They’re always ready for the start of football season in Stillman Valley. This year the Cardinals are making every effort to propel themselves toward the top of the Big Northern Conference.
All football coaches want talented players, but Stillman coach Mike Lalor sees some other characteristics in his kids that coaches also crave.
“I like that they’re really hard workers and they’re really coachable,” says Lalor. “When you’ve got those two things combined you’ve got a chance to have some success.”
The Cardinals maximized their spring and summer getting into top physical condition. So much so that even in the first few days of practices this week they were able to go at a very high tempo.
“You want to go with that fast tempo, but some years you just can’t because kids aren’t in good enough shape,” says Lalor. “There’s no real way of faking that. This group put the time in so they were able to keep the pace going.”
“The intensity is brought every day,” says cornerback Lucas Johnson. “Everyone wants to be here. Everyone is ready to bring it every day.”
Halfback and safety Matt Williams says the chemistry is good on the team. “I think just the bond and how close we are and how hard we work together and push each other.”
Tyler Lamer returns at quarterback to run the Cardinals’ option attack and he has the quickness to run it well.
“We’re going to need big things out of him for sure,” says Lalor.
The big hole that needs to be filled is in the backfield behind Lamer. First team All-State fullback Brady Atchison graduated. That’s 1300 yards and 21 touchdowns worth of production that needs to be replaced.
Fullback candidates this year are Brayden Schlaf, Jay Herebia and Logan Laugerhause. The halfbacks will be Matt Williams, Austin Dowty and Zack Klonicki.
“We’ve got a few people back there,” says Lalor. “We’ll kind of see come game time which ones will step up and do well.”
The Cardinals have some experience back on the defensive front with Adrian Herrera, Will Weaver and Herebia. Schlaf, Williams and Dowty also bring experience on the defense.
So will the work ethic, the high tempo and the returning experience be enough to end the Cardinals’ four-year playoff drought?
“We miss it and it’s time to go back (to the playoffs),” says Johnson.
“I think we all want to win,” says Williams. “I think we’re ready.”