Football preview: Catch Heritage if you can

Timberwolves rely on quickness on both sides of the ball

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Heritage Timberwolves

Coach: Jack Hathaway

2010: 3-7, 2-2 4A GSHL.

Key players: Ian Overton, sr., rb-lb; E’Lon Mack, so., wr-db; Gage Boyce, sr., rb-lb; Joey Cooper, sr., qb-lb; Rajheem Carrie, sr., rb-db; Houston Dillard, sr., ol-lb; Cherno Sowe sr., ol-dl; Michael Quintana sr., wr-db; Hayden Conlee, sr., rb-lb; Tim Hergert, jr., wr-db; Tony Hergert sr., wr-db; Antonio Pulido, so., ol-dl.

Season outlook: A new head coach brings a fresh approach. The players are excited, with Boyce promising the Timberwolves won’t be 3-7 again. Hathaway said the expectations are to compete with every team in the league. “Hopefully by the end of the year, we’re competing for one of the three playoff spots.”

2011 SCHEDULE

Sept. 2 at Issaquah

Sept. 9 Mark Morris

Sept. 16 Skyview

Sept. 23 at Mountain View

Sept. 30 Grant

Oct. 7 at Union

Oct. 14 Camas

Oct. 21 Battle Ground

Oct. 28 at Evergreen

Home games played at McKenzie Stadium

The new Heritage coach has been in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League as an assistant for a few years now, so he already knew that the Timberwolves had a lot of firepower for the football field.

“I didn’t realize how deep the talent and speed was,” said Jack Hathaway, who took over the top position after leaving Evergreen. “It’s going to be fun to experiment with all the different things we can do with our guys. The depth we have was surprising.”

The quarterback, Joey Cooper, deep-threat wide receivers E’Lon Mack and Michael Quintana, and cornerback Rajheem Carrie were on Heritage’s 400-meter relay team that broke a school record in the spring. The running back, Gage Boyce, is built like a fullback but can hit a hole with speed, not just power.

“I know we’re going to use a lot of speed to get to the edge,” Cooper said. “I think we’re going to catch people on their heels. I’m looking forward to seeing E’Lon run. He’s probably the fastest guy on the team.”

Mack, a sophomore, envisions himself as the guy who can get past any defender.

“I want the defense to have to game plan against me, so it opens up other things for other people,” he said.

If Mack makes a name for himself catching the ball in the opening weeks of the season, then he will demand attention.

Boyce would certainly benefit from that scenario. All that speed going downfield. All that speed going to the right side. Switch it around and head to the left. Then — Boom! Who was that, running inside the tackles for a big gain?

“They’re not going to know when it’s going to come up the middle,” Boyce said. “And we’re not going to be a 3-7 team no more.”

Even the linemen are fast. They will have to be, too, because they are not necessarily the prototype.

“They’re not very big, but they have so much heart,” Boyce said.

To maximize the team strength, those linemen will be on the move. A lot of the passing plays will come from rolling pockets. A mobile quarterback, Cooper also will be able to use his speed if the passing options are not there.

“Coach wants me to have 15 carries a game,” said Cooper, who started football as a running back.

The speed carries over to the other side of the ball, too. Cooper is bucking the trend of quarterbacks who are defensive backs or only play on offense. He is penciled in as a linebacker, joining Boyce in the heart of the Heritage defense.

The Timberwolves offense will look a little different than the spread, shotgun-heavy formation of the past. But Cooper said the team still intends to use a lot of no-huddle, with calls made on the line.

Remember, this is a fast team.

The Timberwolves have got to take advantage of that in any way they can.