Blake Lamle, after coaching stints at Buffalo, Shattuck and Garber, is back home at Medford.
Lamle graduated from Medford in 1994 and helped lead the Cardinals to the state semifinals as a junior and the quarterfinals as a senior.
“It feels really good to be back,’’ Lamle said.
Having been gone for some 18 years, Lamle doesn’t feel any additional pressure taking over at his alma mater.
“If I had come back earlier, there might have been,’’ Lamle said. “There’s always pressure wherever you go. You put it on yourself because you want to be successful. Being this removed from Medford, there won’t be a transition problem.’’
Lamle will draw from his experiences at Shattuck where he coached under former Indians Troy Bullard and Tyson Bullard.
“It is a different feeling,’’ he said. “I always loved how Tyson and Troy handle their business. It was always what was best for Shattuck. I like to use the same pattern here. You want to win games and run a quality program. You want the kids to act right. The kids are a direct reflection of you. Being at home amplifies things.’’
Lamle inherits a program that had back-to-back 6-5 seasons. The Cardinals beat Graham-Dustin, 50-0 in the first round of the playoffs last year before falling to semifinalist Buffalo, 36-28.
“Coach (Brian) Haynie did a really good job with them,’’ Lamle said. “He laid some good groundwork for me. I will always be a friend and a fan of his. That will make the transition easier.’’
Medford’s success, Lamle said, will depend on how fast they pick up his offensive and defensive systems.
Medford lost only four starters from last season — center Dylan Chaney, quarterback Angel Gonzales, running back Caleb Haynie and receiver-running back Brayden Keller.
The biggest concern could be numbers. Medford suited up as few as 10 players at times in 2018.
“I’m hoping we can increase the numbers,’’ Lamle said. “We’re shooting for 15 or 16, that would be a good number. My last year at Shattuck (2017), we won a state championship with 14 or 15 kids.’’
Medford averaged 37.6 points per game last season. They scored 40 or more points in all six of its wins — Ringwood (48-0), Welch (54-0), Bluejacket (48-0), Deer Creek-Lamont (62-0), Covington-Douglas (50-12) and Graham-Dustin (50-0, first round of playoffs).
“We have a nice mix of skilled players and linemen back,’’ Lamle said. “I think we have a chance to do what we want to do offensively.’’
The Cardinals will be running “a lot more option and quarterback traps,’’ under Lamle.
“The same thing we did at Shattuck,’’ Lamle said.
Drake McMillan, a 155-pound junior, gives the Cardinals a proven running back. He rushed for 89 yards on only five carries against Graham-Dustin in the playoffs.
“He really looks the part in the weight room,’’ Lamle said. “He is a strong, quick kid ... the kind of prototypical running back that you need in our offense. He is decisive on making cuts and hits the hole hard. His ability to hit the hole separates him from a lot of running backs.’’
Tate Schuermann, who caught three passes for 83 yards against Graham-Dustin, will move to quarterback to replace Gonzales.
“We feel confident he can make the transition because he is a competitor,’’ Lamle said.”He likes to compete and we feel like he will adapt well to the leadership role.’’
Seniors Austin Smith (6-2, 235) and Kelton Benningfield (5-7, 175) are the top returnees in the interior line. Benningfield could play some in the backfield.
“Austin Smith is a big, strong kid and hopefully he can anchor the open side of the field,’’ Lamle said. “Benningfield is another strong kid. We’ll wait and see where we can use him the best.’’
Junior Issac Koehn, a 180-pound junior, is back at both tight end and defensive end.
“He has some really good hands,’’ Lamle said. “He has been in the weight room all of the time. He’s done what we have asked him to do and we think he will fit in well at defensive end and tight end.’’
Caden Keller, a 150-pound sophomore and the brother of Brayden Keller, is being counted on at both slotback and cornerback. He was cleared to play from injuries this summer.
Freshman Eli Gonzales, a 150-pound freshman and Angel’s brother, is projected to start in the secondary. His father, Bobby, played with Lamle at Medford.
“He has good lineage,’’ Lamle said.
The Cardinals’ defense was hit and miss last season. They had five shutouts but allowed 40 or more points in four of their five losses — Buffalo (54-20), Pond Creek-Hunter (52-14), Coyle (44-20) and Southwest Covenant (63-30). They fell to Buffalo, 36-28 in a second round playoff rematch.
“The athletes are there for us to be successful with the defense that we run (3-2),’’ Lamle said. “They have to buy in what we do and not try to do too much. We’ll see how things fall in place.’’
The Cardinals were third in C-3 last season behind Coyle and Southwest Covenant. Lamle sees those two teams as the preseason favorites.
Medford opens the season Sept. 6 at Buffalo, where Lamle coached for 13 seasons. Medford hosts Pond Creek-Hunter in the home opener Sept. 13.