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Gaze upon this year's Mountain View football team and you won't see a bunch of solitary peaks.
It's more like a united range.
The 23 seniors on Mountain View's roster have been through their share of pinnacles and valleys. They enter this Class 3A Greater St. Helens League season a battle-tested yet humble group.
There's no better standard-bearer for this team than running back/linebacker Avi Bharth. Want to get the senior to clam up? Just ask him to talk about himself.
"My expectation is for this team to be a team," Bharth said. "Everyone should want to be great and to be great together. Not for any individual to want to shine, but for the team's success. If I have a higher leadership role, then that's what happens. But the team is a team."
Bharth's football journey hasn't been glamorous. He hasn't been a varsity starter prior to this year. But his maturation as a football player and a person has earned him the respect of coach Adam Mathieson.
"I remember Avi sitting in my office last winter." Mathieson said. "He said, 'I get it now. I got a B on a test and it irritated me. I missed a workout and it irritated me.' I told him 'You're starting to get what it takes to be great. You can't put in half effort in chemistry class and then put in full effort in football.'"
This year's team returns nine senior starters on offense, with sophomore center Chris Mitchell and junior quarterback Lex Reese being the only newcomers.
The Thunder seniors have shared many wins. Mountain View is 13-4 in GSHL play since 2010, but has fallen short of winning the league title each year.
For a time, the seniors also thought they would play this season under a new football coach. Mathieson resigned temporarily during the offseason, but returned after making a commitment to coach in a more balanced way that left him time for family and health.
"They've been through a lot together the last four years," Mathieson said. "It means a lot that there are so many left. They're really going to be defined by their strength in numbers. There's not one or two kids who you'd say 'that kid is elite.' We have 20-some kids who get what it means to be committed to their school and committed to their teammates."
Bharth said preparation is the key to whether this team is successful this season.
"If you have a broken football team, it may work in practice but it doesn't work on Friday nights," Bharth said. "Everything that we stand for involves being humble, preparing and working hard."
When asked what will determine success for his team, Mathieson takes a more long-term view.
"It's 2013, so call me in 2033," Mathieson said. "If they're great young men, great fathers and great leaders in their community, then we will have been successful."
Mountain View Thunder
Coach: Adam Mathieson
2012 record: 5-5, 3-2 3A GSHL.
Key players: Phillip Rudolph, sr., ol/dl; Nicholas Wright, sr., rb/db; Carl Falls, sr., rb/db; Austin Mace, sr., rb/db; Eddie Richardson, sr., rb/lb; Avi Bharth, sr., rb/lb; Jose Leyva, sr., wr/db; Nick Wilmoth, sr., ol/dl; Kade Burns, sr., ol/dl; Nolan Biggs, sr., wr/db; Grant Hardy, sr., ol/dl; Luc LeVasseur, sr., ol/dl; Brock Busch, sr. lb; Reese Yenney, sr. lb;
Season outlook: The Thunder were in the hunt for the league title to the very end last season. This year, the senior-laden group hopes to reach the top. The running game was a strength last season -- the Thunder amassed 483 rushing yards in a 49-21 win over Prairie.
Also a strength is Mountain View's defense, which held league champion Columbia River and Kelso to 15 and 14 points, respectively.
Sept. 6 Union
Sept. 13 at Evergreen
Sept. 20 Bonney Lake
Sept. 27 at Peninsula
Oct. 4 Prairie*
Oct. 11 at Fort Vanc.*
Oct. 18 at Hudson's Bay*
Oct. 25 Kelso*
Nov. 1 at Col. River*
- -- 3A GSHL game
Home games played at McKenzie Stadium
Coach: Steve Amrine.
2012 record: 9-2, 4-1 3A GSHL.
Key players: Chauncey Goudy, sr., rb; Somit Chhim, sr., wr/db; Garrett Fix, sr., ol; Chris Helgerson, sr., ol; Kalob Rahn, sr., ol/dl; Lloyd Melone sr., lb; Matt Hellem, sr., db.
Season outlook: According to our colleagues at The Daily News in Longview: The Hilanders return enough talent and experience to expect to be in the playoff mix. However, they did graduate a strong senior class and these players are learning a new system under a new coach.
For more on high school football, go to The Columbian's high schools sports blog at:
Coming Thursday: 2A GSHL