Heritage Football Training Camp

Heritage Timberwolves
Coach Nate Becksted

Bring back the big guys:
Fans love to see the return of the “Skill Players,” the ones who pass the ball, who run the ball, who catch the ball. The ones who score touchdowns. Those are the names.

High school coaches, however, get a little more excited when they see the return of the guys up front, the blockers, the guys not in the boxscore.

And that is why the Heritage Timberwolves are feeling like they have a shot at doing some good things this season. Their offensive line has experience.

Led by seniors Casey Hoodenpyl — a frontrunner for name of the year, by the way — Noland LaValley, and Terrall Quigley, the Timberwolves say they expect to run the ball more than in years past, but at the same time give a new starting quarterback plenty of protection.

“It has its ups and downs,” Quigley said of being a lineman. “But it’s fun. I love that feeling of giving your quarterback enough time to complete a deep pass for the score.”

“You get to dominate people on the line of scrimmage,” said LaValley. “Your job is to physically dominate your opponent.”

What about the down part of the job?

“We’re linemen, so everything eventually comes back to us,” Hoodenpyl said. “It’s our fault if something goes wrong.”

“If the quarterback gets sacked, it’s our fault,” LaValley added. “If the quarterback makes a good pass, it’s his pass.”

Don’t feel sorry for them. They’re like a lot of linemen in this game, from the high school ranks all the way to the pros. They understand the responsibility of being a lineman, and they understand it does not come with a lot of the spotlight.

That’s OK, though.

Playing for Heritage, in general, right now does not bring a whole lot of attention. That’s strange, considering the program has made the playoffs the past three years. 

But the Timberwolves know they are kind of being overlooked. The 4A Greater St. Helens League not only has two-time defending champion Skyview, it now has Union, the champion of the 3A GSHL the past two seasons. 

That just means there is no pressure on the Timberwolves, except the pressure applied by their own expectations.

“You can lay it all on the football field because you’ve got nothing to lose,” LaValley said.

Plus, no matter who is in the league, the Timberwolves have a goal of improving. The past few years, they have made it to the state qualifying round. Quigley said the program has stuttered recently because it has not been able to get to that next step.

Could this be the year that Heritage makes it to the state playoffs?

One final try:
Hoodenpyl, LaValley, and Quigley, along with the rest of the seniors, understand what is at stake.

“We don’t have a next year for football,” LaValley said. 

Hoodenpyl even has advice for the younger players, the ones who do have more chances. He wants them to recognize the importance now, not later. You see, Hoodenpyl acknowledged that he was not 100 percent committed to the offseason training prior to this past year.

“I wish I had realized last year how important it was to the seniors,” he said.

QB battle:
Heritage has not had to worry about the quarterback position the past three years. But now that Garrett Grayson is off to college, there is a battle for the starting role. Jake Dahlberg and Riley O’Dell, both juniors, are expected to receive plenty of opportunities to win the job. 

Coach Nate Becksted said a starter likely will be picked for Week 1 by the end of this week, but both QBs will get snaps in the first couple of weeks — non-league games against Issaquah and Mark Morris.

“We have to find out which one is going to win us some football games,” the coach said.

“Riley had a really good summer camp, and Jake had a good spring camp,” Becksted said. “They both bring some really positive things to the program. They both are leaders. They show up and work really hard.”

Overheard and observations:
Heritage started practice at McKenzie Stadium at 9 a.m. Monday. It was a sloppy beginning to the session. “Good thing we don’t play games at 9 in the morning on Mondays,” assistant coach Larry Blonsky said. By the way, the practice quickly turned from sloppy to satisfactory, especially for a fourth day of practice. … Most of the players have their names printed on tape, placed across their helmets. Dahlberg also has a nickname: The Snake.  The coaches teased him, he said, because had never heard of Kenny “The Snake” Stabler. “Left-handed quarterback, and you don’t know who Kenny Stabler is?” asked Becksted. To be fair, Stabler led the Oakland Raiders to victory in Super Bowl XI, roughly 17 years before Dahlberg was born.

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