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Senior quarterback Marquis Adkins will be tasked with handling Mills’ sophisticated spread zone read offense this season after successfully integrating it into the varsity fold last year by leading the Vikings to a 7-3 overall record.
When Mills head coach Mike Krieger installed the spread zone read offense prior to last season, the decision was solely based on a dynamic up-and-coming quarterback — Marquis Adkins.
Strange thing is Adkins was coming off a sophomore season as a frosh-soph wide receiver. But Krieger recognized the young speedster’s ability was better suited to helm the offense, as the quarterback position would neutralize opposing defenses’ ability to double and triple team him.
“My plan was to put him at the quarterback position and not allow opposing defenses to try and take him away,” Krieger said. “He’s always got the ball in his hand. He’s always got a couple different options.”
So, the unproven youngster was handpicked by Krieger to take over the varsity quarterback position last season, and Adkins did not disappoint. He led Mills to a 7-3 overall record, the Vikings’ best regular-season finish since 2006.
In Krieger’s third season at Mills, the program gains momentum towards carving out long-term growth. It’s a generational thing, according to Krieger. Players like Adkins now have two seasons under their belts playing in a complex system, especially for a Peninsula Athletic League Lake Division team.
The proof of Mills’ upswing is in its numbers. When Krieger took over the team in 2012, he had 28 players on the varsity roster. Entering into this season he has 34.
“They had some down years where they were trying to put players on the field and be competitive on the field, game-in and game-out,” Krieger said. “So, that was my first step. I wanted to have more football players, and we wanted to get the kids to play to where they were competitive first. Of course we want to win football games. Without a doubt, that’s the underlying goal for anybody. But we are most interested and foremost wanting for our kids to learn the game of football the way we think it should be learned, and the way it should be coached. … And if we do that we should be successful.”
In terms of knowing how the game should be coached and learned, Krieger’s resume speaks for itself. He has served as a varsity assistant coach at Half Moon bay, Lowell and Lincoln. He also served as assistant coach for Mills from 2003-06 when his older brother Barrett — who now serves as the team’s defensive coordinator — was the head coach..
Now, Krieger has tooled an offensive system that is entirely his, with a headstrong and intelligent quarterback who has dedicated to learning its nuances — and learning them well.
“(Adkins is a) dynamic athlete,” Krieger said. “He’s a dual threat passer and runner. He should put a little scare into opposing defenses, having a game plan for him.”
Protecting Adkins is a sizeable line in comparison to years past.
“This year, we have high hopes for our offensive line,” Krieger said. “We’ve got some bigger bodies now. Last year … they were small. They probably weighed no more than 175 pounds each. So, this year we’ve got three to four kids that are going to be pushing the 200-210-pound mark, which is relatively big for Mills.”
Newcomers to the offensive line such as 5-9, 215-pound guard Ngahe Mapa and 5-11, 210-pound Robert Thorgerson join returning right guard Ryan Del Rosario, who earned All-PAL Lake Division honors last season. Krieger proclaims Del Rosario to be one of the fastest players on the team.
“He’s running with running backs and he’s running with receivers,” Krieger said. “He certainly is not one of your plugging-type of guards. He certainly could become a fullback-style kid if we ran a pro-set type of offense.”
The notion to convert the 5-9, 180-pound senior to fullback has occurred to Krieger, especially because Del Rosario implores him on a daily basis to give him a crack at the backfield. But his proven talent up front, and with Mills not having an extraordinary amount of depth of linemen, Del Rosario’s value at the guard position is too great to move.
Returning senior center Justin Dasanmartino is just as integral to the line. With the Vikings running almost exclusively from the shotgun formation last season, Dasanmartino was nails as a snapper.
“He has had a 99-percent success rate snapping the ball,” Krieger said. “It’s shocking how well he can snap that ball. So he makes a huge difference, because if you look at a lot of teams that are moving to some kind of shotgun offense, I don’t think there’s a better center that I’ve seen in my two years now that snaps the ball more consistently than Justin does.”
As testament to Delsanmartino’s importance to the team, he missed one game last season due to a deep bruise on his snapping hand. The game was an all-out battle with the King’s Academy, which Mills lost 19-15.
The strength of Mills’ line suits the character of its biggest weapon out of the backfield, senior tailback Kendric Meleisea-Smith. Replacing graduated star back Antonio Jeffrey — an agile runner who could turn on a dime — Meleisea-Smith is a straightforward bull.
“[Meleisea-Smith] is more of a downhill, one-cut kind of runner,” Krieger said. “But he has good vision. He’s not as shifty as [Jeffrey], giving hips and arms and legs going different directions. He’s going to make a decision and he’s going to get into that hole, and make a solid direction. He’s always thinking vertical.”
Defensively, Mills is converting to a 4-3 base this season, relying on its sizeable two-way defensive line and a strong secondary which will feature Adkins, Meleisea-Smith and senior Christian Miranda.
“I expect us to be competitive to win each game,” Krieger said. “And if we stay healthy, and we can pull out a close game here and there … we can have a chance to compete for the division title.”