Football preview: New Approach at the Fort

Trappers bring different offense with new coach

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter



Fort Vancouver Trappers

Coach: Eric Ollikainen

2010: 2-7, 0-6 3A GSHL.

Key players: Jacob Austin, jr., qb-db; Robert Bain, sr., rb-lb; Abdul Conteh, sr., rb-lb; Flynn Crawford sr., ol-lb; Mario Eyler, sr., wr-db; Isaiah Miller, sr., wr-db; Taylor VanHeck, jr., wr-db; Jordan Vela, sr., wr-db; Brendan Birrel, sr., te-lb; Jerrad Myers, sr., te-dl.

Season outlook: It is no secret that Fort Vancouver has changed its offense. Just read the preview story. But the coaches are having fun with not being very specific.

Football is supposed to be fun, and the players are responding to the new attitude at Fort.

Look for the Trappers to be unpredictable on offense, trying to find more options to move the ball.


Sept. 2 Ridgefield

Sept. 9 at Battle Ground

Sept. 16 Washougal

Sept. 23 at Prairie

Sept. 30 Kelso

Oct. 6 at Mountain View

Oct. 14 Columbia River

Oct. 21 at Camas

Oct. 28 Hudson’s Bay

Home games played at Kiggins Bowl

A year ago, Jordan Vela rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the first three weeks of the season for the Fort Vancouver Trappers.

His teammate in the same backfield, Abdul Conteh finished the year with back-to-back 100-yard performances. In one game, the two combined for 197 yards rushing.

This season, the two should see the ball a lot again, but in a completely different way.

The Trappers have a new coach — Eric Ollikainen — and a new offense. Conteh will be the featured back with Vela moving to wide receiver. That’s a big change for someone who has proven himself to be a quality running back. Vela, though, has no reservations.

“I thought it was going to be better for the team because the double-wing didn’t do much of anything for us,” said Vela, referring to Fort’s total of six wins in the past three seasons. “This will open it up more. There will be more options for us. It will be better for us. I’m excited.”

Conteh said he appreciates that the new staff trusts him to be the guy standing behind the quarterback.

“I can see the holes better,” Conteh said of the new look. “It’s going to be a good season. Our linemen are opening holes for me.”

Yes, it is a different set-up for Conteh, but at least he remains a running back. Vela is adapting to a bigger change, a position switch for his final season of high school football

“Pretty much, I’m just working hard on learning wide receiver. I’m focusing on running my routes and catching the ball,” he said. “Now I have to catch it before I can go.”

Helping with the transition is Ollikainen and his staff. Conteh and Vela, both seniors, have noticed a difference. There are a few assistants from previous seasons to help with continuity, but there are also new faces with new ideas. And more of them, too. Including volunteers, Ollikainen said there are 10 coaches on staff this season, up from seven from a year ago.

“The more eyes out here, the better,” Ollikainen said.

“If someone doesn’t know something, the other coaches can pull them aside and tell them what they did and try to make them better,” Conteh said.

While the Trappers have struggled in recent years, the players who have stuck with it say they believe this team can be the beginning of something special.

“Our coaches say we have to be on the road to success,” Conteh said.

Vela said working hard in every practice is part of traveling on that road.

While the two of them might gain a lot of yards, they also want to make sure that goes to their teammates.

“I don’t care (about yards),” Conteh said. “It all depends on my line. Without them, I’m nothing.”

Vela wants to make sure every ball thrown his way is not a lost opportunity.

“If the ball touches my hands, I want to catch it,” he said. “I don’t want any dropped ball, and I want to gain a lot of yards.”

They are sure of one goal, though. The Trappers want to win their rivalry game, in Week 9 against Hudson’s Bay.

“Other than that, work hard every play, do our best, definitely do not give up, and don’t your our teammates down,” Vela said.