Hockinson football training camp

Hockinson Hawks
Coach: Rick Steele.
2009 record: 2-8 (1-4 2A GSHL)

A year ago, Hockinson opened training camp with hopes of contending for a league title. Injuries and turnover troubles quickly derailed those hopes. With only five seniors in camp, the perspective is different at the start of the 2010 season.

“Nobody thinks we’re going to do anything this year,” senior running back Cameron Fleming said. “That just motivates us more to get better. And we’re going to get better.”

Coach Rick Steele said some freshmen will play, and reflects back to the first two seasons the school was open to keep this year’s challenge in perspective.

“I remember that we got our butts kicked early, but two years later we were league champs,” Steele said.

Several team leaders said there has not been a bad practice yet at Hockinson, even in last week’s heat. Steele agreed.

“We grow more some days than others,” the coach said. “I like their heart and enthusiasm right now. They are really getting after it.”

And, they are getting down the offense, which includes the use of more zone blocking schemes.

“I really like the zone blocking scheme,” junior lineman Bil Schultz-Rathbun said. “We’re young up front and it gives you a lot of double teams, so we’ve got a lot of two against one, which is a big advantage when you’re younger and smaller.”

A running back’s view? “I’ve been amazed by what they’ve been doing,” Fleming said. “They’re getting on their blocks, they’re getting their asssgnments done. These sophomores and freshmen are pulling and they’re blocking people out, and I’m running right behind them.”

Added junior Torey Dunn, “The most positive thing that’s happened is we are getting the plays down. We’re really young, but we’re running our offense really well.”

And, according to senior Hayden Kytola, the youth hasn’t meant players are shying away from contact. “Everybody likes to hit, that’s always a good thing,” he said.

With more underclassmen than veterans — there are almost as many sophomores as combined seniors and juniors on the squad — bonding could be a challenge. But the veterans say it’s not. The word brotherhood is heard often, and seniors are praising the commitment of freshmen and sophomores.

“It’s uplifting,” Fleming said. “Everyone’s out here to get each other’s back and out here to have fun. … The majority of our team is freshmen and sophomores, and that was who was in the weight room (over the summer). It’s cool to see that.”

Steele thought it was cool a couple of years ago when his line was considerably more intimidating.

“Those years that we were good, I was used to having 6-foot-5, 6-foot-6, 285 to 300-pound linemen (including current Oregon Duck Nick Cody). Now, my linemen are 6 foot and 215 pounds. But they work their butts off.
“In many ways they are better than those big kids,” the coach said. “They have to work harder to get the job done.”

Steele said he gets as much pleasure from years like this — with a steep learning curve — as he does from championship seasons.

“Years like this, I expect them. We’re not Union. We’re not Camas. We’re not a big school,” Steele said.
“We get 50-60 kids out for football. Unfortunately for us, we have two classes in a row with small numbers of kids. So I know, as a coach at a small school, we’re going to have highs and lows.”

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