Mariner hopes to build on last season’s success | Football

New quarterback to lead Marauder offense
By David Pan | Aug 30, 2017
Photo by: David R Pan Mariner linebacker Zerabruk Abraham avoids a blocker during a defensive drill at Mariner High School.

The Mariner football team wants to continue to make progress in the postseason.

The Marauders advanced to the first round of the 4A state playoffs for the first time since 2007.

For coach Mark Stewart, the question is clear.

“Can we take another step and get on that field there, play and get past the first round of the playoffs?” Stewart said.

Despite some key losses, especially on offense, Mariner should have the players to make another run to the postseason

“I feel like we’ll be able to compete,” Stewart said. “We’ll see if we can execute at a high level in a big game.”

A number of new players are stepping into starting roles on offense, especially at the skill positions.

Two-year starting quarterback JJ Walker is gone and senior Fama Toure has been tapped as his replacement. Walker took most of the reps last season, so Toure doesn’t come in with any significant varsity experience.

“He’s a good athlete,” Stewart said. “It’s his senior year. The kid is excited about getting out there and playing with his friends and his teammates. I think he’s going to have a nice year.”

Toure has demonstrated that he’s an accurate passer.

“We threw the ball pretty well the last couple of years with JJ and I think we’ll kind of be able to do the same thing,” Stewart said.

Still Stewart knows that Toure is headed into uncharted territory as a starting varsity quarterback.

“There’s not that experience that you lean on,” he said. “As a coach, you’re trying to make sure to put them in situations where they can stay confident in the heat of the moment.”

In the end, all Stewart and his coaching staff can do is their best to prepare their new starting quarterback.

“Ultimately, Fama has got to go out on the field and lead and make sure that we take care of the ball and do all of the things that the quarterback does,” Stewart said. “I think he’ll do a nice job. I’m excited for him to step out there and see what he can do.”

Senior running back Romelo Mangum has confidence in Toure and likes what he’s seen so far.

“He’s still in a learning process,” Mangum said. “He has the arm. He knows what he’s doing.”

Mangum is expected to see an expanded role in the offense, taking over from Darius Brown, a first-team, all-Wesco 4A running back.

The Mariner senior is looking forward to a heavy workload.

“I feel excited because this is the first time I’ve been in high school that it’s actually been on me,” Mangum said. “It’s my last season. … I’ve been progressing every year. So now it’s here. I’m feeling good about it.”

Sophomore Amory Brown, Darius’s young brother, and sophomore Josiah Pesterkoff will be joining Mangum in the backfield.

“We feel good about what they can do,” Stewart said.

Second-team, all-league wide receiver Anthony Allen is gone and the Marauders are looking to RJ Fry and Tyrell Waverly to be targets for Toure.

“I know we lost a lot of starters but we have a lot of people that are coming in this year and they know what they’re doing,” Mangum said.

Mariner’s first two non-conferences games against Oak Harbor and Marysville-Getchell take on an added importance.

“We really want to see our guys get out there and get varsity experience and become experienced players pretty quick,” Stewart said.

Returning starters Luis Alvarez and Alex Tran along with seniors Ethan Skrabak and Liam Joyce bolster the Mariner line.

“The O-line is looking good,” Mangum said. “I’m pretty confident.”

The Mariner defense has more experience, though it is dealing with the loss of all-league lineman Windy Isaia.

The return of senior defensive back Casteel Njau, senior lineman Zerabruk Abraham, sophomore linebacker Jody Notoa, sophomore cornerback Waverly and senior lineman Isaiah Harrison means that the defense figures to be ahead of their counterparts on offense.

“We’re excited. We want to take on that role,” Abraham said. “I feel like the offense definitely is going to put some work in. We have to carry our weight as well and then some if we have to. We’re ready for that.

“We have a strong core. We have a lot of young guys too. So we have potential for the future.”

The defense still has work to do before the season opener against Oak Harbor on Friday, Sept. 1, at Goddard Stadium.

“We have guys everywhere,” Abraham said. “We have to get that rhythm of playing together.”

Mangum has high expectations for the defense.

“I think they are going to carry the team,” he said. “The offense has to match that.”

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