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Breaking through barriers | Prep football preview
On the surface, finishing in the top three of its division and earning a trip to the playoffs doesn’t sound so bad for a prep football squad that graduated many of its starters.
“For people outside the program, it looked like we exceeded expectations, and in that manner it was a successful year,” said senior linebacker and captain David Emanuels of Mercer Island’s 2013 campaign. “But coming back this year, we want to do more than what we did last year. We’re just not satisfied with another season like that. This is the year we’re trying to break into that next level.”
For Mercer Island football, that next level means becoming a stronger unit with an increased focus on mental and physical toughness. It was a demand thrown down by the coaching staff after the end of last season, which saw the Islanders fall in its final four contests after opening the season 4-1.
“Looking back at some of the big games last season, we didn’t feel like we had the toughness we needed to come out on top,” said Emanuels. “That’s why we were trying to implement being tougher the entire offseason; so when those big games come, we can come up big and play physical.”
Head coach Brett Ogata said he was pleased with how the players have responded thus far to the increased demands from the coaching staff. “We believe these players have a lot of potential, and we need to push them. We’re going through walls and barriers of what we really want to be this year,” he said. “So far, I’m happy. But we have a long way to go.”
As a team, the Islanders know how far they go ultimately falls on the work ethic and mental focus they display on the field. Quarterback Alfonso Gonzalez acknowledged that while playing in KingCo 3A/2A, a division opposite six-time repeating state champion Bellevue, nothing will be given to the Islanders.
“Every week, we have to prepare well. It’s a very good league,” he said. “Our team, we believe we can play tougher. But to those on the outside, that’s something we have to prove throughout the season.”