Columbia River preview: Positively set to play

Senior receiver Eli Evenson helps lead Chieftains by example

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Columbia River Chieftains

Coach: John O’Rourke.

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

Key players: Clayton Frank, sr., qb/db; Remick Kawawaki, sr., rb/lb; Joe Keller, sr., ol/dl; Gage Biros, sr., ol/lb; Clark Bryant, sr., wr/db; Eli Evenson, sr., wr/db; Micah Figueroa, sr., ol/lb; Xavier Gomez, sr., ol/dl; James Niemela, jr., ol/dl; Kevin Roberti, sr., ol/dl; David Snuffin, sr., rb/lb; Dillon Willis, sr., ol/dl; Trey Walker, sr., wr/db; Dante Colman, jr., wr/db; Zack Hudson, sr., wr/db; Justin Hazelton, sr., ol/dl; Max Archer, jr., ol/dl.

Season outlook: It is rare for a high school team to have a three-year starter at quarterback (Clayton Frank) and a three-year starter as a running back (Remick Kawawaki). The Chieftains have an edge when it comes to experience. Now, it’s just a matter of the Chieftains realizing their potential. “We’re really emphasizing to look at everything as a team goal,” O’Rourke said. “Work hard so the team plays to the level of talent.”

2012 SCHEDULE

Aug. 31 Heritage

Sept. 7 at Skyview

Sept. 14 Mark Morris

Sept. 21 at W.F. West

Sept. 28 Ft. Vancouver*

Oct. 5 at Kelso*

Oct. 12 Prairie*

Oct. 19 at Hud. Bay*

Oct. 26 at Mtn. View*

  • — 3A GSHL game

Home games played at Chieftain Stadium

Coming Sunday: Hudson’s Bay

Eli Evenson had a pretty good thing going early on last season for the Columbia River football team.

Through four games, he had eight receptions as a backup wide receiver. Not great numbers, but certainly a decent contribution to the Chieftains, who were about to start the stretch run of the season.

"I was pretty happy with the playing time I was getting, even though I wasn't starting," Evenson said.

But his season derailed because of what he called bad luck, spraining his ankle on fluke play in Week 4. Evenson missed the next two games, most of the third, and really was never the same physically.

Mentally and emotionally, he was with the Chieftains all the way, never giving in to the frustration.

Despite the pain, and even though he could barely run, he never missed a practice.

"You can't let your teammates know the injury is getting to your head," Evenson said. "You have to still give it your all."

In this case, that meant doing as much as he could, gingerly, on the practice field but within the confines of medical advice. He wanted to get back to the field as soon as possible, but he also did not want to just sit on the sideline at practice.

"To be a leader, you have to put forth a positive attitude," he said. "I'd by lying if I told you the injury didn't worry me, but I knew hard work would get me back by the end of the season."

Evenson did return, and he even caught one more pass to add to his season total. But really, the 2011 campaign just gave Evenson the boost to be better for his senior season in 2012.

Today, less than a week away from Columbia River's first game, Evenson is No. 1 on the depth chart.

One could say he started earning that spot last season. Columbia River coach John O'Rourke said he and the other coaches were impressed with Evenson's "persistence" after the injury.

"He never got discouraged," O'Rourke said. "He never allowed himself to be negative. He encouraged everybody to do their best."

"I like to think the best way to lead is by example," Evenson explained. "Keep a positive attitude, especially for the younger guys."

That's a fine lesson for the younger players, but right now, this season is all about the older guys, the seniors. Columbia River returns a quarterback -- Clayton Frank -- and running back -- Remick Kawawaki -- who have been starters since they were sophomores. Evenson said the summer was full of the seniors organizing team get-togethers without the coaches, in order to work out on down days.

"You look at who we have returning, with Clayton and Remick, they are both great leaders. We have a lot of trust in each other. That extra work is going to help us out," Evenson said. "I expect us to win league. We have a great system."

Individually speaking, Evenson wants to make the all-league team and catch 45 balls this season.

"If it doesn't happen, I'm not going to blame anyone. That's just a personal goal," he said.

Of course Eli Evenson would not blame anyone. That is not in his nature on the football field.

Evenson is all about staying positive, and hopefully for him this season, staying healthy.