Marauders confident about their explosive offense

Defense struggled to stop the run game last season
By David Pan | Sep 04, 2019
Photo by: David R Pan Mariner junior quarterback Jackson Cole went 2-1 as a starter last season

H

ead football coach Mark Stewart and his players agree that Mariner should generate plenty of offense this season.

The Marauders return junior quarterback Jackson Cole, who went 2-1 in his three starts, and two of the Wesco 4A’s top skill position players in first-team, all-league wide receiver Roman Savchuk, and second-team running back Josiah Pesterkoff.

“I think we certainly have an opportunity to make some big plays,” Stewart said. “We’ve got some big play potential at all our skill positions. That’s a bright spot.”

Cole has assumed a major leadership role on and off the field.

“He’s kind of everything you’re looking for,” Stewart said. “He’s a good leader in the community. He knows how to do it. He does it right. He works hard. He’s the hardest worker in the weight room. He’s one of your best athletes.”

The same could be said of Savchuk, who figures to be his quarterback’s favorite target.

As good as he was his junior season, Savchuk continues to up his game.

“He’s better. I think he’s ready to have a great senior year,” Stewart said. “He’s bigger, stronger, more confident. … He’s a little bit more savvy.”

Cole said Savchuk and Pesterkoff are two players the team will be relying on when games are on the line.

“I trust Roman to catch every single ball I put up in the air and I trust him to make plays afterwards,” Cole said. “Jo Jo makes it real easy to relax. He’s another guy I trust to save me on blocks. He’s good for those banger yards. … It’s always nice to have someone when it’s third-and-2, you know he’s going to get the yardage.”

If opponents focus all their attention on Savchuk, Mariner has other players ready to make them pay.

Junior wide receiver Sebastian Wanjiru could be headed for a breakout season. Few teams will have the personnel able to keep up with the speedy Wanjiru, who was the district champion in the 100-meter dash and a state competitor in the same race.

“Our offense is super explosive,” Cole said.

Savchuk noted that Cole is part of that explosiveness as a dual threat.

“Jackson is known for running the ball and throwing it deep,” Savchuk said.

“I think we’ll present some problems to some people,” Stewart added. “For us offensively, it’s a matter of getting guys in the green grass – going where they (defense) are not and letting our guys run. If we do that, we’ve got guys who can outrun people.”

The part of the offense that Mariner struggled with last season was making the most of its scoring opportunities.

“Last year we moved the ball a ton,” Cole said. “We just couldn’t get it done in the end zone. So, we’re really focusing on taking advantage of our opportunities in the red zone and executing.”

Senior center Josh Jorosik is the lone returning starter on the offensive line. Stewart is confident that the line will turn out fine with four new faces.

“We’ve got some work to do on offense and defense up front,” Stewart said. “We’ve got people that are working hard to get stuff done. … They’re getting better. They’ve got to keep going and keep showing improvement.”

Cole added that the line is starting to really absorb the offensive schemes.

“We’re really working on throwing together a line that we can keep going for the next couple of years,” Cole said.

The other major focus for Stewart is shoring up the defense, which allowed an average of 34 points per game last season. In particular, the Marauders had problems slowing down their opponents’ ground game.

“We just didn’t stop people,” Stewart said. “Sometimes we weren’t challenging people. That’s where we’ve got to pick it up. We’ve got to make plays. … We had a lot of breakdowns in our run defense. We were out of position.”

Stewart has simplified some of the defense schemes and Savchuk is encouraged by the changes.

“This year we’re going to be pretty tough on defense,” the second-team, all-league linebacker said.

When he wasn’t starting at quarterback, Cole played in the secondary. He likely won’t be spending much time on the defensive side of the ball this year. But Cole is counting on his teammates.

“Our defensive identity is looking really good this year,” he said. “They’re coming out and playing hard. I think we’re going to earn games on defense. They’re really setting the tone for the offense to follow and making all of our jobs easier.”

Mariner opens the season on the road at Arlington in a 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 6 non-conference match-up.

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