LAUREL - As expected, coach Bob Ames already is in midseason form, bemoaning in new and colorful ways how his Meridian football team is going to be "everybody's favorite opponent" in the Northwest Conference 1A ranks and the "little sisters of the poor."
While that is as expected as the leaves turning and the rains falling in Northwest Washington during the fall, Ames does have reason to be concerned this year.
Before camp even opened, Ames said his Trojans had suffered a rash of knee injuries.
"We had three ACL tears before camp opened that had nothing to do with football, and another guy is having surgery to repair some meniscus (cartilage)," Ames said. "A couple of those guys are starters. Three of them were injuries involving ATVs. Who said football is more dangerous?"
And that's not counting a talented class of seniors that graduated off last year's 8-5 team.
Needless to say, Meridian has spent the first week of practice trying to play catch-up.
"It's been rough," senior lineman Spencer Blackburn said. "Not that many of us have that much playing time. It's a new team and a new start for us."
Meridian does have a number of experienced players back in 2013, but finding the right mix of players to play alongside them has been a challenge so far.
"Even though we have a lot of seniors, which is good, a lot of our specialty guys have not seen a lot of playing time, which is scary," senior lineman Tucker Garcia said. "A lot of the specialties that are coming up are in the freshman class and haven't seen much time, so we've got to work real hard."
But that's nothing that's ever scared the Trojans before.
"Most of us had jobs over the summer, so we didn't get to work on football that much," said Blackburn, who said he worked a landscaping job over the summer.
Meridian has spent most of its early practice sessions focusing on fundamentals.
That allows the Trojans to slowly work their younger players in and find out exactly what they've got.
"We need to focus on the little things like tackling and stuff," senior running back Letrez Jones said. "We all need work on that as a team. I think we have a bunch of younger dudes that are coming up that are really going to help us. That's good, and a lot of us played together last year. Like our offensive line is going to be great. ... We feel like we're working hard, but we're not where we should be yet."
Though Meridian made it into the Class 1A State Playoffs last year before losing to La Center in the first round, the Trojans want to avoid a similar start to 2012, when they lost their first two games by a combined score of 83-36.
Things likely won't be easy, as they face those same two teams - Burlington-Edison and Lakewood - the first two weeks of 2013, traveling to Burlington on Sept. 6 and hosting the Cougars on Sept. 13.
"We came out last year and got our butts whipped early," Jones said. "I feel like if we can take care of the little things this year, we can hopefully avoid that."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
FOOTBALL CAMP UPDATES
This is the sixth 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.