In recent years playing in the ultra-competitive 4A Kingco Conference, Redmond football has been a middle-of-the-road team.
After posting records of 6-4 in 2006 and 5-4 last season, the Mustangs have shown flashes of brilliance but haven’t been able to break through against the league’s elite teams.
Last year’s team was the definition of streaky losing four straight — aided to some degree by the injury to running back Allen Hall — before finishing the season with four straight victories.
The Mustangs will be without graduated stars Hall, Zach Doleac, a Kingco first-team wide receiver and Trevor Guyton, last year’s anchor upfront who is now playing at the University of California.
Despite the key losses, coach Mike Pluschke is optimistic that this could be the year of the Mustang.
“We want to be the most competitive team that’s played at Redmond High School in a long time,” Pluschke said. “Every single day, every play, we’re just going to go out and compete as hard as we can, and try to be efficient in everything we do… we just need to play very physical and run big plays to allow that to happen.”
Pluschke said that he is going to focus on fielding an aggressive, fast-flowing defense that creates turnovers and will give his potent offense, led by returning senior quarterback David Gilbertson, more scoring opportunities.
Adding to Redmond’s challenge will be a tough early-season schedule. The season opener will be a horse race against the defending 2A state champion Prosser Mustangs.
But one game certainly circled on the calendar is the Mustangs’ showdown against Bothell Sept. 19 on the grandest of all football stages — Qwest Field. Redmond plays in Kingco Crest Division, which also features plateau rivals Issaquah and Skyline. The Spartans are ranked No. 24 in the nation.
“Every time you set up with great opponents you create a sense of urgency with your players, and a level of preparation that’s second-to-none,” said Pluschke of his team’s early-season challenges. “If things go well and we stay healthy, we’re at a real good spot in our conference to play for (the postseason).”
At the helm of the Mustang roster is Gilbertson, the team’s returning quarterback and team captain. Gilbertson had a noteworthy 2007, passing for 1,240 yards and eight touchdowns.
“David had a fantastic junior season and has really catapulted himself into the next level to be one of those great, great, quarterbacks,” Pluschke said. “If he gets things going right early, he can be very dangerous this season. It will be really exciting to watch.”
Gilbertson himself says he has grown as an athlete since the start of junior year and is ready to take on the leadership role for the Mustangs.
“I was elected captain this year, so that’s automatically put me into a high leadership role,” said Gilbertson, son of former University of Washington head coach and current Seattle Seahawks assistant coach Keith Gilbertson. “I feel like I got a good group of guys, they’re easy to work with, and it’s important that they stay focused—and I can help them with that.”
Pluschke is also excited about his line, which he says averages a hefty 265 pounds, as well as a pair of experienced receivers in John Martino and Cameron Sandquist.
“They’re both sure-handed receivers with good speed and run great routes, create openings and seams in the defense,” said Redmond’s fifth-year coach. “One of the the things I like the most is their connection between each other. They know where each other’s at, at all times.”
With Gilbertson’s solid arm, a solid offensive line to back him up and players that can catch the football, will Redmond be focused on more the passing game this year?
“We always want to be balanced, keep teams honest and take what they give us, but the Mustangs are going to be a team that utilizes their strengths, and David’s definite strength is his throwing and the intelligence he brings to the game,” Pluschke admitted. “With the size of line we have, we hope to lean against opponents and have a decent running game to support that, but our passing game is going to be significant.”
Regardless of the Mustangs’ game plan, however, Pluschke knows that his team’s success will be in direct correlation to their ability to avoid injuries.
“When you lose caliber athletes who are seniors, you lose leadership as well as depth, so we want to make sure we stay healthy,” Pluschke said.
Redmond had a fantastic off-season, taking second at a tournament at the University of Washington, fourth in Canada and proved themselves as unwelcoming hosts by winning their own tournament, the Mustang Classic, for the first time in four years.
Although Pluschke cited the team’s lack of depth as its primary weakness — only 54 players turned out for football this year — he believes that the outstanding camaraderie that the senior class generates on and of the field will help the cohesiveness of the team.
“The (senior class) is really a tight-knit group, they support each other and have built relationships that will last a lifetime,” Pluschke said. “The fans will appreciate that these guys play hard. They go all-out, give maximum effort … we’ll make our fair share of mistakes, but we’ll also have some great things happen.
“These guys… they pick each other up, understand the common goals, what we’re doing offensively and defensively, and communicate well together. It’s a chance for them to really go out and shine.”