The last time that offensive-minded Lummi football coach Jim Sandusky had his team focusing this much on defense was in 2010.
"Usually it's all offense the first week, because there's so much more to it," Sandusky said. "This year, we've focused a bit more on defense. We're still offense heavy, but we're really working on defense."
Not coincidentally, the Blackhawks won their first - and so far only - state championship in 2010.
"Obviously, it's vital for us," Sandusky said. "We've got some guys that started or played a lot in eighth grade, and some guys that played a lot or started for us as freshmen that are now juniors and seniors. They get the gist of the offense, so we can concentrate more on defense and get a bit more sophisticated then we usually get - add a few more blitzes and focus on some different areas."
The area Sandusky wants to focus on the most is stopping the run.
In a season that saw them make it to the Class 1B State semifinals for the fifth time in seven seasons, the Blackhawks allowed opposing offenses 6.3 yards per attempt on the ground.
"Predominantly, the eight-man teams in the state are run-oriented," Sandusky said. "In the past, we've probably been a little too pass conscious against some teams we've faced. We're concentrating more on having the mindset that, 'Hey, we've got to stop the run.' That's our No. 1 priority."
Sandusky said he wants he team to actually over play the run first and not sell out to make stops in the backfield in an effort to stop giving up the big plays on the ground.
Charged with doing so will be a cast that remains fairly similar to last year, though many players will play in different positions.
Anthony Dakota will man one defensive end spot, while Deion Hoskins will probably slide in at the other. Adam Lawrence could be asked to plug up the middle in running situations from the nose guard.
Kavarez Lane returns after missing last season with a knee injury and should slot in at outside linebacker alongside Devin Cooper and Logan Toby, while Austin Brockie and Dean Williams will be lock-down corners.
After splitting time at quarterback last year, Logan Toby will be given the keys to Sandusky's high-octane offense this year.
"What we've seen from him the last two years is he's very smart," Sandusky said. "He's smart in the classroom; he's smart on the field. His downfall has basically just turning the ball over, and a lot of that was inexperience."
Toby will be joined in the backfield by a wealth of talented running backs, including Hoskins at fullback at times. Cooper, Lane and Hank Hoskins, once he returns from a broken fibula he suffered at camp, also will see their share of carries. Brockie and Williams will be the starting receivers, though others will get their opportunities with the Blackhawks flush with athletes.
The one area Lummi will see change - more like a complete makeover - is on the offensive line, where all three starters from last year graduated.
But rather than seeing that as a detriment, Sandusky sees it as an opportunity.
"There's a lot of competition for those spots right now," he said. "It's a chance for those guys who look like they might be second-string running back or wide receiver for them to step up and get a starting job on the O-line. That's a choice they need to make if they want to be on the sideline waiting their chance or if they want to be a starter. You need some athletes there in eight-man."
And don't be surprised to see skill-position stars, like Deion Hoskins, who's just a smidge under 300 pounds but can still run like a tailback, see some time up front.
"Sometimes in eight-man, a little more speed is better than strength and bulk," Sandusky said.
KEYS TO THE SEASON
1. Cut down on the turnovers
Lummi's biggest nemesis against its biggest rival, Neah Bay, has been turnovers - the Blackhawks were minus-six in the turnover battle in their two losses to the Red Devils last year.
2. Stop the run
The Blackhawks have intensified their efforts defensively, with an extra focus on stopping the big play on the ground. Think they're already thinking about Neah Bay's Josiah Greene?
3. Find space
Seems easy enough with only 16 players on the field, but Lummi wants to get the ball into the hands of its athletes in space quickly and let them work their magic.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Deion Hoskins, Senior OL/DL
That's not a misprint - Hoskins will be moving to the line to take advantage of his 290-pound frame. But he can still move like a back, and will see some time in the backfield, as well.
Devin Cooper, Junior RB/LB
An outstanding athlete, who gets to the ball quick and is an outstanding cover guy. He's also one of those versatile athletes Lummi will be able to use on offense.
Logan Toby, Junior QB/LB
After splitting time with Jared Tom last year, he'll see the bulk of the snaps this year. He's already playoff tested and Sandusky raves about how smart he is.
Kavarez Lane, Junior RB/LB
Lane returns after missing all of last season with a knee injury. He's got a great nose for the football on defense and the athletic ability to make him dangerous on offense.
Sept. 6 at Pomeroy 6 p.m.
Sept. 13 La Conner 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Taholah 6 p.m.
Sept. 27 Evergreen Lutheran 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Neah Bay* 6 p.m.
Oct. 11 Crescent* 6 p.m.
Oct. 18 at Clallam Bay* 6 p.m.
Oct. 25 Lopez* 5 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Tulalip (at Marysville-Plichuck)* 6:30 p.m.
*Northwest 1B game
10-3, 4-1 NWFL 1B
Sept. 1 Pomeroy W 64-28
Sept. 7 at La Conner L 26-14
Sept. 14 Taholah W 59-24
Sept. 22 at Evergreen Lutheran (at Mountainview) W 69-18
Sept. 28 Neah Bay* L 48-28
Oct. 6 at Crescent* W 58-6
Oct. 11 at Muckleshoot W 71-28
Oct. 13 Clallam Bay* W 73-18
Oct. 20 at Lopez* W 50-0
Oct. 25 Tulalip* W 128-68
CLASS 1B TRI-DISTRICT PLAYOFFS
Nov. 2 Quilcene W 80-26
CLASS 1B STATE PLAYOFFS
Nov. 10 Taholah (at Aberdeen) W 63-26
Nov. 24 Neah Bay (at Tacoma) L 40-30
*Northwest 1B game
2012 STATISTICAL LEADERS
Player Att. Yards Avg. TD
Dimitri Sampson 73 874 12.0 17
Deion Hoskins* 62 710 11.5 14
Devin Cooper* 21 313 14.9 3
Player Cmp. Att. Yards TD Int.
Jared Tom 86 137 1,915 29 3
RECEIVING Rec. Yards Avg. TD
Dimitri Sampson 42 948 22.6 14
Austin Brockie* 31 829 26.7 11
Dino Williams* 27 495 18.3 8
No. Player Yr. Ht. Wt. Pos.
1 Austin Brockie So. 5-10 180 WR/DB
2 Jonathan Casimir Fr. 5-11 147 QB/DB
3 Kavarez Lane Jr. 5-10 175 RB/LB
4 Tony Decoteau Sr. 6-1 182 OL/DE
5 Logan Toby Jr. 5-11 172 QB/LB
6 Aurther Felix 8th 5-4 121 WR/DB
7 Dashaun Lawrence 8th 5-9 165 QB/LB
8 Derek Cooper 8th 5-6 132 RB/DB
9 Devin Cooper Jr. 5-9 175 RB/LB
11 Raven Borsey Fr. 5-9 135 WR/DB
12 Leo Scarbourough Sr. 5-8 160 RB/LB
13 Free Borsey Fr. 5-9 135 WR/LB
17 Leonard Lawrence Fr. 5-8 133 WR/DB
18 Matt Martin Fr. 5-8 180 OL/DL
19 Jakob Washington Fr. 5-8 183 OL/DL
20 Elder Roberts Fr. 5-7 140 RB/LB
21 Dean Williams Jr. 5-10 162 WR/DB
22 Charlie Wilson Jr. 6-2 174 WR/DB
23 Stanford Hoskins 8th 5-3 143 RB/LB
24 Hank Hoskins So. 5-8 202 RB/LB
25 Enrique Medina Jr. 5-9 144 WR/DB
26 Jacob Joe Jr. 5-7 155 RB/LB
27 Deion Hoskins Sr. 5-11 290 OL/DL
32 Willie Jones Jr. 6-2 185 RB/DE
33 Jeffrey Cultee So. 5-5 134 WR/DB
34 John Ballew Fr. 5-6 151 RB/LB
35 Diego Martinez 8th 5-6 163 OL/DL
37 Devin Lawrence Fr. 5-10 184 OL/DL
40 Jason James So. 5-9 174 OL/DL
43 Malichi Roberts So. 6-1 178 OL/DE
44 Jacob Roberts Jr. 5-11 176 RB/OL/LB
52 Terrance Solomon So. 5-10 234 OL/DL
55 Tyler Martin Fr. 5-6 188 OL/DL
72 Adam Lawrence Jr. 6-0 284 OL/DL
75 Shawn Diggs So. 5-9 310 OL/DL
77 Alex Jefferson Jr. 5-10 268 OL/DL
91 James Lawrence So. 5-11 222 OL/DL
Reach Sports Editor David Rasbach at 360-715-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org .