Heritage football preview: Lineman Leads the Way

Monzon sets new example for Heritage football team

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

It was the end of the second of two practices on the day.

The Heritage football players were looking forward to a deserved break, to go home or hang out with friends. Relax, recover, and prepare for the next day's work.

Only, the Timberwolves weren't quite done just yet.

Heritage Timberwolves

Coach: Chuck Hawthorne.

2013 record: 2-7, 0-5 4A GSHL.

Key players: Jeremiah Kelly, sr., te/lb; Zack Monzon, sr., ol/dl; Kenese Peneueta, sr., wr/lb; Mason Perry, sr., ol; Jarod Luedecker, sr., wr/db; Wyatt Luedecker, sr., wr/db; Race Bynum, jr., wr/db; Nick Somboun, jr., wr/db; Kalani Umiamaka, jr., rb/db; Lafi Sosene, jr., rb/db; Tyler Van Buskirk, jr., qb.

Season outlook: Strange start to the year as former head coach resigned during spring drills. Chuck Hawthorne took over, and he is trying to change the culture. The football team has not had a winning regular season since 2008.

“Hopefully we work hard enough that we get a chance to reap some benefits,” he said.

2014 SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Prairie

Sept. 12 Hudson’s Bay

Sept. 19 at Evergreen*

Sept. 26 at Skyview*

Oct. 3 Battle Ground*

Oct. 10 Union*

Oct. 17 at Mtn View*

Oct. 24 at Kelso

Oct. 31 Camas*

  • -- 4A GSHL game

Home games played at McKenzie Stadium

Pads on a blocking sled that were about 50 yards away from the team's final huddle had to be secured.

Maybe on some other football team, that would have been the job of juniors or sophomores. Heck, if there were any freshmen, surely they would have to do that kind of stuff.

Instead, senior offensive lineman Zack Monzon, the only Heritage football player to make the first team for the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League last season, ran to the sled. Soon, others looked around to see what they could pick up before leaving campus.

Monzon, in fact, became the ringleader of sorts, making sure all the gear was stored away properly. He was one of the last players off the field

It is about responsibility at Heritage these days, Monzon said.

And it is about team.

"I just like to get stuff away," Monzon said. "It was just an instinct."

Never would he think it should be an underclassmen's job.

"It's not a specific class. It's a whole team effort," Monzon said. "No one really picks on underclassmen here, which is great."

It was not always like that. Monzon said it got "pretty bad" around Heritage when he was a freshman and sophomore.

Now a team leader, he said the players are all about positive reinforcement.

"I don't see anyone putting anybody down," Monzon said. "It's always, 'Good job.' Or, 'You did great.' If I see a teammate doing something wrong, it's 'Hey, do you need help?' I'm trying to help with whatever they need help with."

Monzon said building team chemistry is a priority under new head coach Chuck Hawthorne, who took over the program in the spring after Jack Hathaway resigned.

Now, Monzon wants to be one of the seniors who can look back and say he was part of a big, positive change at Heritage. The Timberwolves have struggled on the field in recent years, going 2-7 in each of the past two seasons. Monzon said Hawthorne is strict, and that can only help the Timberwolves with accountability.

Monzon has some experience with being accountable. Now at 6-4, 285 and always big for his age, he acknowledged he did not always try to get the most out of his athletic abilities.

"My sophomore year, I was really lazy," he said.

After that season, he dedicated himself to the game, and all that the game requires: Weight training. Fitness. Focus.

"Maybe I could make something of myself," he recalled thinking. "I think I can make something out of football.

"I was doing football just because. Now I'm doing football to try to get somewhere."

He has the size and strength to play college football, and when he gets there, he will have new teammates to share some tall tales.

Monzon was born without the tip of his ring finger on his left hand. His hands look tough, just like a lineman's hands, and that stub makes him look even tougher.

"It's fun making up stories about it," Monzon said. "Crazy things, like I fought a bear. The bear bit off my finger. I got angry, and I killed the bear."

Back to reality, Monzon is ready for any challenge.

Helping Heritage get back to competitive football is no tall tale. Zack Monzon believes that will happen this season.