Columbia River Football Training Camp

Columbia River Chieftains
Coach John O’Rourke

The battle is on for starting positions: 
Don’t look for any familiar names with the Columbia River offense. There aren’t any. (Not counting family and friends, of course!) But in terms of returning starters, don’t bother. They aren’t there.

“One year, I think we had 10 new starters on offense and nine on defense,” Columbia River coach John O’Rourke said.

But he never had to start completely fresh with one side of the ball … until this year.

To hear the Chieftains explain it, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“We have a lot of guys working at different positions. Everybody’s getting looks,” senior wide receiver/defensive back Kevin Cotter said. “No one has a guaranteed spot. We’re getting closer as a team. We’re meshing together to see what works.”

“You have to fight for positions,” senior wide receiver/defensive back Jeremy Newton said. “People are working hard.”

Plus, Newton added, this team has a lot of depth. The battles for those starting roles are tough, which means those who are not selected to start are real close and they will continue to push the starters.  

For example, the Chieftains have three players vying for the quarterback position: junior Justin Rinta and sophomores Mike McCann and Clayton Frank. O’Rourke said a scrimmage scheduled for the end of the week will help the coaches with their decision.

O’Rourke also appreciates how much his players, in particular the linemen, have worked on their skills as well as their bodies with weight training and conditioning.

“I really challenged last year’s juniors to try to work hard to improve themselves physically, which I think they have,” O’Rourke said. 

Defense has a few returners:
Columbia River has three full-time returners on defense and another who started for half of last season. 

Justin Jenks, a second-team, all-league defensive lineman last year, expects the defense to lead the team this year. Not that the offense won’t be good; just that the defense has more experience.

“I like to lead by example. I’m not really good at giving speeches,” Jenks said. “I get here early every day and hustle in every drill. Go hard every time, even if you’re on the scout team.”

He expects that attitude to carry over into the games. Columbia River plays Battle Ground in Week 1.

“Last year against Battle Ground, we had a pretty bad game on defense,” Jenks said. “We want to set the tone on defense (this time).”

“We have to play with swagger and play hard,” said Cotter, another one of the returning defenders.

Never peak too early: 
With all the new starters, the Chieftains know they will not be at their best in Week 1. It is a long season, and the goal is to keep getting better.

The team can look to last year as proof.

Columbia River started out 1-5 before winning its next four games, including the state qualiyfing game to reach the Class 3A state playoffs.

“We got better and better,” O’Rourke said. “At the end of the year, we were pretty competitive.”

Hot and tired: 
The Chieftains on Wednesday were nearing the end of their second consecutive 90-plus degree day, and the players were ready for the expected cool-down on Thursday.

“This is always the hardest part of pre-season practices,” O’Rourke said. “Days 6, 7, 8, regardless of what we do, fatigue hits the kids. It’s natural.”

It also means they have been working hard, and any coach can appreciate that.

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