Nolan Henry, a junior quarterback playing for the Union High School football team, practices runs through drills during Thursday's practice.
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Friday: Class 3A kickoff
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Connor Wong is a perfectionist, rarely satisfied with his own play, his own studies.
The worst grade the senior at Union has earned in high school has been an A-minus.
The A-minus bugs him.
"I still think I should have got an A," he said, referring to that advanced placement chemistry class.
He was not satisfied with his SAT score either, so this summer, he took a class focused on taking the SAT. His plan is to re-take the exam. So frustrated with his total, he refused to disclose his original score.
"It was something most kids would kill to have," Union football coach Cale Piland said.
Wong always wants to do better.
In football, that attitude turned Wong into one of the best offensive linemen in the county. Last year, he was voted to The Columbian's All-Region team, helping Union to the Class 4A state playoffs from his left tackle position.
That was quite the performance for a guy who only realized he was going to be playing varsity just a few months before the season started.
"Sophomore year, I was terrible," Wong said. "I felt I was terrible."
Not exactly. He was just not up to his own standard.
By the time spring drills rolled around toward the end of his sophomore year, Wong was surprised to learn he was chosen for varsity.
"Wow. They must think I can really improve," Wong recalled.
Later during drills, Piland complimented Wong's footwork. It might have been a simple "Good job!" but it left a lasting impression.
"The head coach came up to compliment me. That's really something," Wong said. "Maybe I can do really well."
That summer, things clicked for Wong, who then excelled during his junior season.
He expects his senior season to be his last in organized football. He wants to attend the University of Washington and study engineering. Which means this season is truly special for Wong.
The Titans understand Camas is the "favorite" in the 4A Greater St. Helens League, but they are not conceding anything. They, too, have a lot of returners, hoping to improve on last season. Wong said the goal to "bring the league title to Union," and then try to chase down a state title.
He is used to the underdog status, too. Not blessed with the typical dimensions of a left tackle, Wong uses his size to his advantage. At 5-foot-10, 210 pounds, he knows opponents overlook him, he knows they think Wong will be a pushover.
"You're wrong," Wong thinks to himself before he goes out and proves it.
A lineman since he began playing football in the seventh grade, Wong enjoys the physical nature of the position.
"I like having to grind it out, head to head," he said, preferring the run game over pass blocking.
Even after the coaches voted him to the 4A GSHL all-league team, Wong could see room for improvement. He enjoys watching video, being critiqued by his coaches.
Footwork can be better. Hands can be more inside. Blocks can be maintained longer.
Connor Wong is thrilled with the progress he has made since his sophomore season.
Thrilled, but not satisfied.
After all, he has another season of football, another year to improve.
Coach: Cale Piland.
2012 record: 7-4, 3-2 4A GSHL.
Key players: Nolan Henry, jr., qb; Leon Siofele, sr., rb/lb; Connor Wong, sr., ol; Tate Nelson, jr., ol/lb; Aaron Anderson, sr., ol; Zach Caston, jr., te/lb; Ethan Beniga, sr., db/wr; Jake Kronstad, sr., wr/db; Caleb Browning, jr., rb/db; Alex Berfanger, jr., rb/lb; Thomas Lampkin, jr., wr/db; Noah Campbell, jr., ol; Taala Letioa, sr., te/dl; Tyler Dionne, jr., wr/lb; Josh Lee, sr., ol.
Season outlook: With eight returning starters on offense and five on defense, the Titans are not going to concede anything to any team in the league. “The goal from season to season does not change a whole lot for us. We expect to compete for a league title,” Piland said. “Obviously there are some really good teams in this league. We’ll have to play really good football to do the things we want to do.”
Sept. 6 at Mtn. View
Sept. 13 Jesuit
Sept. 20 Peninsula
Sept. 27 at Bonney Lake
Oct. 4 Heritage*
Oct. 11 at B. Ground*
Oct. 18 at Camas*
Oct. 25 Evergreen*
Nov. 1 Skyview*
- — 4A GSHL game
Home games played at McKenzie Stadium, 2205 N.E. 138th Ave., Vancouver
For more on high school football, go to The Columbian’s high schools sports blog at: