Football Preview: At Battle Ground, a no cruising zone

Leader of defense won't let his Tigers teammates settle

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

Class 4A previews

Aug. 24: Camas

Aug. 25: Union

Aug. 26: Evergreen

Aug. 27: Heritage

TODAY: Battle Ground

Thursday: Skyview

Friday: Class 3A kickoff

BATTLE GROUND -- Josh Lemar was feeling pretty good about his football talent. He had earned a lot of playing time as a sophomore for the Battle Ground Tigers, even getting a few starts.

He was cruising.

That was the problem, though.

Elite football players cannot cruise, cannot settle for just doing the bare minimum.

The best are determined to get better.

It took a humbling experience for Lemar to realize what had happened. Expecting to start, Lemar was on the sideline as the Tigers opened Week 1 of the 2012 season.

Rather than whine or complain, Lemar did a little bit of soul searching. Had he done enough? Did he earn a starting position through his work in the offseason? The answers, he acknowledged, were no and no.

Then he promised himself he would never have to answer no to any of those questions again.

"It changed during practice the next week," Lemar said. "I was just more focused and dedicated. I regretted everything I had done, of not working, before then."

Since that moment, about 50 weeks ago, Lemar has become the standard for work ethic for Battle Ground football. He regained his starting spot as a safety last season and this year he also wants to be a 1,000-yard receiver on offense.

"He's the leader of the defense," Battle Ground coach Larry Peck said. "He's vocal. He's got the tenacity to attack his keys and hit people, and he worked his butt off in the offseason. He was not like this years ago. He changed dramatically and has become the role model."

The Tigers held speed and strength training two times a day during the summer. Players were expected to attend one session. Lemar made it a habit to be there for both sessions.

"It's my senior year. I want to give it my all, and I want to be there for my teammates," said Lemar, who is 6-1, 170 pounds.

Lemar has played basketball all of his athletic life and did not start football until he was a freshman. He still plays basketball for the Tigers, but football is now his top priority. He returned to football drills the day after basketball season ended this past winter.

There are team goals to achieve, individual goals to strive for this season.

"We've grown a lot," Lemar said. "My freshman year (varsity) was 1-8. The next year, things started to change. You could tell in the locker room. People were getting excited."

The Tigers won four games in 2011, then went 5-4 -- the first winning record for Battle Ground since 2003 -- last season. Now the goal is to be one of three teams that make the playoffs.

Lemar also wants to get the all-league spot from his safety position, and on offense, he wants to be the go-to receiver. Never mind he has barely played the receiver position.

"The last two years, I didn't know any routes. I was the kid who was lost out there," Lemar said. "But it clicked for me this summer. I studied two hours every night at camp."

When something clicks for Lemar, it really clicks.

Lemar knew that he did not do enough for himself, or for the Tigers, last summer.

This season, he will have no regrets. He has earned his position as a leader of this team.

Battle Ground Tigers

Coach: Larry Peck.

2012 record: 5-4, 1-4 4A GSHL.

Key players: Josh Lemar, sr., db/wr; Colston Vukanovich, sr., qb; Hayden Humphrey, sr., db/wr; Justin Smalley, sr., rb/lb; Colby Cahoon, sr., lb/wr; Kaiden Grotte, sr., lb/wr; Chris Waters, jr, db/athlete; Nic Manuel, jr, qb/db; Parker Randle, jr., db/wr; Caleb Johnson, jr., ol/dl; Garret Dean jr., ol/dl; John Smarr, sr., lb/rb; Sheldon Michalios, sr., ol/dl; Billy Oeck, sr., ol/dl; Winston Matz, sr., ol/dl.

Season outlook: The Tigers hope to continue moving forward after improving their win totals in each of the past two seasons. The program is stronger than in 2011, but this year’s team is unproven. The Tigers lost a lot to graduation. “As far as athletes, we have athletes across the board,” Peck said. “But we have to find the leadership.” The goal, he said, is to fight for a playoff spot, the next step in the process.

2013 SCHEDULE

Sept. 6 R.A. Long

Sept. 13 Prairie

Sept. 20 at Decatur

Sept. 27 Auburn-Mtnview

Oct. 4 Evergreen*

Oct. 11 Union*

Oct. 18 at Heritage*

Oct. 25 at Skyview*

Nov. 1 Camas*

  • — 4A GSHL game

Home games played at District Stadium

For more on high school football, go to The Columbian’s high schools sports blog at: blogs.columbian.com/high-school-sports