"I'm really confident in my quarterback and I like catching the ball," said Alex Brewer after the Marauders beat all challengers in a 4-team passing league scrimmage Tuesday on Bright Field.
Senior quarterback Luke Simmons is slinging this summer and Brewer has been his favorite target.
Brewer didn't play football until last year, yet started at corner and intercepted five passes. He didn't do as well on offense his first year, but his athleticism has improved a lot since then and he's more familiar with the game. He'll likely play both sides of the ball this year and have a big impact.
He's not the only one making big improvements.
"Passing league is going good this year," said Simmons. "I'm feeling more confident and we're focused. Our receivers are catching the ball and running really good routes. We have guys like Alex Brewer, he wants the ball every play and if it's anywhere near him he'll catch it. Andrew Garcia can burn guys and catch a deep ball. Jesse Morones has great hands and can catch the ball anywhere. We also have fullbacks that can catch the ball, which is really nice. It's all just coming together really well right now and we're clicking."
Last year the Marauders finished 5-6, losing in the first round to Show Low in a blowout. Summer workouts and any practice time are crucial for them to get back on track.
"Simmons and Micah Nevarez, both of our quarterbacks have had a great summer, they've looked really good," said Head Coach Bob Young. "At NAU we took second place and lost by an extra point in the championship game. We went to San Diego the week before and beat a lot of good teams. When we're on, we can play with anybody and I think that should give us confidence going into next season."
Quarterbacks get four seconds to throw the ball in seven-on-seven scrimmages. The question: will the Mingus line give Simmons four seconds to throw?
"That's the big question," said Young. "Like I told our receivers because they kept asking me if we could throw more this year, but I told them it all depends on the line. We've got some good skill guys this year, and if the line comes through we can be successful. It's there, they just have to put the work in."
Last year tailback Carlos Abrigo led the team in rushing yards, receiving yards, and scored 20 touchdowns in his senior season. The Marauders look to cultivate a more balanced attack this season.
Tyler Herndon enters his senior season the likely starter at tailback, but Young said he's got some strong competition in the backfield.
"Herndon is out right now with a broken thumb. You would think he would be the starter after being the backup to Carlos last year, but Anthony Broyles, Brennan Kitchen, Jesse Rios, those guys are all working hard right now, so whoever becomes the starter is going to have to earn the job," said Young.
Josh Longfellow will mostly play linebacker this season. He's a team leader and his teammates are responding to his direction.
"We're all afraid of him, so we listen to him," said Brewer.
The first game of the season for Mingus is months away, but it's worth mentioning: state champion Blue Ridge at home.