Little was known about Squalicum’s football program heading into last year under the guidance of new coach Nick Lucey.
But after the Storm reached the state playoffs for the first time last fall before losing in the state quarterfinals to Tumwater, they proved they are a program on the rise.
The long journey to get back to where the Storm left off began Wednesday, Aug. 19, as Squalicum was one of 11 Whatcom County football teams that returned to the practice field to start its 2015 campaign.
“Last year I can’t imagine coming into a better situation with the group of kids,” Lucey said. “We got quite a bit back, but lost some really good players. They have had a really good offseason, a good summer camp. So far it’s been really good, and I think we have the potential to do some good things, and we’ll find out just how good.”
Squalicum worked in and out of drills at a noticeably high pace, as Lucey and his staff attempted to jam-pack as much information into the team’s 2 1/2 hour practice as possible.
Dummy bags were tackled, lines were ran and at the end of practice a player even left with a retro army helmet — a daily award given to a player recognized for a strong practice.
Personnel-wise, the speed of Squalicum’s athletes truly stood out.
“We are a fast team, we got some good wide receivers and our linebacking corps is really strong this year, so we got a lot of talent,” senior linebacker Creighton Kaui said.
The Storm aren’t the only Whatcom County team looking for a return trip to state.
Both Lynden and Mount Baker got practices underway Wednesday, too. The Lions are coming off their fourth straight Class 2A state title game appearance, while Mount Baker is coming off three consecutive state playoff berths.
For the first time in four years, though, the Lions enter a season after finishing with a loss, as the dropped the 2A state title game to Northwest Conference foe Sedro-Woolley, 42-13.
Lynden lost some significant pieces but returns standout quarterback Sterling Somers, wide receiver Jordan Wittenberg and linebacker Jensen Mayberry.
While the Lions’ loss was painful, the Mountaineers will be looking to get rid of the sting of losing a heartbreaking 29-28 overtime thriller to Eatonville in the Class 1A state quarterfinals.
Mount Baker graduated bruising back Liam Short, but the Mountaineers still have a strong cast of players who include Paul Lebedev, Jed Schleimer and Jeremiah Cronk. They also return last year’s starting quarterback, Mason Bass.
Both Meridian looking to get back into the state playoffs after missing out last year for the first time in a number of years and seeing whether or not Ferndale can break through into state are other good story lines to watch this fall.