LAUREL - It's usually about this time of the year that Meridian football coach Bob Ames begins colorfully bemoaning how his team is too small, too short, too slow and too injured to have any chance at even staying close in any games, let alone win one.
And this year is no different.
But evidentially being around Ames for the past four years has started to rub off on senior lineman Neal Tilbury.
When asked what the focus of camp was during the first week, Tilbury replied, "We've been trying to eat really well. We're pretty small, and we're trying to put on some weight."
And how has that been going?
"It's going alright," Tilbury deadpanned. "We've been able to catch a couple chickens here and there."
Welcome to Camp Ames 2012.
There are some subtle differences from 2011, though.
Gone is the 1955 Chevrolet pickup with the "Proud to be Hawaiian" bumper sticker that Ames used to have his lineman push back and forth during pre-practice conditioning work, because Ames said, "it needs the seals redone and the bearings repacked in the right front." In its place was a much newer - and according to the players pushing it, much heavier - Chevy pickup Ames said was brought in from a farm.
And then there is all the construction work going on at Meridian High.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same, at least when it comes to Ames.
A few gems from Ames' preseason comments included:
? "We got a bunch of Pacmen out here. It's more like a M.A.S.H. unit with our shadow warriors sprinkled all around the landscape. We're not able to get much done."
? "(The secondary is) small and slow. Great kids. They'll help you across the street if you've got groceries."
? "(Special teams are) not very special. No blue lights going off, that's for sure."
But as usual, don't let Ames' words to the media - or Tilbury's, for that matter - distract from what again figures to be a successful season for the Trojans.
"I think practices have gone really well," senior quarterback Max McGuinn said. "We're getting back up to the level of where we want to be. That loss to Toledo (in the first round of the 1A state playoffs last year) hurt bad. We want to get back to that point and move forward. We feel like we've got a shot to move on and play in the Tacoma Dome."
The Trojans know that, as always, it takes a lot of work to get back to that point and beyond, and fortunately, they feel they've put in the offseason work to do just that.
"We've had a group of guys that have always been there this summer, working hard in the weight room and conditioning," senior receiver Relijah McMillan said. "We've got some great leaders that have gotten guys into the weight room."
Meridian is already beginning to see the rewards of that, as the Trojans attempt to rebuild their lines with only one senior in the mix.
"We've got a lot of young kids on the line, but we've really come together," Tilbury said. "That's great to see."
Despite the losses on the line, Meridian seems a bit more settled at most of the offensive "skill" positions, where McGuinn has a number of his top speedy receiving threats from last year back.
"We've been best friends for a long, long time, and we're always throwing together," McMillan said. "He (McGuinn) is a great leader, and he'd get us together and throw every time we worked out, so like four times a week during the winter. During the spring, we'd throw before or after track practice."
Meridian, which finished 8-3 last year, opens the season on Friday, Aug. 31, when it hosts Burlington-Edison.
"We've had good energy in practice so far, and that something we need to continue throughout the season," McGuinn said.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
This is the last in a series of reports from the 11 Whatcom County high school football teams during preseason practices. Look for The Bellingham Herald's special 2012 Northwest Conference football preview section in the Friday, Aug. 31 paper.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.