Devin Cooper looked on from the left sideline as his teammates practiced, pausing to gather his thoughts.
As a senior captain on Lummi’s football team, the two-way starter at linebacker and running back acknowledged the painful ending to last season, losing to Neah Bay 46-14 in the Class 1B state semifinals. It was the third consecutive season Neah Bay ended the Blackhawks’ season, twice in the semifinals and once in the quarterfinals.
“I think we’re just so tired of taking second and third place,” Cooper said, “losing in the second round, stuff like that.”
There’s a level of finality for Cooper and fellow captain Dean Williams, who’s also a senior and a two-way starter for coach Jim Sandusky at wide receiver and defensive back.
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There are no more second chances — no more of the, “We’ll get it next year,” mentality, both Cooper and Williams said. That heightened level of urgency was present during practice Thursday, Aug. 28, at Lummi High School when Cooper was frustrated by the lack of communication on defense.
“You’re going to have to yell ‘Strong left, strong left,’” he barked at his teammates. “No, seriously, in the game you’re going to have to yell.”
Youth and experience come hand in hand this season. Sandusky has been able to build a strong football foundation at Lummi, winning double-digit games every year since 2006, but this year, he said, will pose one of his most difficult tests. Add that to the fact that he is dealing with the departures of quarterback Logan Toby and running back Deion Hoskins, the two combining for 55 touchdowns last season, and he has his work cut out for him.
“It’s a little bit of a different year,” Sandusky said. “Usually I have a really good pulse on where we’re at, where we’re going to be even before we start practice with guys we have coming back. This year is going to be a little different.”
Junior Hank Hoskins will be taking over at quarterback, returning to his natural position following time on the offensive line last year. Williams, who led the team in receptions (51) and receiving yards (923), said there’s a built-in chemistry with Hank Hoskins since they have been playing together since they were 7.
That was again on display during practice when Hank Hoskins was running the first-team offense, hitting Williams on a 10-yard slant in stride.
“We’re real young — real young, but we’re looking good,” Williams said. “Everybody really came back last year that actually competed, and yeah, we’re looking pretty good. I’m excited for this year.”
Offense not withstanding, Cooper emphasized the important of the Blackhawks continuing to improve on defense. Several new faces will make up key roles on that side of the ball, including the Borsey twins, Free Eagle and Raven.
The Blackhawks held opposing teams to 28 points per game last year, and with question marks on offense being more pronounced than on defense, that stout trend is going to have continue if Lummi has championship aspirations.
“Our guys are more fit this year, and you got to be in shape to dominate,” said Cooper, who is also the leading returning rusher after accounting for 541 yards and 11 TDs last year. “Defense wins games. ... I think we have a better chance this year to win it because everybody wants to win.”
The Blackhawks open the season against Adrian at 4 p.m., Friday, Sept. 5, in Durfur, Ore.