Leon Siofele said it is an honor to carry the football as often as he does for the Union Titans.
To him, it means he has earned the respect of his teammates. After all, they keep blocking for him, knowing he will not take a play off, knowing he will not be brought down easily by opposing defenses.
“Every time I have a big play, I’m always thanking them, always encouraging them,” Siofele said. “They work hard. Not a lot of people recognize that.”
Perhaps that is because everyone is recognizing Siofele’s game.
A senior running back at Union, Siofele has rushed for 1,331 yards through six games, helping the Titans to a 5-1 record as they prepare to take on undefeated and top-ranked Camas tonight. Nobody else in Clark County 11-man football has broke the 1,000-yard mark this season. Siofele also leads the area with 14 rushing touchdowns.
Last week, Siofele got 32 touches, carrying the ball a season-high 30 times for 261 yards and three touchdowns and catching two balls for 41 more yards and a touchdown.
“The coach is doing what he thinks is best, and I’m just trying to produce,” Siofele said, not about to complain about the workload given to him by coach Cale Piland.
Siofele will answer the call no matter how much it takes to help the Titans.
“Piland is a very smart coach,” Siofele said. “He knows what he’s doing. I put all my faith in his coaching.”
The bottom line is success for Union.
There are a couple theories as to how to beat Camas on Friday. One is Siofele will have to keep doing Siofele things, to keep Camas’ offense off the field. However, if the Camas defense is designed to stuff Siofele, perhaps that will open up the Union passing game. Siofele said it won’t bother him if his touches are down if it helps the team succeed.
“If we limit turnovers — if we don’t have turnovers — we have a high chance of winning this game,” Siofele said.
Lost in the buzz of this big Class 4A Greater St. Helens League battle is this is just Week 7. That might seem like it’s near the season’s end, but both Camas and Union hope it is just mid-season. Both teams have their sights set on long playoff runs. Friday night will go a long way toward a league title, but it will not make or break anyone’s season.
“We had a good season last year, but it didn’t end how I wanted it to end,” Siofele said, noting the Week 11 loss in the first round of the Class 4A state playoffs. “I have a state title in mind. My whole mindset is toward that. I at least want to make it farther in the playoffs if not the state finals.”
That dedication started before last season ended when Siofele gave up basketball to focus on weight training in the winter.
“I played basketball all my life, but football is where my heart is,” Siofele said.
He continued with his throwing events in track and field in the spring, but pretty much everything he did was in anticipation for this football season.
“We’ve always known Leon has had an abundance of potential. He had a solid year for us last year,” Piland said. “His offseason commitment to getting bigger, faster, stronger, was at a really high level. It was a different offseason for him than he’s ever had, and the results speak for themselves.”
About the only people who have not noticed Siofele are college coaches. Or, if they have, they are keeping it a secret. Siofele, also a starting linebacker for the Titans, wants to play college football. At 5-foot-10, 210 pounds with sneaky speed, he knows he can make it.
So far, though, not a peep from colleges.
“I’m still waiting,” he said, adding that he is not frustrated. Instead, he is more driven.
“I’m just going to keep striving to be better each and every game and just see what happens,” Siofele said. “I accept this as a challenge. I’m going to keep pushing on, then try to get more. I’m never satisfied.”