Undersized lineman a center of success at Camas

Senior plays a big role for the Papermakers

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

This was supposed to be somebody else's position.

Troy Patterson did not care.

Last spring, and into the summer, the Camas football coaches had a question mark regarding the offensive line.

Patterson was the answer.

It took months, but the coaches eventually were convinced.

At first, they did not really want Patterson as their starting center. Now, they cannot imagine their season without him.

A year ago, Patterson was an undersized, back-up tackle who did not get on the field at all during Camas' state semifinal loss to O'Dea in the Tacoma Dome.

The Papermakers are back in the dome this week for the semifinals. This time, as a Class 4A program. This time, with Patterson as the lone senior starting offensive linemen. This time, with an undersized center who was voted by the coaches to the first-team offensive line in the 4A Greater St. Helens League.

"It was my first time playing center. I was a little unsure of myself," Patterson said. "If you put all your heart into it, you can do it."

Patterson never dreamed he'd be playing offense this year. There were just too many guys on the line in front of him on the depth chart, too many bigger and stronger guys.

"That wasn't going to stop me from working my butt off," said Patterson, who is listed at 6-2, 215 pounds but said he is actually 186 pounds.

While he was getting the most out of his body in the weight room, a series of

events led to fewer offensive linemen on the team. All of a sudden, there was that void at center.

Patterson jumped at the opportunity, even if Camas coach Jon Eagle was not sold on the idea.

"I kept trying to replace him," Eagle said. "I thought he was undersized for the position."

It took the opinion of another coach to open Eagle's eyes. The Papermakers were at team camp in Corvallis when the Oregon State offensive line Mike Cavanaugh coach told Eagle that out of every player there, he was most impressed with Patterson.

From that day forward, Eagle said, the Papermakers had their center.

"We rode his back and leadership to where we are today," Eagle said.

That would be the final four. Camas takes on defending champion Skyline of Sammamish at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Tacoma Dome.

In early November, Patterson learned of the all-league voting.

"It made me feel like I really was 215 pounds," he said. "It made me want to prove them right."

While there are very few statistics to measure an individual offensive lineman's performance, here are some numbers that show what the unit as a whole has accomplished in this playoff run.

• 170 points in three games

• 889 yards rushing (296.3 per game)

• 506 yards passing

• 1,395 total yards (465 per game)

Patterson credits his team's defense for improving his skills at center. When learning the position, he said he would call out Camas' best defensive linemen in practice to go against them.

"They'd kick my butt, but I was getting better," he said. "Eventually, I could kick their butts.

"Now I feel like this is what I should have been playing all along."

Patterson said he never felt really comfortable in the role until about Week 3 of the season.

"I was starting to get there. 'Yeah, I just blocked that guy, and he is 280 pounds,' " Patterson recalled from that win over Auburn Mountainview.

Then he knew he had it for sure by Week 5, the team's victory over Skyview. The Papermakers rushed for 424 yards that night, scoring the last four touchdowns in a 42-17 victory.

His story of perseverance can be inspiring, but he laughs when asked if his teammates consider him a leader. They do not look up to him at all.

"They all look down at me," he said with a grin. "I don't look like a threat, so they don't listen to me."

Seriously, he said, all the linemen treat each other with respect, see each other as equals. Even if some are built a little taller and bigger than Patterson.

Because of his size, Patterson understands it is unlikely he will play football in college. He hopes to be an engineer. He might join the ROTC. For now, he appreciates every moment on the football field.

"I'm taking in every second of this," he said. "If you don't put everything into every practice, every game, you'll just have regrets and it will haunt you. I don't want that at all."

From a back-up as a junior to first-team all league for an undefeated team. From a guy no one wanted at center to the center of attention.

Can't imagine Troy Patterson will have any regrets from his final season of football with the Camas Papermakers.