Coaches get creative on first day of football practice

High school football season begins Sept. 2

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter



The Mountain View big guys took turns turning over the big tires.

Across the field, some of the skill-set players were back-pedaling, before performing turn-and-burn moves.

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And again.

The drills looked challenging, yet no one was complaining.

It was, after all, the first day of high school football practice throughout Clark County and the rest of the state. No one on the fields was complaining about that.

“It’s great to see the guys again,” Thunder coach Adam Mathieson said Wednesday afternoon.

Most of his players trained throughout the summer. But just like in any program, vacation and other summer activities make it difficult for full participation all of the time.

But on the first day of practice? All present and accounted for.

“All the coaches, all the kids, we’re all on one field at the same time, and that’s a great feeling,” Mathieson said.

There were a lot of players and coaches at Camas, too. The program that won the most games last year among the Clark County schools is 0-0 right now — just like everyone else.

“We’re already counting down the day to Timberline,” running back Zack Marshall said, referring to Camas’ opponent the first game of the season, Sept. 2. “We’re trying to get ready and each day get better (and) perfect things.”

A year ago at this time, Marshall was a relative unknown outside of his team. Just a couple weeks later, he made a name for himself at Seattle’s Qwest Field (that’s what it was called last year, anyway), scoring three touchdowns in his first significant varsity action. The next week, he scored three more touchdowns.

“Expectations are still the same,” Marshall said. “I want to show everybody what I can do and have a better season than last year to help the team. I’ll do whatever it takes to help my team.”

Surely, there are plenty of athletes throughout Clark County who are ready to make the leap — just like Marshall did last year. Then there are a few who are trying the game for the first time.

Rico Cervantes, a freshman at Fort Vancouver, said his only football experience is the backyard variety.

Never anything organized — until Wednesday. He was working with the wide receivers and was told he could also be a cornerback.

“One of the coaches told me to watch one of the players in my position. I learned from them. That’s how I got through the day,” Cervantes said. “I loved it. I just don’t like the helmet because it hurts.”

His teammates will tell him he will get used to it.

Daniel Diaz, a sophomore at Fort, also is a first-timer at organized football.

“It was pretty confusing. I didn’t really know the calls,” said Diaz, an offensive and defensive lineman-in-training. “Two of my cousins (in Oregon) play. They inspired me to play. They got stronger than me. I want to be as strong as them.”

It was a day of firsts at Fort, in fact.

Eric Ollikainen is the new head coach of the Trappers.

“I had a few sleepless nights,” the coach said, referring to nervous energy. “Now that we’re in the swing of things, it feels good. It’s much better to be working than to be thinking about working.”

Ollikainen is one of four new coaches in Clark County. Mike Funderburg is an Eagle at Hudson’s Bay, Matt Martin a Spudder at Ridgefield, and Jack Hathaway will lead the Timberwolves at Heritage.

In fact, the Heritage booster club is welcoming Hathaway with a pep rally and meet-and-greet from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at the school’s practice field, a chance for the community to get to know the coach and the players.

Yet another program excited about the immediate future — another reason to embrace the first day, the first week, of football practice.

Everybody’s excited.