Football preseason notes: Evergreen Plainsmen

I spent Wednesday evening at Evergreen, watching the Plainsmen open up their new era of football with a new coach. My story on linebacker Brody Bagnall was published Monday.


And here are a few more notes from Evergreen country.

Coach: Don Johnson Jr.
First year
Previous: Head coach at Milwaukie (Ore.) HS for one year, going 7-3. It was the first winning season for Milwaukie since 1991.

First impression:

Seriously, that was my first reaction. Wow.

This practice passed the eyeball test. The Plainsmen looked like a football team. More than 90 athletes, all doing something, no one standing around. It was organized and little time was wasted.

The players were pumped. The coaches were energized.

This does not guarantee success on the scoreboard but it helps move any team toward its goals. Remember, Evergreen has won four games over the past three seasons. It is clear Don Johnson has created a spark with the players.

For reasons beyond my control, I have not seen an Evergreen practice in a few years. So I cannot say if this was a big change. The players, though, said they are impressed with the way things have been going all summer, and now at the beginning of official practice.

A few numbers:
The Plainsmen return their top two running backs from last season.

Justin Straup had 573 yards on 67 carries for an average of 8.6 yards per carry. He also scored five touchdowns. Justice Murphy rushed for 549 yards and four touchdowns.

Our guess is Murphy will do a little bit of everything for the Plainsmen. Sure you’ll see him in the backfield, but you might see him split wide as a receiver, too.

Interesting beginning:
It is not a news flash to say Johnson rubbed some people the wrong way in his first months on the job. He does talk a big game, and other coaches in the league have heard the talk. He knows people are talking about him and his team now. He said that’s a good thing.

Johnson also shows respect for the past success at Evergreen, and that includes two coaches who are now in charge of other teams in the 4A Greater St. Helens League.

“Evergreen football is the foundation of Vancouver football,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to bring this team back to what the great coaches before me created. Instead of looking at the schedule and seeing Evergreen and marking it off as a win, you’ve got to wait until Friday night now.”

Those coaches he is referring to are Jon Eagle and Cale Piland. Eagle coached the Plainsmen to the Class 4A state semifinals in 1995. Piland led Evergreen to the state championship in 2004. Now Eagle is the coach at Camas, where he has led the Papermakers to the state semifinals the past two seasons. Piland is the coach at Union, and he brought the Titans to one title game and another semifinal appearance.

Johnson wants Evergreen to return to those kind of glory days.

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