LUMMI - While the late start to the football practice season meant that the rest of the teams in the county didn't have to contend with the Northwest Washington Fair this year, Lummi still had to battle through the first week of practices without a full roster.
"It's tough right now, because we've got a lot of kids still paddling canoes," coach Jim Sandusky said. "It's the end of the canoe season."
On Saturday, Aug. 24, Sandusky said he expected about a third of the team's roster to be absent to attend a paddling event on the Olympic peninsula.
To compensate, Sandusky said the Blackhawks have handled practices a little different so far this year.
"We've been really flexible in how we run our practice plans," he said. "Rather than putting stuff in and then having to reinsert it, because we were missing a number of kids on the Canoe Journey and races on the weekends, we're sticking with just limited plays and base plays until everybody has them down. We'll expand from there. We usually expand pretty quick - we usually get our whole playbook in the first week to 10 days, and it's a lot to absorb, especially for the young guys. So we're taking it at a slower pace, as far as insertion, and we have a lot more repetition in practice."
Taking it slower means Sandusky and his coaches are able to focus on the basics of the game and making sure everything is done properly, before they move on. It also means a little more one-on-one tutelage for younger players.
"It's good because it really puts everybody on the same page," junior Dean Williams said. "It brings the whole team together and teaches us how to play with each other. We've played together since we were probably 7 or 8 years old. We really get along, and I think we're going to do well."
The focus on the basics has been particularly advantageous for a number of younger Lummi players the Blackhawks could end up counting heavily on later this season.
"I think it's really helping our younger guys," senior quarterback Logan Toby said. "They're getting pretty good at things. They're paying attention, and we're getting things done."
Holding off on installing the high-powered offensive attack also has allowed the Blackhawks to focus attention to improving their defense.
"Usually, we don't pay all that much attention defense, because it just comes naturally," Williams said. "Offensively, we spend a lot of time, but this year, we're really focusing on playing defense."
And that could be crucial if Lummi wants to get back to the state championship game and contend for its first Class 1B crown since 2010.
"I think if we can stay in shape and work as a team, we've got a chance," Lummi junior Devin Cooper said. "I like this football team. I like this squad. I think we have a shot at the title."
Lummi opens the season at Pomeroy on Sept. 6 and will host La Conner on Sept. 13.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
FOOTBALL CAMP UPDATES
This is the fifth 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.