Day After Report: Our return policy is simple

Doing this football reporting thing for as long as I have been doing this, I have a lot of memories to fall back on when writing this blog.

Last night’s Evergreen-Heritage game reminded me of Mountain View. That would be Mountain View circa 2002.

But first, a quick history lesson: Jon Eagle, now the coach at Camas, was the head coach of Evergreen when the Plainsmen became the first big-school from Clark County to reach the state semifinals. That was 1995.

It would be six more years before another Clark County team had such a playoff run. Mountain View did it in 2001 and 2002. And since Mountain View’s appearance in the final four, our region has sent a 3A or a 4A school to at least the state semifinals in nine of 13 seasons.

So, yes, Evergreen was the first to do it, but I also consider Mountain View’s 2001 run to be the start of a special era of Clark County football.

Of course, 2001 also happened to be my first year covering high school football for The Columbian, so without any objection, you can just call this The Valencia Era. Historians will thank you later. Clearly, players and coaches want to impress me! So they just keep winning.

The Valencia Era not quite working for you? Oh, OK. I won’t be offended.

Whatever, I will return to the point of this Day After Report. Last night’s game reminded me of a strategy used by former Mountain View coach Mike Woodward.

It was 2002. The Thunder had reached the semifinals in 2001 but lost to Evergreen for the league title in 2002, which sent the Thunder on the road for the Week 10 playoff game. Mountain View took on Puyallup, and I was there.

Back then, I was on the sideline covering games. (Long before Twitter and the rest of the internet took over, demanding updates every couple of minutes.) I still remember Woodward telling his special teams coach that he had one kickoff in him. Just one. And if it was a long return, that would be it. No more traditional kickoffs.

Puyallup had a Division I athlete returning kicks that year. Sure enough, on Mountain View’s first kickoff of the game, that Puyallup star broke free for a long return.

That was all Woodward needed to see.

So for the rest of the game, Mountain View kicked the ball out of bounds on all of their kickoffs and Puyallup started every possession at the 35-yard line.

Woodward knew his team had a weakness in its kick coverage. That weakness was more glaring kicking off to a special talent. So he took that part of the game out of the equation. Mountain View would win that game 26-23, then the Thunder won two blowouts to reach the semifinals.

Last night, there were a half-dozen of us in the press box wondering what Heritage was going to do on a crucial kickoff. The Timberwolves had just scored back-to-back touchdowns to make it a three-point game. They trailed 34-31 late in the third quarter.

Then the ball was kicked.

Right to Billy Nelson.

Uh oh.

Up until that point, Nelson had already returned one kickoff for a touchdown. (Or did he? I’ll explain later.) He had returned a fumble for a touchdown. He also had a 31-yard touchdown run. Oh, and he was so close to a punt return for a touchdown.

It was clear: If Nelson got his hands on the ball, he was a threat to score.

So if you read my game report, you know Nelson returned it for a touchdown. All the momentum Heritage had gained was gone in a flash.

To be fair to Heritage, there really isn’t a good place to kick the ball to Evergreen. I believe I saw Justice Murphy (athlete who expects to sign with Utah) and Rey Green (one of best running backs in the region) also on the return team.

Pick your poison, huh?

My guess is teams will start kicking the ball out of bounds against Evergreen, or use a squib kick in hopes of an up man picking up the ball, or maybe get a bad bounce. Something. Anything. As long as the ball doesn’t get in the hands of those return men. (By the way, Camas is one of the teams that has a huge advantage in the kicking game. Caleb Lightbourn usually kicks the ball into the end zone for an automatic touchback.)

Anyway, I’ll always remember that Woodward philosophy. You’ve got one chance. Blow it, and we’ll find another way to “cover” the kickoff.

It was Mountain View’s return policy that helped the Thunder reach the final four that year.

With that said, I’d like to say thanks to Evergreen and Heritage for a wild, fun football game to watch. Jarod Luedecker had a 100-yard interception return for the Timberwolves. Kalani Umiamaka had a kickoff return for a touchdown, too! In all, there were five return touchdowns in this game.

Fun to watch.

The Plainsmen start the 4A GSHL schedule with a win

More on Nelson: So there were the two kickoff returns for touchdowns, the fumble return for touchdown and the touchdown run from Billy Nelson. Well, he also had an interception and decent return that set up Evergreen’s final touchdown of the game. Nelson had two long punt returns, as well, one setting up a touchdown.

What about that first kickoff return for a TD? Nelson’s first touchdown of the game came while playing defense. He scooped up a fumble and tip-toed down the sideline for a touchdown. I asked him if he thought he stepped out of bounds. He said no.

I did not have to ask him if he stepped out of bounds on his first kickoff return for a touchdown. Because he did. His touchdown made it 26-10 in the second quarter. The only person who did not see Nelson step out of bounds around the 3-yard line was the official on the sideline.

I tweeted out that Nelson was so fast that the official had no chance to see the play. He was 20 or 30 yards behind the play. Yes, Nelson stepped out of bounds. But no one from Evergreen was going to apologize.

Consistency: Evergreen coach Don Johnson Jr., was livid after the game, still steaming about a call he thought should have been made against the Timberwolves. Evergreen, after all, had several penalties, including some unsportsmanlike calls, go against them. The game did get a bit chippy at times.

Johnson wondered why Heritage was not called for unsportsmanlike conduct after a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter. Evergreen quarterback Jerrin Williams ran out of bounds, just short of the marker. Momentum carries a few players ran into the Heritage bench area. These kind of things happen several times a game. But in this case, a player wearing a Heritage jersey but not playing shoved Williams about five yards past the boundary.

If the officials had seen it, it would have been called. It looked bad. I just think the officials were more concerned with where to mark the ball. After all, it was a fourth-down play and it was close to the first down. None of the officials saw the shove.

It happens sometimes. They are human. Just like they did not see Nelson step out of bounds on the kickoff return.

There was plenty of defense: The final score does not look like there was much defense in this game, but remember, there were a ton of returns for touchdowns. So yes, there were big defensive plays.

Evergreen’s Erik Safford and Joseph Tataolut had back-to-back sacks in the fourth quarter when Heritage was in desperation mode.

“It felt awesome,” Safford said. “You have him, and you can feel him trying to get away, and ‘Nope, you’re going down.'”

D.J. Roberts also had a sack, and I wrote down No. 55 had a sack, as well. But the name on the roster does not match who the player was who got the sack. Sorry about that. Must have wrote the number down wrong. Dallas Goodpaster and Jacob Riverman also had tackles-for-loss for the Plainsmen. Nelson and Kobey Eaton had interceptions.

Evergreen held Heritage to 172 yards of offense.

Nelson said he was not impressed, though. He said the Plainsmen won’t be impressed with themselves until they get even better.

Heritage had some nice plays on defense, too. You saw the Luedecker touchdown return. Race Bynum also had an interception for the Timberwolves. Jeremiah Kelly had a third-down sack for the Heritage defense.

A lot of yards: Kalani Umiamaka had his third consecutive big game for the Timberwolves, carrying the ball 29 times for 141 yards and two touchdowns. (Plus he had the kickoff return for a TD.)

Late in the third quarter, the Timberwolves got down to the Evergreen 3-yard line. This was a fun moment for a football fan. The Evergreen defense knew Umiamaka was going to get the ball. Heritage knew it was going to give Umiamaka the ball. The defense was up to the challenge on the first two plays, with Umiamaka getting a yard on each play. On third down, Umiamaka broke a tackle in the backfield, then scooted into the end zone.

That made it 34-31. It was a game.

And then Nelson touched the ball again. Game over.

The Titans are 1-0 all time against Mountain View in league games.

First league battle: Union started playing football in 2007. This was the first time these two teams played a league game, though, as they both were in different classifications until this year.

A lot of yards: Union rushed for 397 yards and threw for 158 for a total of 554 yards of offense.

Mountain View ended up with 343 yards of offense. That’s not a bad number. It’s just seems so small compared to 554.

Mountain View drives: Most of Mountain View’s yards came on two drives. The Thunder went 91 yards on 10 plays to score their first touchdown of the game. Garrett Jones capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run to make it 7-7 in the first quarter.

Then in the third quarter, Mountain View went 91 yards on 14 plays. Garrett Jones again ended the drive, this time on a 10-yard TD run.

Preston Jones, by the way, led the Thunder with 162 yards on the ground. He had a 65-yard touchdown run just before the end of the first half.

Defensive standouts: Union defensive lineman Austin Holloway had two sacks. On one, he showcased his athletic talent. It seriously looked like the quarterback had spun away from the pressure, but Holloway would not go for it. Dropped him.

Ian O’Brien also had a sack for the Titans. Kyle Vermeulen was in on a big defensive play, too. Caleb Browning and Carter Clay had interceptions.

Jake Ryan had an interception for Mountain View.

Sorry, no interviews: On deadline for the second game at McKenzie Stadium, I wrote a quick game story and filed the boxscore. By the time I was done, all the players were gone. Hope to find some of you next time.


The Storm still among the Big Three.

So this happened again: Last year, the person who does The Columbian’s picks, picked Battle Ground to surprise Skyview. Wasn’t that big of a stretch. Others predicted it, too, including one system that uses math and stuff. Well, Skyview won that game last year.

I remember thinking that if one of the Big Three (Camas, Union or Skyview) were going to lose last year, Battle Ground was the team that was going to do beat one of those teams. So, yes, last year, I understood with the person who made our pick, going with Battle Ground.

(By the way, I promise I do not make the picks for The Columbian. I have been in discussions with the person who does. Every once in a while my opinion is asked, and I will give it, but I do not make the picks for The Columbian.)

This year, this Battle Ground-Skyview game was discussed again. And our picks guy ended up going with Battle Ground, with a funny explanation, too. No need for me to go into detail of how I would have predicted this game.

Instead, let me try to predict the future. I will predict that Skyview will be picked to beat Battle Ground next year. I have no idea who will be on the field for each team. I just know that our picks guy has missed this game two years in a row.

So until further notice, Skyview seems to still have Battle Ground’s number.


CAMAS 68, ROGERS 0 (Saturday)
Listened to a few minutes of this game over the internet. Only needed a few minutes. This game was over as soon as Camas walked off the bus.

Anyway, I’m recording this game, which will be on TV this evening. I hope to “stat” it and have the Camas stats in our system by Sunday night.


Chieftain shut out Centralia in second half.

Adversity: For the first time all year, the Chieftains were in a battle. The game was tied at the half.

Then Columbia River got the second-half shutout to improve to 3-0.


Panthers get a win in 2A GSHL opener.

This and that: There are 10 new coaches on Washougal’s staff this year, including head coach Dave Hajek. … Washougal benefited from huge plays in the running game from running back Brandon Casteel on a little trap play which he broke for three big runs. … Washougal receiver Tristan Roseff was Kyron Carlson’s most frequent target in the passing game going for 59 yards on three catches. … Washougal’s defensive linemen figured out Ridgefield’s middle screen stuff, stopping several plays that could have been big-gainers for the Spudders. … Hajek said he still thinks Ridgefield could be good enough to be one of the top three teams in the league. This was Washougal’s night, he said, but the Spudders have speed and size that will cause problems for future opponents.


Woodland returns to the 2A GSHL with a win; Bay loses its first league game as a 2A team

3-for-3 shutouts: While it was easy to focus on Eli Whitmire’s career night (five touchdowns, 289 all-purpose yards), let’s stop for a minute to celebrate the Beavers defense.

For the third consecutive game, the Beavers threw a shutout at their opponents – first Kalama (50-0), then La Center (44-0) and now Hudson’s Bay.

And while those opponents are a combined 2-7 through three weeks of the season, it’s still hard to keep three teams off the scoreboard in a season, much less in three consecutive weeks.

Friday night, the Beavers held the Eagles to minus-12 yards rushing, 47 total yards of offense and five first downs. They also forced six turnovers, including on all three Bay second-half possessions.

Linebackers Troy Flanagan (nine tackles, sack, forced fumble) and Tristan Thomas (eight tackles, sack) led the defensive charge before joining Whitmire and the rest of the starters on the sidelines following Bay’s first possession of the second half, which ended with an interception by senior cornerback Paul Castro.

“I told the kids that we raised the bar against La Center last week,” said Woodland coach Mark Greenleaf. “We emphasized that again at halftime tonight. We just need to keep raising that bar to compete at the next level.”

Injury report: Two concerns for Greenleaf as the score grew more lopsided – avoid injuries and cut down on the extra-curricular action after the Beavers were called for three first-half personal fouls.

They succeeded on the second count (only four minor penalties from the second-stringers), but not on the first. They lost junior starting lineman Austin Rintala to an injury to his left knee in the second quarter, and Greenleaf said his status for next week’s game at Ridgefield won’t be known until Monday.

Bay watch: At least Eagles co-coach Andy Meyer kept his sense of humor intact following the game.

“I liked when we last talked a lot more,” Meyer quipped when I approached him.

That last time was following Bay’s season-opening 20-19 win over archrival Fort Vancouver in the Peace Pipe game.

Now, after back-to-back games in which the Eagles have given up 50 points and not scored an offensive touchdown, where do they go as they prepare for a non-league encounter at La Center?

“We’re going to regroup, and we’ll be up for the challenge,” Meyer said. “We’re a young program in a lot of different ways. The thing we’ll build on from tonight is that the kids never gave up, even though things got ugly early. We fought hard in the second half. We’ll build on that.”


The Hawks are undefeated, too

The 2A GSHL is going to be fun to watch. Hockinson won its third consecutive blowout, just like Woodland.

This one was over early. We had conflicting reports, though. One had the score 48-0 at the half. The other had it 41-0 at the half. Either way, it was over at the half.


Congrats to the Bulldogs for winning in Oregon

Backup quarterback Luke Nichols threw for 156 yards and a touchdown for Stevenson. Brandon Campbell had two catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. Two catches for 140 yards. Decent average, huh?


That’s it for this week. Hope to get the stats posted by Sunday night.

Thanks to Erik Gundersen for the Washougal notes. Thanks to Rene Ferran for the Woodland notes.

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