If anybody understands how difficult it is to follow the Slesk family legacy of quarterbacks for the Meridian football team, it's senior Max McGuinn.
Not only was McGuinn the first quarterback to take a snap for the Trojans after the last Slesk graduated from the school, he grew up down the street from a couple of them.
"When we were kids, we really didn't play all that much," McGuinn said in a phone interview. "They were a couple of years older than I am, and our grades never intermixed all that much. I knew they were all great guys, though, and they were great leaders for the football team. When we did play together, it was a whole lot of fun."
Now in his second year behind center at Meridian, McGuinn has shown he's quite capable of playing behind center, as well.
As a junior, McGuinn helped the Trojans reach the first round of the Class 1A State Playoffs, and he hopes his team can take another step in that direction this year on Tuesday, Oct. 30, in the Class 1A Northwest District Playoffs at Blaine.
Meridian (5-4) will face Coupeville (2-7) in a 6 p.m. half game. The winner will move on to face Blaine (6-3) in a second half game that will determine the Northwest District's No. 3 seed to the 1A tri-district playoffs and earn a trip to play Eatonville later in the week for the right to move on to state.
"It's going to be a fun little game," McGuinn said of Tuesday's playoff. "With two different halves, it's going to be interesting, because you have to prepare for two teams. We're actually spending most of our time preparing for Coupeville. We know what we should do against Blaine, because we've already played them twice (a 34-27 loss on Oct. 27 at Blaine and a 6-0 Kansas Tiebreaker loss on Saturday, Oct. 27). Obviously, we need to work some wrinkles out, but the key for us is trying to give our best 110 percent and come out with a win."
There's little doubt that McGuinn will play a key role in determining if Meridian is able to do that.
He stands third in the Northwest Conference with 1,404 yards and 15 touchdowns so far this year, giving him 3,464 yards and 32 touchdowns in his two years as a starter. The one thing McGuinn would like to cut down on, though, are the 18 interceptions he has thrown so far this fall.
"Max is able to make all the intermediate throws if he is not pressured," Meridian coach Bob Ames said in a phone interview. "To his determent, we've been injured and banged up on the O-line all year. Consequently, he's had to scramble around for his life. He has been able to make some plays, but he has been banged around beyond belief."
McGuinn has shown that he is capable of running when he has to, though, as he's turned his 11.96 100-meter time in track into 199 yards and five touchdowns so far this fall.
But Ames is more impressed with how he's acted when he does get "banged around."
"He never complains," Ames said. "He doesn't yell at his teammates. He just buckles up his chin strap and moves on to the next play."
That's a trait, McGuinn says, he learned from watching the multiple Slesks play quarterback for Meridian while he was growing up.
"I think (I really learned) the leadership aspect by watching those guys," McGuinn said. "They always had great composure - even when stuff went bad. They'd keep their head up and move on. I've tried to do that, myself. I've tried to help the other seniors out and the rest of the team. ... No matter what happens, you've got to keep your head up - good or bad, you keep your head up."
Meridian has certainly needed to do that this year, as the Trojans got off to an 0-2 start for the first time since it went 0-9 in 1993.
But the Trojans never got discouraged and rebounded to finish in a three-way tie for second place in the NWC 1A standings.
The leadership of McGuinn, who was selected a captain by his teammates, certainly helped them turn their season around.
"He's a real good leader," Ames said. "He's got a great rapport with his teammates. They look to him for guidance and things. He and Neal (Tilbury) and Junior Castro do a really good job leading this group. The seniors are a tight-knit group, and he's at the center of those guys. He's really mature for his age."
That maturity has certainly served him, as he has dealt well with the expectations that come from playing quarterback at Meridian.
"I think it's got to be pretty hard, because the expectations are so great," Ames said. "The Slesks lived and breathed whatever sport they were playing, and did such a great job playing quarterback for us for so many years."
But McGuinn believes he has found the secret to following the Slesks.
"All the Slesks were great," he said. "The things they did here at Meridian were amazing, and I know it's different being a quarterback at Meridian and not being a Slesk. But no matter what your last name is, you have to work hard to succeed in this game."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
WEEK 10 SCHEDULE
CLASS 3A CROSSOVER PLAYOFFS
? Hazen at Ferndale (at Civic Stadium), 7 p.m.
CLASS 2A NORTHWEST DISTRICT PLAYOFFS
? Sultan at Lynden, 7 p.m.
? Squalicum at Archbishop Murphy (at Everett Memorial Stadium), 7 p.m.
? Lake Washington at Burlington-Edison, 7 p.m.
? Sedro-Woolley at Lakewood, 7 p.m.
CLASS 1A NORTHWEST DISTRICT PLAYOFFS
Oct. 30 at Blaine
? Meridian vs. Coupeville (half game), 6 p.m.
? Meridian/Coupeville winner vs. Blaine (half game), 7:30 p.m.
CLASS 1A TRI-DISTRICT PLAYOFFS
? Cascade Christian at King's, 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 or 3
? District 1 No. 3 at Eatonville, TBD
CLASS 1B QUAD-DISTRICT PLAYOFFS
? Quilcene at Lummi, 7 p.m.
? Granite Falls at Bellingham (at Civic Stadium), 7:30 p.m.
? Nooksack Valley at Port Townsend, 6 p.m.
? Sammamish at Sehome (at Civic Stadium), 7 p.m.
? Cedarcrest at Anacortes, 7 p.m.
? Lynden Christian at Bellevue Christian (at Lake Washington), 4 p.m.
Nov. 2 or 3
? Coupeville/Meridian loser at Chimacum, TBD
? Coupeville/Meridian/Blaine loser at Cedar Park Christian, TBD
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.