Read about Ridgefield, Washougal and other teams in the Class 2A Greater St. Helens League at the bottom of this story.
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HOCKINSON -- Jess Krahn didn't figure to be the Hockinson quarterback when he entered high school in the fall of 2010.
Freshmen rarely get a chance to play a significant role in varsity football. And in eighth grade, when the sport he was most excited about was basketball, Krahn played middle linebacker and left tackle.
That explains why Krahn wore No. 44 as a freshman at Hockinson.
But the Hawks had a small group of seniors in 2010, and then-coach Rick Steele saw something in the strong-armed freshman.
So he gave Krahn a shot at quarterback. As Krahn remembers it, the first question his dad, Jay, asked Steele was: "How good is your offensive line?"
His first start at quarterback came in the Hawks third game of 2010, a loss to Tacoma Baptist. The first snap he took in a varsity game sailed over his head, forcing him to sprint back and cover the ball.
Three years later, it's full speed ahead. Krahn, now 6-foot-31/2 and 210 pounds, enters his senior season as a fourth-year starter and wears the more quarterback-like No. 11.
The strong arm that caught the attention of Steele three years ago is still there, but Krahn is even better in the huddle and off the field than he is as a big-play quarterback. As Hockinson transitions from nine years under Steele to first-year coach Brian Schott, Krahn's role as a leader among a focused group of seniors is important.
"He's the guy I call on if I need something done," Schott said, explaining that when Krahn asks, players show up whether for a fund-raising project or football.
"That's going to transfer onto the field" because the coach trusts the quarterback to understand what needs to get done, Schott said.
The fact that Krahn took on the challenge of playing quarterback as a freshman speaks to his confidence and competitiveness.
But there are better examples of his drive off the field. Involved in scouting since the first grade, Krahn is about to become an Eagle scout. His final project is building a canopy for the concession stand at the Hockinson High football field. His has also long been involved in community service projects through Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Brush Prairie.
Krahn was among the Clark County players to attend the U.S. Army National Combine in January, a gathering of 500 of the nations top football prospects in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to Hockinson team activities, his offseason included several quarterback camps at colleges.
He's played three seasons of varsity football -- he threw for about 1,820 yards 15 touchdowns as a junior -- but Krahn understands he still has a lot to learn.
"People don't realize it, but football is such an intellectual sport," Krahn said. "Until you get into the higher levels of the game, you don't understand that."
Schott said a willingness to learn is one reason Krahn has a high ceiling.
"He still has a lot of development to do," Schott said. "But the nice thing is he wants to get better, he wants to push himself."
Krahn said he is especially thankful for the opportunities to make friends around the county, and to attend a variety of football camps.
But there is one part of his high school football experience he'd like to change. He'd love to get another shot at linebacker.
"Not being able to play any other positions, I've taken a lot of grief from teammates about that," Krahn said with a smile.
Schott said Krahn could play a lot of positions, and that defensive coaches occasionally suggest it. But as the quarterback for a team with big dreams, a new scheme and new terminology to master, the Hawks need their quarterback to be fit and focused.
Krahn hasn't finalized his college plans, but said thoughts of his future will wait until his senior season is over.
"I'm focusing on my team. What's going to make me successful is if my team is successful."
Coach: Brian Schott, 1st season.
2012 record: 6-4, 3-2 2A GSHL.
Key players: Jess Krahn, sr. qb; Nick Barclay, sr. wr/db; Cameron Loos, so., te/de; Curt Baker, sr, rb/ss; Asten Johnsen, jr., rb/wr/db; Bobby Scott, sr., ot/dt; Louden Seekins, sr., fb/lb; Josh Carter, jr., te/de; Josh Carlson, sr., c/dt; Tommy Harshaw, jr., rb/db.
Season outlook: The Hawks' 10th football season will be their first without Rick Steele as coach. But Hockinson is focusing on a different first in 2013: winning a playoff game. A close-knit group of seniors -- including fourth-year players QB Jess Krahn and WR/DB Nick Barclay -- means the Hawks might push the Longview schools in the GSHL, according to new coach Brian Schott, whose résumé includes assistant coaching stints at Mountain View and Evergreen.
Sept. 6 Elma
Sept. 13 Fort Vancouver
Sept. 20 Hudson's Bay
Sept. 27 at River Ridge
Oct. 4 Ridgefield*
Oct. 11 at Mark Morris*
Oct. 18 at R.A. Long*
Oct. 25 Aberdeen*
Nov. 1 at Washougal*
- -- 2A GSHL game
Home games played at Hockinson HS
Coach: Dan Andersen, 2nd season.
2012 record: 6-4, 3-2 2A GSHL.
Key players: Dalton Ries, sr., wr/pk; Garrett Behrman, sr. og/dl; Talon Couch, sr., OT; Cody Duncan, jr., C/DE; Jonah Roberts, jr., qb.
Season outlook: Coming off their best season playing as a Class 2A school, the Spudders must replace a significant number of starters. Ten of 11 starters on offense, and eight on defense, were seniors in 2012 as Ridgefield finished 6-4 and made it to the crossover playoff round.
Second-year coach Dan Andersen said this could be a rebuilding season. As one of the smallest 2A schools in the state, the Spudders rely on many players to play both offense and defense.
Andersen said the key is preparation, conditioning, and schemes that play to the strengths of the Spudders.
Sept. 6 Rochester
Sept. 13 at Kalama
Sept. 20 River Ridge
Sept. 27 at Hudson's Bay
Oct. 4 at Hockinson*
Oct. 11 at Washougal*
Oct. 18 Mark Morris*
Oct. 25 R.A. Long*
Nov. 1 at Aberdeen*
- -- 2A GSHL game
Home games played at Ridgefield HS
Coach: Bob Jacobs, 4th season.
2012 record: 3-6, 0-5 2A GSHL.
Key players: Chase Duey, sr., qb/lb; Bobby Jacobs, sr., rb/db; Bailey Burke, jr., og/dl; Christian Edmundson, sr., ot/dl; Luke Hirsche, sr., te/de; Adam Thomas, sr., wr/db; Will Peterson, sr., de; Brandon Castiel, sr., olb; Michael Stevenson, sr., fb; Junior Hobert, so., wr/db.
Season outlook: A veteran offensive line -- four seniors and two juniors -- provides reason for optimism after injuries to key players in 2012 led to disappointment. Washougal returns seven veterans on each side of the ball, including QB Chase Duey. Senior Bobby Jacobs is one of the top returning backs in the area. New artificial turf at Fishback Stadium should make their home field safer and more fun to play on.
Sept. 6 Hudson's Bay
Sept. 13 Tenino
Sept. 20 at Fort Vanc.
Sept. 27 at Rainier (Ore.)
Oct. 4 at R.A. Long*
Oct. 11 Ridgefield*
Oct. 18 Aberdeen*
Oct. 25 at Mark Morris*
Nov. 1 Hockinson*
- -- 2A GSHL game
Home games played at Washougal HS
Rest of 2A GSHL
Aberdeen: The Bobcats expect to be improved. Experience on the line includes seniors Kaleb Levao and Chase Johnson, and senior Veek Cheema is a veteran quarterback. Sophomore Joel Dublanko (RB/LB) could have a breakout season.Mark Morris: At 80 players, Mark Morris again has the deepest roster in the 2A GSHL. Among the more experienced Monarchs are seniors Keigan Baker (RB/S), Hayden Tapani (DB), and Ben Harrison (OL/DL).
R.A. Long: Senior third-year QB Ryan Peerboom is among a solid veteran core that has the Lumberjacks eyeing a GSHL title run. Jacob Yordy (RB/DE) is a fourth-year starter. Third-year starters include Mitch Moe (OL/LB) and Skylen O'Brien (OL/DL).
For more on high school football, go to The Columbian's high schools sports blog at:
Coming Friday: 1A Trico League