Turnout numbers and morale is on the rise for the Redmond High School (RHS) football and coach Jeff Chandler is hoping that will help the Mustangs get back into the win column this fall.
Redmond went 0-9 in Chandler’s second season at the helm last season, but with more than 100 kids turning out for football, the across-the-board talent has improved, along with the Mustangs’ team chemistry, the coach said.
“The goal is to win games and get back into the win column,” said Chandler, who went 4-5 in his first season at Redmond in 2010. “You do that through skill development … but you also do it with morale, increasing our numbers and the whole character aspect.”
Chandler said when he first arrived at Redmond, there were only 17 players who turned out. That number has increased to 115, including 25 new freshmen as RHS adds ninth graders to the school as part of the Lake Washington School District’s (LWSD) new grade reconfiguration.
“We started two years ago and had only 17 kids,” Chandler said. “The morale was so low for football. … The first objective is to get more kids out and the second objective is to get them strong and conditioned.”
Now, it’s time to win, Chandler said.
“We want to win games, that’s obviously our objective, but you have to improve every day for that to happen,” he said.
The Mustangs will take their first crack at victory this season when they face a formidable Mercer Island team, which plays in the 3A Kingco league, tonight at Mercer Island. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
A new quarterback will be at the helm when the Redmond offense takes the field. Junior Zach Wheat, who started the Mustangs’ final two games last season when junior starting quarterback Brady Anderson went down with an injury, will be the new triggerman for the Mustangs’ opportunistic spread offense.
“He loves the game and he as that knack of making a play,” Chandler said. “If things break down, he will make something happen. He’s continued to improve and he’s gotten better at running our offense.”
With Wheat behind center, Chandler moved Anderson, now a senior, to safety and wide receiver. Chandler said Anderson has accepted his new role and will be one of many senior leaders on the team. Seniors Kyle Chandler, a second-year starter at linebacker, Everett Boker, a defensive lineman and Boris Chkodrov, a returning starter on the offensive and defensive line, will provide much-needed leadership and experience for the young Mustangs, who feature a talented junior class.
One of those juniors is wideout Chris Carpenter, a 5-foot-8, 150-pound speedster who leads a strong crop of receivers for the Mustangs. Carpenter, who missed all of last season with a broken back, “is going to be a kid who has the potential to stand out at receiver,” Chandler said.
“He’s highly competitive,” the coach said. “He works hard at his craft. He really takes care of himself and is strong willed.”
As for the running attack, Redmond will use a committee approach with seniors Parker Cagle, Eli Grady and Phil Yoo, along with junior Bryce Steckler all getting a chance to tot the football. Chandler said all four are in the mix for the Mustangs’ rushing game and each one of them could get a chance to start depending who has the hot hand.
Chandler said the key to the Mustangs’ success will hinge on the offensive and defensive lines, both of which are undersized, but possess potential.
Boris will be a force on both sides of the line and Boker has been a “real bright spot in the spring time for us at defensive end,” Chandler said. Junior Ian Seabrooks, who started on the offensive line as a sophomore, is Redmond’s biggest boy up front at 6-foot-5, 280 pounds and will be one of Wheat’s prime protectors.
The talent level has certainly improved from last year and so has the energy and the focus, Chandler said. The Mustangs had 52 players attend a summer camp at Evergreen State College, where players built up morale and team chemistry.
“There seems to be a much greater feeling of team,” Chandler said. “We’re more together and on the same page and that’s really a key in our success.”
It won’t be easy for the Mustangs, who take on 3A Kingco powers Mercer Island and Interlake in their first games of the season before taking on Ballard in its 4A Kingco opener on Sept. 14 at home.
“Anyone who is playing in the Kingco conference is competing against the best in the state — 3A or 4A,” Chandler said of the arguably the best two conferences in the state. “There’s nothing easy. If you are going to participate, you gotta step up.”