Experience, maturity has Jags talking title
It's Sunday night, five days before the Mill Valley football season opener, and coach George Radell sits in his office at Mill Valley.
Radell is anxious. Anxious to get the season started. Anxious to find out if the 2006 Jaguars are for real.
Expectations are lofty for a team that finished 2-7 a year ago. Radell has a Division-I running back in the backfield in senior Justin Woods. At quarterback, the Jaguars return senior Trey Scott, a three-year starter and the guy that took the snaps during the Jags' undefeated league run in 2004. Plus, Mill Valley is a more veteran team with 16 seniors as opposed to six last season.
It all adds up to Radell feeling the pressure to win.
"I'm not quite sure how good we are until we play a game," Radell said. "There's been years where I know we're going to be good. I don't know that (this year), but I know we could be good."
The Jaguars' potential in 2006 starts in the backfield. Woods is one of the best backs in the state and probably the fastest. He ran for 1,066 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2005. But Kaw Valley League coaches know all about Woods. What they don't know about is Mill Valley's depth in the backfield.
Sophomore halfback Alex Urquhart moved to Shawnee from Georgia over the summer and provides an instant change of pace to Woods. Urquhart, who would have been the starting running back this season at his high school in Georgia, is more of a power back that runs well between the tackles. He has had no problem transitioning into the Mill Valley system because his high school ran a similar offense.
Joining Urquhart as the thunder to Woods' lightning is junior Zak King. King, like Urquhart, is a good north-south style runner. One player that showed flashes of speed and power reminiscent of Woods last Friday at the Blue-Silver scrimmage was Woods' younger brother, sophomore Nicholas Woods. Nicholas will backup Justin and is the only other sophomore that should see the field this season along with Urquhart.
The experience factor for this team has Radell excited.
"We had good leadership last year. But the big difference is just the numbers in the senior class. It gives us more 17- and 18-year-olds out on the football field, rather than 15- and 16-year-olds. That's going to help," Radell said.
The same players will be on the field this season but one year in the age department is like dog years for maturity and strength.
"It's a totally different team," Scott said. "The whole attitude has changed."
One area where Radell hopes the attitude has changed the most is on the defensive side of the ball. Last season the Jags' defense gave up 2,995 rushing yards and opponents averaged 31.7 points per game.
"We played such poor defense last year," Radell said. "I expect them to be better."
Radell said the defensive unit looks better but it's difficult to tell until the Jaguars face a varsity team and not their own scout team.
Mill Valley will be put to the test Friday against league foe Bishop Ward. In the past, Mill Valley has started the season out of league and Radell has left room for error because he expects first game jitters and mistakes. Not this year.
"We want to be league champions," Radell said. "That's our goal right now and it starts the first darn football game. It's not just one of nine games in a long season. It's a league game. It's the first league game and we've got to win it if we want to win league."
Friday's kickoff is set for 7 p.m.