Football preview: At Battle Ground, survival of the fittest

Tigers hope change in conditioning will pay off on the field

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter



Battle Ground TigersCoach: Larry Peck

2010: 1-8, 0-4 4A GSHL.

Key players: Tyler Bergeron, sr., wr-db; Ian Humphrey, jr., qb-lb; Jake Blackman, sr., te-de; Trevor Ingram, jr., wr-db; Kevin Haynes, jr., rb-lb; Kaleb McGary, so., ol-dl; Grant Morrison, sr., ol-dl; Blake Billingsley, jr., fb-lb; Mac Brandenburger, sr., ol-dl; Kiko Govea, sr., ol-dl;

Season outlook: Folks in town have been hearing a lot of positive rumors about the quality of this year’s team, and while the Tigers may not be bound for the playoffs or a candidate to upset some of the big boys, improvement from last season is extremely likely based on their offseason progress.


Sept. 2 at Columbia River

Sept. 9 Fort Vancouver

Sept. 16 at Woodland

Sept. 23 at Hudson’s Bay

Sept. 30 Evergreen

Oct. 7 at Skyview

Oct. 13 Union

Oct. 21 at Heritage

Oct. 28 Prairie

Home games played at District Stadium

BATTLE GROUND — When Battle Ground football players are in the midst of their 119th air squat, which comes after running a mile and performing 91 pushups without rest, the pain is intense enough to make even the most fit of athletes want to quit.

The reason they don’t? Because they know a far greater pain — the humiliation of last year’s 1-8 season.

Tigers coach Larry Peck said that last season’s futility “just about killed me,” as his team’s sole victory came against Woodland in double overtime.

So he felt the best way to speed up his program’s recovery process was to speed up the kids in his program. The solution: Speed and strength training. Or as the the players call it — SST.

Peck sought to revolutionize the way his players condition in the offseason, forgoing traditional weightlifting where “guys do a couple of sets and then stare at their biceps for a while,” as Peck said, and implementing a system in which the activity never ceases.

An example would be a player jumping for one minute, then sprinting a lap round the track, then churning out 20 sit-ups or so, and repeating the process for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

It is a grueling test of endurance that leaves no muscle spared. But the Tigers embrace the suffering for one fundamental reason: It works.

Peck said that not one player on last year’s squad was able to run a sub-5-second 40-yard dash. This year, several have dipped under five seconds, a few going as low as 4.7. And it is this tangible progress that keeps the likes of quarterback Ian Humphrey pushing through the pain.

“Whenever I’m lifting, I’m thinking about college and that next level,” Humphrey said. “I want to get out of here. I think that’s what inspires us.”

The hope is that all of this extra training helps renovate Battle Ground’s football tradition. Humphrey said that there is a horde of talented athletes on campus that could help the team, but refuse to try out due to the team’s losing ways.

Peck doesn’t expect this trend to change immediately.

The second-year coach refuses to make any concrete predictions on how the Tigers will fare this season, but acknowledges that the talent pool is not yet deep enough to compete with the top programs on their schedule.

That said, he is confident there will be improvement, a higher win total, and a lower scoring disparity against elite opponents.

“I’ve never seen a team improve their speed and lateral movement as quickly as these guys have,” Peck said. “These kids are so hungry to win. That is what I am most looking forward to.”