Stability gives Mavericks a leg up

April 20, 2012 by  

YAKIMA, Wash. — Stability is not a word commonly uttered in the world of semi-pro sports.

Players come and go, coaches as well, with great frequency, wiping rosters clean nearly every season.

That’s what makes this year’s version of the Yakima Mavericks somewhat remarkable.

Yakima Mavericks' Ryan Wright runs the ball near Clark County Vipers' Donnie W. Vercher, Jr. during the first quarter Saturday, April 23, 2011. (Andy Sawyer/Yakima Herald-Republic file)

The football team begins its season against Tacoma at 6 p.m. tonight at Marquette Stadium with a roster that features virtually every offensive skill position player and its key defensive players back from a team that overcame a slow start to finish 7-3 and make the playoffs.

“I think we’ll be pretty good this year,” Mavericks general manager Nathan Soptich said. “We have every key member from last year’s team back.”

Coach Steve Davis said much of the stability has to do with Yakima’s reliance on local players and the cohesion they’ve built over the years.

“It’s pretty unusual,” he said of the veteran-ladden squad. “But we’re like a family. These guys want to keep playing together.”

A lack of stability hurt Yakima out of the gate last season, with Davis making a quarterback change after an 0-2 start, going back to John Lobbestael, which triggered a turnaround that saw the Mavericks win seven of their final eight games before an overtime loss in the first round of the playoffs.

With Lobbestael back at the helm this season, the Mavericks are confident they can pick up right where it left off last season.

“I think the offense will score a lot of points,” Soptich said, adding that Lobbestael has really assumed a strong leadership role.

He’ll have plenty of familiar targets to throw to, starting with Ryan Wright and Alex Mahre.

“Any time you have those (two) guys to throw to, you’re in good shape,” Davis said.

The offensive line is young but has good depth, with newcomer Adam Peters from Sunnyside, making an immediate impression. The only significant change is at running back, where converted linebacker Kenny Petterson takes over as the starter.

“He’s a tough kid,” Davis said. “He won’t dazzle you with speed, but he’ll be tough to bring down.”

While the offense seems ready to roll, Yakima’s experience could have an even bigger impact with the defense.

Anchoring that side are defensive backs Jon Devolve (8th year with team) and Jeremy Frank (4th), linebackers Jesse Cardenas (8th) and B.J. Quinn (8th), and lineman Mick Gause (4th).

Complementing that experience is an influx of new players, including defensive end Darius Benitez from Davis, linebacker Alex Couette from Eisenhower, and cornerback Quincy Davis from Selah.

“The defense has those grizzly veterans and we have some young kids to mix in,” Davis said, adding that the teams’ veterans have set a standard for the younger players to follow.

“Any time you play semi-pro, if you don’t put in the time, you won’t be that good,” Davis said. “These guys work hard. In two months, we’ve had maybe two bad practices.

“They want to win and they want to put in the time.”

NOTES: The Mavericks have lowered ticket prices this season to $5 for everyone age 12 and older, with those 11 and under getting in for free. … All home games will be played at Marquette Stadium, at 5400 W. Chestnut Ave. … Yakima will again play in the Pacific Football League. Yakima has just three road games this season.

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