Football preview: Evergreen Plainsmen working to win

Senior Brody Bagnall says fitness is key to changing team's fortune

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Class 4A previews

Aug. 24: Camas

Aug. 25: Union

TODAY: Evergreen

Tuesday: Heritage

Wednesday: Battle Ground

Thursday: Skyview

Friday: Class 3A kickoff

Evergreen linebacker Brody Bagnall has no problem speaking his mind.

"I want to go Division I," the senior said. "People look at me like I'm crazy when I say that, but that's the goal."

A lot of people have bewildered looks, as well, when Bagnall and the Plainsmen talk about their goal this year in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League.

"Win league," Bagnall said.

The Plainsmen have won a combined four games the past three seasons, two in league play.

These Plainsmen say so what.

"It's possible because the mentality has changed and we can outwork anybody," Bagnall said. "There are some players on every team who do not want to work. Everybody on our team wants to work hard. That's the difference."

The excitement at Evergreen can be directly attributed to new coach Don Johnson Jr. After all, he has experience in this kind of work. Johnson took over at Milwaukie (Ore.) High School last year, leading the Mustangs to a 7-3 campaign -- six more wins than the previous season.

Of course, coaches need athletes who are willing to commit. That is where Bagnall comes in for the Plainsmen. He gained 30 pounds of muscle in the weight room this offseason, now measuring at 6-3, 230 pounds.

"He's one of the hardest working kids I've ever coached," Johnson said. "He blew up because of hard work and the bad taste of losing. Brody is a competitor."

Bagnall said he could not accept being on the wrong end of the scoreboard so many times.

"It's tough. I never lost before coming to high school," he said. "When you're not used to losing, and you see people with the losing mentality, it's ridiculous. In my background, you find a way to win. I've never been a loser in my life."

The Plainsmen had more than 90 players out for the program in the first week of practice. Attitudes are changing.

If Bagnall and the rest of the seniors are going to turn this thing around, they will need all the Plainsmen to be strong. Bagnall is impressed with his teammates and their summer workouts

"All the young kids, they just work hard. They're fueled," Bagnall said. "They're ready."

That first day of practice was filled with buzz, optimism.

"It's insane. It's crazy," Bagnall said. "We're practicing at a college level. I've been going to college practices this summer. Our linebacker drills, we do the same things Portland State does."

So if Bagnall reaches his personal goal, he will be ready for a Division I practice. He acknowledges he is late to the recruiting process, but with his new physical strength, and his grades -- a 3.8 GPA -- he believes in himself.

Bagnall credits his parents, Toni and Mark, for his success in class.

"It's just the way I was raised, I guess," he said. "They pushed it. They did not enforce harsh rules. They just encouraged it along the way. That's what got me here."

Bagnall is working to get Evergreen football to a new level. He and his teammates know there are doubters.

"It's pretty funny. People look at us and laugh," Bagnall said. "They don't know anything we're doing."

Bagnall believes the Plainsmen are doing the things that will one day give them the last laugh.

Evergreen Plainsmen

Coach: Don Johnson Jr.

2012 record: 3-6, 1-4 4A GSHL.

Key players: Justin Straup, sr., rb; Kyle Aplin, sr., ol; Brody Bagnall, sr., lb; Brady Weir, sr., wr; Arthur Robinson, sr., dl; Austin Wright, jr., dl; Jacob Green, so., lb; Rey Green, so, rb; Chris Lobaugh, sr., ol; Wyatt Walton, sr., ol; Kobey Eaton, jr., qb; Brandon Bea, so., qb; D.J. Roberts, so., lb; Anthony Johnson, jr., db; Connor Finnegan, jr., k; Justice Murphy, jr., athlete.

Season outlook: New coach Don Johnson does not lack confidence. He expects this team to compete for a league title. That will not be an easy task, but here is a sign of progress: The number of players out is about double from last season. Evergreen is a big school, full of athletes, and the new coach believes he has found several gems in guys who were not playing in previous seasons.

2013 SCHEDULE

Sept. 6 at Ft. Vanc.

Sept. 13 Mtn. View

Sept. 20 at Prairie

Sept. 27 Kelso

Oct. 4 at B. Ground*

Oct. 11 Camas*

Oct. 18 Skyview*

Oct. 25 at Union*

Nov. 1 Heritage -- 4A GSHL game

Home games played at McKenzie Stadium

For more on high school football, go to The Columbian's high schools sports blog at:

blogs.columbian.com/high-school-sports

Coming Tuesday: Heritage