Battle Ground preview: Grotte rededicated to the game

He does work to earn starting spot at Battle Ground

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

BATTLE GROUND -- Kaiden Grotte has a lot of regrets about the 2011 high school football season at Battle Ground High School.

But he doesn't regret everything.

Because he had such a miserable experience, he decided to do something about it, to make sure he never felt that way again.

Battle Ground Tigers

Coach: Larry Peck.

2011 record : 4-5, 1-3 4A GSHL.

Key players: Ian Humphrey, sr., qb; Kevin Haynes, sr., rb/lb; Trevor Ingram, sr., wr/db; Jake Sachen, sr., wr/db; Kaiden Grotte, jr., wr/db; Blake Billingsley, sr., rb/lb; Justin Smalley, jr., rb/lb; Hayden Humphrey, jr., wr/db; Josh Lemar, jr., wr/db; Manny Martinez, sr., te/dl; Brandon Paprska, sr., rb;lb; John Cormican, sr., ol/dl; Bruce Yarwood, sr., ol/dl; Dawson Snow, sr., ol/dl; Alex Shicas, sr., ol/lb; Colby Cahoon, jr., wr/db.

Season outlook: The Tigers got to four wins last year, three more than they got in the 2010 campaign, and lost an OT game that would have given them a winning season. “We should improve again this year,” coach Larry Peck said. “We should be more versatile this year. We have a good group of skill kids, and a lot have been starting since they were sophomores.”

2012 SCHEDULE

Aug. 31 at R.A. Long

Sept. 7 at Prairie

Sept. 14 vs. Decatur

Sept. 21 at Auburn-Mountainview

Sept. 28 at Evergreen*

Oct. 5 at Union*

Oct. 12 vs. Heritage*

Oct. 19 vs. Skyview*

Oct. 26 at Camas*

  • — 4A GSHL game

Home games played at District Stadium

Coming Friday: Prairie

"I didn't have much fun. I wanted to play varsity, get some time on varsity," Grotte recalled. "I didn't have the work ethic, so it didn't seem fun to me."

A day after the 2011 season ended, Grotte started focusing on the 2012 season.

He held himself accountable. The rough year was all his doing, he said. It wasn't a coach's decision, nor was it bad luck. Grotte put himself in a tough situation when he came out late for football. Then he made things worse when he failed to make a full commitment to improve.

He vowed never to do that to himself again.

"I made sure I worked out every day. I made sure I showed myself and the talent that I had," Grotte said. "I felt like I had to work harder and get myself better to play on varsity on Friday nights."

After all those workouts, spring drills and camps, Grotte, a junior, has been a revelation at Battle Ground's first week of practice.

From not playing a down of varsity as a sophomore, Grotte is penciled in as a starting safety for the Tigers this season.

After never playing quarterback, the baseball player with the strong arm picked up the position this summer and now sits in the No. 2 position on the depth chart.

While he practiced on offense as a wide receiver on the JV team last year, he barely played the position. This year, he expects to be a back-up wide receiver on varsity, getting plenty of repetitions when the starters need a breather.

"He was a JV kid at best last year and now a starting safety," Battle Ground coach Larry Peck said. "He's made such a huge transformation. This is a guy who came out of the blue for us."

Grotte said he also has impressed some of his teammates.

"I think I kind of opened their eyes a little bit," he said. "They're a little surprised."

Grotte wants to succeed for his family, too. His mom, Tish, is an only parent, and he said he likes helping her. Kaiden also wants to make a strong impression on his younger brothers, Dylan, 12, and Grayson, 6.

He could only do that by coming back this season to erase the memories of 2011. That painful season could have led some to quit the game. Instead, the game consumed Grotte.

"I'm very proud of myself," Grotte said. "I thought if I worked hard and played my heart out, I'd be able to do this."

Grotte's attitude might be the perfect mind-set for all the Tigers. A year ago, Battle Ground went 4-5, just missing out on its first winning season since 2003 after starting the season 4-1.

"I feel we have potential," Grotte said. "We just have to go out there and prove ourselves."

Grotte also has learned that he does not necessarily have to be a starter to enjoy the season.

His mission was to prove that he was better than last year as a football player and, just as importantly, as a teammate.

It was that work that led to this opportunity and also provided some personal growth.

Grotte went from a football player with little or no work ethic to putting himself in the position to make an impact for his team.

He has no regrets about that.