Tre Frankhauser smiles slyly when asked about his offseason.
The Stanwood senior transformed from a quiet, somewhat out-of-shape lineman into a team leader and one of the state’s top powerlifters.
“At the end of last season I was slower than I wanted to be, and coaches were noticing,” said Frankhauser, who adhered to a new nutrition plan and increased his conditioning to drop about 30 pounds. “I feel stronger now.”
He also started powerlifting with the help of Stanwood High physical education teacher Matt Gale, placing second and first at two events before taking third place at the state competition in February with a 290-pound bench press, 445-pound squat and 500-pound deadlift.
“I’m just trying to get better every day,” he said. “I love lifting and it’s like two birds, one stone: I lose fat, gain muscle. I need that for football.”
He’s also embraced a leadership role, using bits and pieces of techniques and styles he liked from previous Spartans football leaders during his underclassmen seasons.
It seems to be working.
“We’re more energized, more motivated,” the Spartan senior said. “We’re all together through the ranks. There’s no barrier between seniors and freshmen. We have found that good communication pays off. If we can do that on and off the field, we’ll be good.”
Head coach Eric Keizer said these Spartans are on the right track.
“We’ve introduced our Core Covenants, and getting everybody bought-in is the ultimate goal,” Keizer said. “It’s one thing to say you’re bought-in and another to show it.”
During the offseason, Keizer brought in Bruce Brown, the founder of Proactive Coaching — a consulting firm that works with coaches and teams to help create character-based team cultures, to provide a blueprint for team leadership and develop competitors.
Brown, a Camano Island resident, works with athletes, coaches, parents, school districts and corporations across the country, including the Vanderbilt baseball program, Oregon football program and UCLA football coach Chip Kelly.
Brown helped the Spartans develop their Core Covenants: Discipline, Desire, Love, Academics.
“We find examples during practice of the kids living by these Covenants and point them out,” he said. “Bruce Brown walked around practice Friday, and he pointed out where there can be even more improvement. The end goal is to build better people, not just better football players.”
The Spartans opened fall practices Aug. 21, but the team is mostly picking up where it left off after a successful spring practice and summer workout in the Houston, Texas, area.
The spring practices started with a three-day camp at Warm Beach where “we got more done in those three days than all of spring camp the year before,” Keizer said.
The team was building on second-year offensive coordinator John Monte’s playbook.
“We were able to get about 75% offense playbook installed in spring compared to about 20% last spring,” Keizer said. “Having most of it installed in June was huge. … It’ll allow us to open the playbook more during the season. We were limited on what we could do (last season).”
On the other side of the ball, Barry Ellis takes over for Glen Strachan as defensive coordinator. Ellis, who coached linebackers last season, will operate a similar defense as Strachan, who stepped back because of work commitments.
“We will be running the same defense with a little bit of Barry’s twist on it,” Keizer said of the base 3-4 scheme. “He’s added a couple new defensive concepts.”
Some of those were tested during the team’s trip to Texas in July when 23 Spartans trained with Houston-area high school teams.
“First day was not great, second day better, third day we got way better,” Keizer said. “There’s a speed and athleticism there that until you see it on the field, it’s hard to adjust to it.”
Junior Issac Ortega said competing against the Texas teams that feature 200 players playing in large stadiums was an eye-opener.
“But we learned that if we can play our football — with good teamwork and communication — we can beat anyone,” Ortega said. “We don’t care if you’re a freshman or a senior or somewhere in between. If you’re a Spartan, that’s all that matters.”
The Spartans get a chance to put their hard work to the test in a jamboree Friday at Lake Stevens High School before opening the season a week later against Jackson High at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“What I don’t want is to come out slow and try to pick it up later,” Keizer said. “We want to come out strong and set the pace and maintain that.”
If the Spartans jump out of the gate with quickness and power, the stands will be electric, Keizer said. Stanwood’s home-opener is Sept. 13 against Marysville-Getchell — and is just one of three home games this season.
“The energy is just something you can’t describe,” he said. “We need those stands packed.”
A quick look at the Stanwood Spartans schedule
WEEK 1: vs Jackson Timberwolves at Everett Memorial Stadium, 5 p.m. Sept. 6
The Timberwolves are all new. With head coach Joel Vincent stepping down after 21 seasons, Mason Siddick took the reins and made some changes: A new group of assistant coaches, a different offense and a new-look defense. “My passion is defense,” Siddick told the Everett Herald. “I love defensive football, so that’s where most of my focus is. … We want to get after the quarterback with four-man pressure.” On offense, the Timberwolves will embrace a power-run scheme with spread passing concepts. Will the players be up to speed with the new playbooks by gametime?
WEEK 2: vs Marysville-Getchell, 7 p.m. Sept. 13
The Spartans will christen their bright, new artificial turf field against an up-and-coming Chargers squad — on Friday the 13th no less. Getchell is coming off their best season in the team’s eight-year history — a 5-5 record, including a 16-0 shutout over the Spartans. However, the Chargers and their read-option offense will be led by a new QB, replacing graduated senior Caleb Koellmer.
WEEK 3: vs Arlington, 7 p.m. Sept. 20
The Stilly Cup has been within the Spartans’ grasp during the past two seasons. Will the third try be the charm? Stanwood lost heartbreakers to their rivals in 2017 (28-27) and 2018 (21-13) — both winnable games. The Eagles have moved on from standout senior quarterback Anthony Whitis and a bevy of senior wideouts, however Arlington has made it a habit as of late to reload rather than rebuild.
WEEK 4: at Oak Harbor, 7 p.m. Sept. 27
The Wildcats are coming off another stellar season (7-3 overall, 4-2 Wesco), including a 35-7 victory in Stanwood. This time, the Spartans head across Saratoga Passage for the first time since 2016 in search of their first win against Oak Harbor since 2009. To break the curse, the Spartans will probably need to contain the Wildcat rushing attack — typically their bread and butter. However, head coach Jay Turner resigned after 11 seasons, opening the door for new head coach Marcus Hughes, who was an assistant coach at Fullerton College in California last season. While Oak Harbor did lose some playmakers to graduation (QB Caleb Fitzgerald, RB Dorian Hardin and RB Aaron Martinez), they still have plenty of horsepower left.
WEEK 5: at Marysville-Pilchuck, 7 p.m. Oct. 4
The Tomahawks reversed three straight years of losing seasons with a 7-3 record last season, including a 34-24 win over Stanwood. However, the Tommies, which are poised to stick with their Wing-T ground attack, need to replace leading rushers Trenton Hurst and Bryan Sanders and a pair of offensive linemen.
WEEK 6: at Shorecrest, 7 p.m. Oct. 11
The Scots hope to replicate last year’s hot start, which saw the program open with three straight victories for the first time since 2005. The Scots did so mainly on the arm of QB Eladio Fountain, who returns for his senior season with plenty of familiar faces. The Spartans topped the Scots last year 31-23, scoring a season-high in points.
WEEK 7: vs Squalicum, 7 p.m. Oct. 18
The Spartans end their regular season slate against two Whatcom County powers: Squalicum and Ferndale. Since joining the Wesco 3A North in 2016, the Storm and the Golden Eagles have combined to claim the league crowns. The Storm won the title last season (8-3 overall, 5-1 Wesco) with the help of their wily senior QB Spencer Lloyd. But a new signal-caller this season will lead a veteran squad hoping to keep the Wesco hardware up north.
WEEK 8: at Ferndale, 7 p.m. Oct. 25
The Golden Eagles drubbed the Spartans 56-26 last season. While Ferndale graduated QB Sequoyah Julius and RBs Gader Fox and Bryan Ebe, they return senior RB Jacob Broselle, who rushed for three TDs against Stanwood last year. Blocking for Broselle is senior lineman Geirean Hatchett, one of the most sought after recruits Whatcom County has ever produced. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound four-star prospect received more than two dozen offers before deciding on University of Washington. Meanwhile, former Husky QB Jake Locker stepped down as the OC after one season.
WEEK 9: Crossover game, TBA, Nov. 1
WEEK 10: Crossover game, TBA, Nov. 8