With the team, coaches and community fired up about what the Mercer Island High School (MIHS) football squad has achieved so far this season, it’s safe to say that last year’s winless record is deep in the rear-view mirror.
The Islanders have smashed that 0-10 record to bits and carved out a 6-2 mark this fall en route to notching a spot in the playoffs.
Second-year head coach DJ Mims said the team’s commitment and perseverance has helped it plow through the immense adversity that the Islanders faced last season. Becoming more familiar with the coaching staff and its expectations and offensive and defense schemes has cemented the Islanders in a solid position this time out.
“It’s beautiful to see it all come together, but I’m more excited, obviously, for my kids. Ultimately, they deserve it and I’m happy for them,” said Mims, whose team practices six days a week and spends its Saturday mornings perusing film and pumping weights.
MIHS will battle 6-2 Juanita at 7 p.m. at home on Oct. 27 for the No. 2 seed in 3A KingCo; the loser attains the No. 3 seed. MIHS stands in second place in league with a 4-1 record and Juanita is third with a 3-2 record. The playoffs will commence on Nov. 3.
Senior running back/defensive back Cole Krawiec attributes part of the team’s turnaround to diligent offseason efforts, which Mims said featured 40-45 players attending weight room workouts at 6 a.m. beginning in January.
“As a whole, we are stronger, faster and more agile because of work in the weight room and work on the field during the offseason. There was also a shift in mindset. After going 0-10 last year, we were more motivated to put the work in to become a good team,” Krawiec said.
After echoing Krawiec’s offseason sentiments, senior running back/linebacker Luke Myklebust noted that: “I think a lot of teams would’ve given up on being great after going 0-10, but we didn’t.”
The humiliation from last year was unbearable, said senior offensive and defensive lineman Griffin King, who added that the senior class stepped up to arrange player-led practices to prepare for the forthcoming gridiron battles.
“Having a full year under the new coaching staff also was part of the reason for the turnaround. As an offense as well as defense, we lost a couple of key players from last year, but as a whole we had most of our starters returning,” said King, who Mims tagged as a “mauler” offensive lineman.
Mims said that his squad is a bit nicked up after eight games, but remains largely healthy heading into the postseason. That’s a crucial factor for the Islanders attaining success, because last year the team endured a mass of injuries as the season wore on.
The coach said that he and his staff humbly felt that they had a playoff team on their hands in the offseason.
“We don’t think anybody can beat us except for ourselves, so we limit our mistakes, we limit turnovers, we execute in all three phases of the game, and we can come out victorious at the end,” Mims said of what’s part of the team’s conversations.
Krawiec said that he and his teammates gain confidence as each week rolls by and they head into the next fray.
“For the team to keep winning, it will take focus. The football season is very long but if we can have everyone lock in for the next coming weeks we will keep improving,” he said, adding that watching the team procure more motivation each week makes the game more enjoyable.
Added King about what will need to occur in the MIHS camp from here on out: “I think as a team, we have to stay hungry — now isn’t a time to get complacent and lax. As long as we stay disciplined and fly around playing our football, we will continue being successful.”
Looking back at the preseason polls, King said their last-place 3A KingCo projection lit a fire under the Islanders and they were bent on proving the pundits wrong. With each win, team morale rises and now they want to continue riding the winning train, he added.
Myklebust said the team stands out this season by making “the explosive plays that can change a game’s momentum, and we execute the simple stuff perfectly.”
With the playoffs on the horizon, Myklebust said it means the world to him to be part of such a solid squad.
“I’ve played football since second grade and this is the first time I’ve ever had a winning record or made the playoffs. To do it in my senior year is very special,” he said.
MI STAT SCENE
At press time, Myklebust leads the league with 43 solo tackles and 31 assisted tackles; junior defensive back/wide receiver Charlie Chatalas has three interceptions; senior quarterback Spencer Kornblum leads the league in passing with 1,865 yards (130-for-192) and 16 touchdowns; in all-purpose yards, senior tight end/outside linebacker Ryan Boyle has 692 yards (just receiving), Krawiec has 666 yards (rushing and receiving) and Myklebust has 646 yards (rushing and receiving); on the TD front, Krawiec has eight, Boyle has seven, junior wide receiver/defensive back Elan Gotel has six and Myklebust has four.