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A new era for Islander football
New MI coach is greeted with 54-7 loss to Eastlake
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
The phrase “a new era” is thrown around in high school sports more than a football during a preseason passing drill. After all, most people only spend four years in high school before graduating, moving on to college and making way for someone else four years younger.
For Mercer Island football, this season is truly a year of change. For the first time in nearly three decades, the high school has a new head coach. His name is Bill Heglar.
The “Heglar era” got off to a rocky start Friday with a 54-7 loss to class 4A Eastlake High School. But Heglar has been around long enough to know that one game doesn’t make a season, and it won’t be enough to acclimate his players to a whole new way of thinking.
“There is a certain way that things have been done here for a long time,” said Heglar. “But the kids here are pretty darn bright and we will be OK. When I saw that we were playing Eastlake, I asked, ‘What? The Seahawks weren’t available?’ They’re a good team and they will only make us better. When you lose, it just exposes the things you need to work on. They’re still getting used to some of the changes.”
The changes within the program range from the big things, like a new offense, to speaking the same football language.
Heglar, who last coached in 3A KingCo at Bellevue High School, brings the Wing-T offense to Mercer Island. The offense, which Bellevue has used to dominate the entire state during the past six years, uses misdirection and multiple backs to deceive opposing defenses. It is also misperceived as a ball control offense.
“We will throw when we want to, not when we have to,” said Heglar. “Last year at Decatur we threw the ball 200 times, so this is not just a running offense.”
One of the Islanders’ biggest offensive lines in recent memory will lead the way. Islander seniors Tanner Linton (285), Alex Meyerson (220) and Chris Kaestle (265), along with juniors David Courtney (255) and Charles Asmus (195), will attempt to push KingCo defenses back and open up holes for the running backs.
“Our offensive and defensive lines are our strength,” said Heglar. “It allows you to be able to do an awful lot of things. If you have a good line, it can make a normal kid in the back field pretty good.”
Despite the lack of explosive speed, the Islander backs will have stamina and the ability to grind it out on their side, said Heglar. That back field is comprised of Boby Norton, Andy Thompson, Phillip Seda and senior quarterback Thomas Hallowed.
Islander Jack Gala will turn some heads at tight end and defensive line. Gala weighs in at 265 and yet the athletic ability was enough to allow the senior to be the team’s punter last season.
“He is the real deal,” said Heglar. “All of our kids are a credit to their parents and the community.”
Mercer Island’s defensive presence will be up front as most of the secondary is new to starting on varsity. Eastlake took advantage of that inexperience as they threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns.
“We have some skilled athletes back there but the secondary is always a concern,” said Heglar.
One notable athlete not on the squad this season is senior Leroy Lutu, who has opted to concentrate on academics and basketball this winter.
The Islanders will have plenty of challenges ahead this season as Skyline defeated perennial 3A KingCo champion Bellevue during the season opener. And there will be no rest for Mercer Island as they travel to Skyline this Friday for their regular season opener.