Shawn Perkins has high hopes for the 2019 Mark Morris Monarchs.

At first glance, it might be misplaced. Just three seasons ago the Monarchs went winless, then they won just a game the next season. But after four wins in 2018, Perkins is optimistic his now-experienced group can take the next step in a deep 2A Greater St. Helens League.

“I have pretty high expectations for our kids,” Perkins said. “I think we have a really good group of kids. They’re working really hard, being good teammates, they’re doing all those little things. I just think the big thing for us is staying away from injuries.”

That was a killer last year for Mark Morris, the injury bug.

But it’s not something that’s easily avoidable. There’s no easy fix. How many times has a player who’s worked for the success, even deserves it, but gets hurt on a fluke play and is done?

Perkins mentioned something like that last year, when Noah Mejia, one of those guys, twisted his knee while trying to knock down a pass and ripped that hinge joint apart. It was a big loss, and Mark Morris can’t afford to lose too many guys again this year if it wants to compete for one of the two spots available for postseason, considering Hockinson probably has the league locked up again.

“I don’t think there’s a magic pill,” Perkins said. “But I think if the better in shape you are, the less likely it is. And I think our kids are in pretty good shape this year.”

That’s an indication of where Mark Morris finds itself.

Led by senior leaders Keoni Makaiwi, Marco Valdivia, Andrew Hoyt and others, Mark Morris is climbing the ranks of the league, intent on rising back to where the program was when it won 10 games in 2013.

But that was six years ago, and that quarterfinal appearance occurred when these seniors were in seventh grade. Things are different now. It’s a new mentality, one of covering new ground instead of defending the ground already won.

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“There’s been a lot of doubters all three years,” Makaiwi said. “We always get those people who say, ‘How are you gonna do this year?’ All you can do is just try to prove them wrong. That’s our motivation. We get here in the weight room every day. That’s our motivation: to prove everyone wrong.”

Mark Morris has holes to fill.

The Monarchs have to replace 16 total starters from last year’s team that won the most games for Mark Morris since that 10-win season.

But Jack Shipley is back at receiver and defensive after a solid 2018. Second-team All-Leaguers Makaiwi and Valdivia will play both ways, as well.

Then there’s the fact that Perkins has been with the Monarchs for 17 years and has been coaching high school football for 27. He’s been there. He’s had good years and bad years. It’s a stabilizing force in the locker room and on the sideline.

“He’s awesome,” Makaiwi said. “He’s been here forever. He’s super energetic. It gets us motivated to come in here. He’s always on us to make sure we get in and do what we’re supposed to do. Always keeping us accountable.”

But, as Perkins noted, coaches can only do so much.

As the say goes: coaches coach and players play.

“Better athletes make better coaches,” Perkins said.

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