, the Islanders are focused on number one — themselves.

“We play in such a diverse league with so many offenses that we’re really working on focusing on ourselves. We can worry about what Seattle Prep does or what Newport does. We will that week of the game, but right now we’re about what Mercer Island has to do to get better, and that’s really our focus,” said Ogata.

The Islanders will face off with Seattle Prep on Sept. 3 with an 8 p.m. kickoff time. The team will then travel to Newport on Sept. 9 and head home on Sept. 16 to host Juanita.

2011 MIHS football schedule

Sept. 3 vs. Seattle Prep at Century Link Field

Sept. 9 at Newport

Sept. 16 vs. Juanita

Sept. 23 at Interlake

Sept. 30 vs. Bellevue

Oct. 6 vs. Mount Si

Oct. 14 at Liberty

Oct. 21 vs. Sammamish

Oct. 28 at Lake Washington

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