In his third season at the helm of the Mercer Island High School football team, Ed Slezinger is starting to see his program take shape.
“There’s been a change of mindset in year three,” Slezinger said. “Players are starting to buy into what we want the program to look like.”
It was an up and down season for the Islanders last year, winning their first six games before dropping their last three games by a combined score of 95-2. They finished with a 6-3 overall record and missed the playoffs.
This year, there will be a mixture of new faces and returning starters on both sides of the ball. Defensively, the Islanders are replacing nine starters from last year’s squad. Gary Shavey, the defensive coordinator, has high expectations for his veteran players like Owen Baebler, a 6-foot, 220-pound senior middle linebacker.
On the offensive side, they will be returning key starters on the offensive line from last year: 6-3, 220-pound senior Bryce Fitzwilson and 6-4, 255-pound junior Derek Osman.
At the quarterback position, senior Clay Dippold is the favorite to win the starting job over junior Liam Rogan, but nothing is set in stone.
“Clay is the front-runner right now, but you never know,” offensive coordinator Kyle McKenna said. “We like to have a very competitive atmosphere.”
Slezinger said the Islanders have good team speed and he hopes to use that to increase the tempo on offense.
“I call it mixed tempo,” Slezinger said. “At times, we’ll go into the huddle and slow things down, but we will pick up the speed this year and use some no-huddle stuff.”
MERCER ISLAND Schedule
Sept. 6 home vs. Mountlake Terrace, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13 home vs. Issaquah, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Newport, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 home vs. Sehome, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Interlake, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Juanita, 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 home vs. Lake Washington, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Liberty, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Bellevue, 7 p.m.