2023 Prep Football Preview - North Mason
North Mason aims to compete
August 31, 2023
The North Mason football team has high aspirations in the second year with Rob Thomas at the helm.
Reasons for optimism abound. The program almost doubled its numbers from last year and many skill position players gained experience last year.
"The kids are bought in, we're ready to rock 'n' roll and they just want more, they want it," Thomas told the Journal. "You can see the difference. In the weight room, they want more. On the field, they want more, conditioning themselves after practices. They're taking ownership of the team and that's what we want."
The Bulldogs were 1-8 last season, with their only win against Sequim 36-21 in October in Belfair. North Mason was outscored 386-126.
Thomas credits the rise in player turnout to his coaching staff, including weight coach Zach De La Cruz for implementing the Bulldog's lifting regiment. North Mason went to a football camp at Eastern Washington University in Cheney and learned they could compete with anyone.
"It's one of those things where you go there, it gets you away from your everyday life, where you're at and it's solid football, no distractions," Thomas said. "We grew huge. We played in Friday Night Lights, which is a competition out there, we won our first game and we got to play against Garfield, which was huge. We put up a heck of a fight. Those Garfield players were coming up and shaking our hands and were like, 'You guys are dogs, ballers.' I think at that point, a lot of the players were like we can play with anybody. We can hang with anybody, if we can hang with Garfield. That was a huge turning point for that camp."
Thomas and the Bulldogs practiced at midnight Aug. 16 and were able to take advantage of the cool nights.
He identified senior quarterback Micah McIntyre, sophomore running backs Caden Atencio and senior Trevon Simmons, senior wide receiver Cole McCormick and senior center Sean Harris.
McIntyre said the biggest change for this team from last year is the team's mindset.
McIntyre didn't always want to play quarterback, but freshman year, he was lined up at wide receiver and thrown into the role of backup quarterback after some injuries and McIntyre having the ability to throw.
"That's always the goal is to have bigger expectations than the year before and growing what we had. It's always a learning curve every year but I feel like I've definitely slowed the game down," McIntyre said. "I'm able to trust the line this year. I don't have to worry about getting my head knocked off every play."
He'll also be playing safety on defense, and his time playing quarterback will help him read opposing quarterbacks.
McIntyre is ready for the opener against Shelton in the Mason County Cup. The loss still stings from last year, especially because McIntyre's sister attends Shelton.
"I live out by Shelton, my sister goes to Shelton. Me and their quarterback, Wyatt (Depoe) and their receiver Gabe (Menefee), keep an eye on him in film," McIntyre said. "Wyatt will be a junior this year, I've talked with him a couple of times because I live 15 minutes from the high school over there on Mason Lake."
McIntyre said being a senior hasn't hit him yet, and he's not sure whether it will be his last year playing football. He said he's enjoyed the time playing football at North Mason.
Thomas said the program has 65 players, increasing the team's depth and ability to keep playing with energy late in games.
"No longer is it what are we looking at for depth. That was a huge part last year was we would do great at the half, and there's several games we were up, and then all the sudden, you get part way through that third quarter and guys are dog-tired," Thomas said. "It doesn't matter how much conditioning you do, the human body can only take so much. You can only push yourself so much and it was one of those things where I turn around and I have 16 linemen, 12, 13 running backs, 20-something wide receivers, four quarterbacks so we have so many guys. The depth is going to be amazing. That's going to be a huge contributor to the success of this upcoming season."
Thomas said the playbook has changed, and the offense will look different this year to take advantage of the team's speed.
North Mason led the Mason County Cup at halftime last year but lost 39-18.
When asked whether his culture is established within the football program, Thomas said "we're getting there."
"Last year, we had to fix a lot of things, disciplinary wise and just the commitment because there was a lot of commitment issues and now, we built that foundation and we're starting to build up," Thomas said. "That starts with the guys being out here, that starts in the weights in the summertime. Before, we were averaging 10 to 12 guys, this year, we're consistently at 30, which is awesome and I think that's only going to continue to go up. We lift right before this and when I go into the weight room right before this, I have 55 guys in there and it's phenomenal and everybody is putting in the work and they're excited. I think if we can continue to have that excitement, guys are going to continue to come out and play football for you and now they want to be a part of what's going on."
Thomas said the team's goals are to be competitive in every game and he said the team believes they can be in the playoff hunt toward the end of the season.
"There's no reason we can't make it to the playoffs this year. No reason we shouldn't be able to knock off some of those easy wins those first three weeks," McIntyre said. "Kingston was a close loss last year, just fell apart in the fourth quarter. Klahowya, we've beaten before. Shelton, there's no reason we can't beat them. We've gotten 110 times better and we put up with them through the third quarter last year. Obviously North Kitsap, we all know is dominant in this league. We're hoping to fend with them, we don't expect to win every game."