Meridian coach Bob Ames was in rare form discussing how small and inexperienced his team is this fall.
After first saying he’s trying to teach most of his kids how to tie their shoes, even the ones with Velcro cleats, he offered this doozy: “I bring my little rake, and I rake through the grass and find those kids that didn’t make it home last night. They just got stuck — we’re so small.”
While straight from Ames, regarding his team, isn’t guaranteed, one bit of obvious information about this year’s Trojans is they will need to replace a number of talented, graduated seniors after reaching the Class 1A state playoffs a year ago.
Letrez Jones and his nearly 2,000 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns are gone, as are Meridian’s leading receivers and dominant offensive line.
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“The difference in our last season, when (we were) really, really competitive, (is we) had groups of specialists in the wide receiver and defensive back positions, and our lineman, they really jelled together,” said the Meridian coach.
Ames knows this year’s group will have to come together, too, and quick.
Thankfully, the Trojans return strong quarterback experience in Tanner Tutterrow, who threw for 1,639 yards in 2013. He’s flashed an ability to improve on that number but will be throwing to a new set of receivers.
“He has had a good summer,” said Ames of his signal-caller. “Most of our best athletes are three-sport folks, so he splits his time between us and the other two sports, but he came in and made all his workouts. It was really cool.”
Ames didn’t reveal who the favorites are to catch Tutterrow’s passes, but Kyle Young should be in the mix, as should Marcus McGuinn, who is an athletic kid with a long frame.
Replacing Jones will be a tough task, but Meridian is expecting to use a combination of Cody Bachman, Nick Dritsas, Dakota Jones and Nick Miller.
The Trojans line will need to be rebuilt, with the exception to Blake Carson, who could assert himself as one of the premier lineman in the Northwest Conference.
“Blake is really solid,” Ames said. “He is explosive and fast and strong. After that we’ll probably play a lot of kids. They are all equal. They are all learning, and some will play offense, and some of the others will play defense. We don‘t want to stress them anymore than they are going to be stressed already.”
While the offense may potentially need some time to work itself out, Meridian’s defense could be a strength. The Trojans were impressive a year ago, allowing only 253.7 yards per game.
Conditioning should play a large factor into whether or not Meridian’s defense can be as good as 2013’s was. And Ames said he can tell who and who hasn’t used the offseason to their advantage.
“You see the guys who didn’t work out, and that’s a big thing.” Ames said. “Some guys didn’t come in and work out, so they stand and watch.”
Ames listed a few players he’s excited for on defense. Those include Carson and Young, as well as Koby Smith at linebacker.
Behind Smith, Jones, Dritsas and Erick Price are expected to have significant roles in the Trojans’ secondary.
“One of the keys, I think, would be sticking together,” Bachman said. “Last year we had a couple of good guys, outstanding people. But this year we are going to work together and be a whole, solid team.”
Meridian won’t have to wait long to see where it stands. The Trojans get strong tests against Hoquiam and Squalicum to open the year.