Prairie preview: Next Flock of Falcons

Receivers Prestwich, Gawley, Bracken have shoes to fill

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Prairie Falcons

Coach: Terry Hyde.

2011 record: 6-4, 4-2 3A GSHL.

Key players: Nick Gawley, sr., wr/db; Colton Prestwich, sr., wr/db; Jacob Austin, sr., qb/lb; Manny Velazquez, jr., ol/dl; Tyler Grant, jr., ol/dl; Mitch Bessett, jr., ol/dl; Tyler Duncan, jr., rb/dl; Jason Bracken, jr., te-wr/lb; Mario Gonzales, jr., wr/db; Scott Keyser, jr., ol/dl; Aaron Jaques, jr., ol/dl; Matt Vick, jr., ol/lb; Taylor Martin, so., wr/db.

Season outlook: This is the year after the break-through year. The Falcons had a winning record for the first time since 1997 and made the playoffs. That means expectations are high. And this year’s team must replace a talented group to maintain that excellence. With Camas now a 4A team, the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League league title race is wide open. “For us, it’s to compete for the 3A league title,” Hyde said. “We’ll come with a more balanced attack than last year and still play tough, physical defense.”

2012 SCHEDULE

Aug. 31 at Rainier, Ore.

Sept. 7 Battle Ground

Sept. 14 at Evergreen

Sept. 21 at M. Morris

Sept. 28 Mtn. View*

Oct. 5 Hudson’s Bay*

Oct. 12 at Col. River*

Oct. 19 at Fort Van.*

Oct. 26 Kelso*

  • — 3A GSHL game

Home games played at District Stadium

Coming Saturday: Columbia River

Next!

All high school football teams deal with graduating seniors and having to find new guys to fill the roles.

At Prairie, the expectations are higher than they have been in years, thanks to a successful 2011 campaign, when the Falcons finished with a winning record for the first time since 1997.

Of course, they did so with a number of talented skill players who got the ball a lot and knew what to do with the ball. Those guys are gone.

So, what's next?

More of the same style of offense, throwing it around to the next group of talented skill players.

Senior wide receivers Colton Prestwich and Nick Gawley, along with junior tight end Jason Bracken, say they are ready for the challenge.

"Last year, the Fab Five, if you want to call them, they set the tone for what we're doing this year," Gawley said.

That would be quarterback Colin Seitz and a receiving corps of Jesse Zalk, Tyler Vea, David Taylor, and Ancel Cecil.

"We're following their footsteps," Bracken said. "They set the bar pretty high."

If this Prairie trio can live up to their own expectations, perhaps others will speak highly of them.

"We want to set the tone for the younger guys after us," Prestwich said. "For the freshmen."

The message is clear: Prairie football is a winner again. As captains, Prestwich and Gawley want to make sure Prairie's success is not just a one-and-done situation.

In fact, they believe this could be a championship year. Prairie finished third in the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League. The champion, Camas, is no longer in the league. The Falcons lost to second-place Mountain View

44-28 but were within 10 points going into the fourth quarter.

"There's no real big dog in the league anymore," Prestwich said.

"Ultimately, that's what we want, a league title," Gawley said. "I'm not scared of what we are facing. We beat (Columbia) River last year. We were close with Mountain View. We're going to be prepared."

While last year's seniors got most of the attention, Prairie coach Terry Hyde said he believes this next class of athletes has the potential to be as good or better.

Senior Jacob Austin has been named the starting quarterback, and Hyde said Austin will have plenty of help from his receivers.

Prestwich, Gawley, and Bracken all saw some time on offense last year.

"They showed in their trial run that they could get the job done," Hyde said. "They're all solid kids. They all play hard, and they all understand the offense. They all bring different components."

Prestwich, Hyde said, is the "incredible speed guy."

Gawley brings "shiftiness" and "runs terrific routes."

Bracken is versatile. He can line up at slot receiver or tight end, and "probably has the best hands on the team," the coach said.

They also bring some personal goals.

Prestwich, one of the top returning defensive backs, said he does not want to allow a deep touchdown this season.

Gawley wants to make sure he leads his team, on and off the field.

And Bracken is looking for his first varsity touchdown.

"I want to hear my name from the announcer," he acknowledged.

It appears all three of Prairie's next wave of go-to players will get their opportunity to make some noise.