The Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club’s sophomore tackle football squad won the Greater Eastside Junior Football Association championship. Photo courtesy of Jay Azose

The Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club’s sophomore tackle football squad won the Greater Eastside Junior Football Association championship. Photo courtesy of Jay Azose

Mercer Island junior football squad notches a championship season

Boys and Girls Club sophomore team reaches the top.

  • Tuesday, November 16, 2021 12:16pm
  • Sports

For the Reporter

With a 30-0 victory in the championship game, the Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club’s sophomore tackle football squad grabbed its first title for the program.

The squad finished its season with a 10-1 record and victory over a previously undefeated Mount Si team. Over the course of the season, the locals outscored their opponents 341-126.

Beginning the season in August with 21 players — only six having any football experience — the coaches had expectations of having fun, helping the young men develop as people, not necessarily football players, and hopefully cultivating a culture where they could create long-lasting friendships.

What transpired over the course of several months was a testament to the boys’ attitude, their heart and willpower. During their first practice, the boys picked the word “work” to symbolize their season.

Head coach Mason Azose remembers winning their first game by a large margin and sitting the boys down and saying, “We can go through this season and us coaches can take it easy and we can have a bunch of fun but not put too much stock into winning, or we could chase a championship.”

The boys unanimously chose to put the work in.

“Our identity was speed, both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. We found that being well-conditioned, and practicing footwork and sprinting strides was a difference maker in our preparation. We also found an identity in the film room, with the average player having watched one hour of film study per week,” Azose said.

Azose added that he hopes the players learned lessons of perseverance, trust, building unwavering confidence and self-esteem and how to put in the work.

The road to the championship has been a long time coming. Coach Ross Heise has been coaching in the program for 22 years, and Azose since 2016. The team will raise a championship banner in the club field house.

* The team is:

Rowan “Row Dawg” Neher: Guard

Reece “Big Reece” Nekahi: Defensive tackle

Ari “Big Block” Rozman: Wide receiver

Alex “Middle Monster” Hanlon: Defensive tackle

Reider “Avenstopper” Avenstam: Wide receiver, defensive end

Axel “Avenstopper” Avenstam: Linebacker, defensive end

Peter “Coach Pete” Becciu: Guard

Justin “JBo” Howard: Middle linebacker

Guven “G-Man” Nguyen: Center, long snapper

Zachary “Bruiser” Walzer: Tackle

Eli “Last Man” Kercher: Safety

Brady “Lucky Lefty” Dolence: Quarterback, captain

JD “TD” Rudolf: Slot receiver, fullback

Jackson “Bloomy” Bloom: Defensive end, wide receiver

Riley “Big Jug” Anderson: Tight end, receiver, defensive end, quarterback, captain

Jonah “Joey Batts” Battema: Rover linebacker, kicker

CJ “Greeny” Greenfield: Cornerback

Mateo “Tito” Alvarado-Smith: Tackle, linebacker

John “Johnny Ice” Enell: Cornerback

Chase “Champ” Kelly: Running back, safety, captain

John “Johnny Pops” Evans: Wide side linebacker, captain

* The coaches are:

Head coach: Mason Azose (MIHS alum)

Assistant coach: Ross Heise

Assistant coach: Connor Juneau-Wild (MIHS alum)

Assistant coach: Risley Lesko (MIHS alum)

Chase Kelly runs up field for the Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club’s sophomore tackle football squad. Photo courtesy of Jay Azose

Chase Kelly runs up field for the Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club’s sophomore tackle football squad. Photo courtesy of Jay Azose




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