BELLINGHAM - There is a strange word being used out at Sehome football practice - a word that hasn't been uttered much since the turn of the century.
"We want to go to the playoffs," junior lineman Tyler Haggen said after a morning practice session on Friday, Aug. 23. "We all think we can, so a lot of people stepped up and worked hard every day during the offseason."
If the Mariners can qualify for the postseason, it would be their first time in the Northwest Conference era, which started in 2006. In fact, Sehome has not made the state playoffs since 1999.
"It was a focus for us last year, too, but it didn't happen," senior Blaise Black said. "We're determined to keep trying."
That determination is already showing in practice, even though the team has yet to put on the pads.
The Mariners, who won their final two games last year to finish with their highest win total (four) since 2008, are in their second year under coach Bob Norvell. And Sehome was in just about every game, as five of their six losses were by 11 points or fewer.
"I think the intensity is really picked up now that we have a coaching staff that is settling in and a lot of players that want to work hard," senior quarterback Daniel Ziegler said. "Practice has been a lot more fun and fast paced, because we're getting so many reps."
And the reason the practice pace has been able to pick up is everybody is a little more familiar with each other.
"I love the intensity and the faster pace," Haggen said. "We're getting more done, because everybody knows what's expected of them. We had so many more kids working every day during the summer in the weight room."
And now they'll get to enjoy working out even more, as the Mariners walked off the field Friday to see a truck full of new equipment being unloaded and placed in the school's weight room.
That new weight room definitely could pay dividends on the field.
"I think our biggest thing is going to be conditioning," Ziegler said. "Our big focus this year is beating teams in the second and fourth quarters. We want to wear 'em down, wear 'em down, and then when they're staring to get tired, we're going to be in better shape, and that's when we're going to win games."
But Ziegler said it's not just the Mariners' physical conditioning that's improved - it's the entire atmosphere surrounding the team.
"I see a lot more cooperation this year," he said. "Last year, I felt there were too many people that were all about themselves, but this year, it feels like everyone wants to do it for the team and not just themselves. Everyone is working together more. I think that will be the difference this year."
Whether or not that is enough to get Sehome into the postseason remains to be seen, but the positive vibes coming out of camp this summer are noticeable.
"We've got more people," Black said. "We had more that turned out over the summer and more that keep showing up every day. We're picking up the intensity. We've got a new coach, and he's getting us from thing to thing as fast as he can so we can get ready. It's going to be a good year."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
FOOTBALL CAMP UPDATES
This is the third of 11 preseason looks at the high school football programs in Whatcom County. Look for the 2013 season preview in the Sept. 6 edition of The Bellingham Herald
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.