Union football preview: Last in Line of Nelsons

Tate Nelson follows in footsteps of his brothers

By Paul Valencia, Columbian High School Sports Reporter

Published:

 

Coach: Gary McGarvie.

2013 record: 8-3, 4-1 4A GSHL.

Key players: Nolan Henry, sr., qb; Tate Nelson, sr., old/dl; Tyler Dion sr., wr/lb; Caleb Browning sr., rb/lb; Zach Caston, sr., te/lb; Alex Berfanger, sr., rb/lb; Zach Lamirata, sr., wr/lb; Kyle Vermerlen, sr., lb; Noah Campbell, sr., ol/dl; Gabe Mullins, sr., wr/db; Jack Bauer, sr., rb/db; David Buehler, sr., ol/dl.

Season outlook: New head coach Gary McGarvie is taking over a group that has the talent to play deep into November, maybe even December. The Titans have made the playoffs every year since 2008, but they have not had a home playoff game since 2011. "We expect to have some home playoff games," McGarvie said. Plural.

2014 SCHEDULE

Sept. 6 at Federal Way

Sept. 12 at Curtis

Sept. 19 Mtn View*

Sept. 26 Spanaway Lake

Oct. 3 at Evergreen*

Oct. 10 at Heritage*

Oct. 17 Camas*

Oct. 24 Battle Ground*

Oct. 31 at Skyview*

  • -- 4A GSHL game

Home games played at McKenzie Stadium

The Nelson name is synonymous with Union football.

Since Union High School opened in 2007, there has been a Nelson brother helping the Titans to a winning season. Every season.

Tate Nelson is ready for his final year, hoping to lead the Titans on a long November run in the playoffs, hoping to share the same experiences that his older brothers had at Union.

Coach: Gary McGarvie.

2013 record: 8-3, 4-1 4A GSHL.

Key players: Nolan Henry, sr., qb; Tate Nelson, sr., old/dl; Tyler Dion sr., wr/lb; Caleb Browning sr., rb/lb; Zach Caston, sr., te/lb; Alex Berfanger, sr., rb/lb; Zach Lamirata, sr., wr/lb; Kyle Vermerlen, sr., lb; Noah Campbell, sr., ol/dl; Gabe Mullins, sr., wr/db; Jack Bauer, sr., rb/db; David Buehler, sr., ol/dl.

Season outlook: New head coach Gary McGarvie is taking over a group that has the talent to play deep into November, maybe even December. The Titans have made the playoffs every year since 2008, but they have not had a home playoff game since 2011. “We expect to have some home playoff games,” McGarvie said. Plural.

2014 SCHEDULE

Sept. 6 at Federal Way

Sept. 12 at Curtis

Sept. 19 Mtn View*

Sept. 26 Spanaway Lake

Oct. 3 at Evergreen*

Oct. 10 at Heritage*

Oct. 17 Camas*

Oct. 24 Battle Ground*

Oct. 31 at Skyview*

  • — 4A GSHL game

Home games played at McKenzie Stadium

Then, after the season, high school football will be over for the Nelson family. An end of an era.

“It’s a lot to live up to,” Tate Nelson said. “My brothers made it to the Tacoma Dome.”

Taylor Nelson was The Columbian’s All-Region football player of the year in 2008 and 2009. The Titans made it to the state championship game in 2008 and then the semifinals in 2009.

Tanner Nelson, who was a sophomore on that 2009 team, was voted the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League’s defensive player of the year in 2011.

“It was awesome,” Tate said, growing up with those two to look up to every fall. Tate was in the seventh grade when Taylor and Tanner played on the same team.

“It was better watching them than watching the NFL,” Tate recalled.

Now, Tate is dominating. He made the all-region team as a junior linebacker, and he was voted second team all league as an offensive lineman.

He credits his family for his football skills.

“Seeing how good they were inspired me to keep working hard to get better, to someday, hopefully, be at their level,” Tate Nelson said. “I used to think there is no way I could ever play like them. It’s crazy to actually be doing it now.”

Tate Nelson stands 6 feet, 2 inches and weights 245 pounds. Yet, he plays even bigger. At a camp at Central Washington University this summer, Nelson took on a University of Oregon recruit. Nelson pancaked blocked him three plays in a row. Central offered Nelson that week.

He is so good in the trenches that Union coaches are keeping him there on both sides of the ball this season. Nelson is expected to start as an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman.

“He’s a dude,” said Union coach Gary McGarvie, who took over the program from Cale Piland in the spring but has been an assistant with the Titans since Union’s beginning.

Nelson also snaps for extra points and field goals, but he will get his breathers during the other special teams. Not that he is concerned about his conditioning. Nelson has played both ways on varsity since his sophomore year. He said if players go all out every day, they should be in shape to play a full football game.

“It’s all about going 100 percent in practice. That gets your endurance up,” Nelson explained.

On days when it is more difficult to get in the mindset to work, Nelson just thinkgs about all those around him.

“A lot of it is just the energy of being with your teammates. There is so much adrenaline going,” Nelson said. “You’re working hard the entire offseason to give it everything you’ve got. And you know everyone else has been working, too. That’s where you have to draw from, that brotherhood.”

That is another family trait.

“It’s always fun to coach a Nelson,” McGarvie said. “They’re coachable, and they’re amazing kids. You don’t have to worry about their effort.”

The coach just wishes there were more brothers.

“This is our last Nelson, and that’s not a good thing for the Titans,” McGarvie said. “We like it when there is a Nelson in our program.”

So the Titans will try to make the best of what time they have left with this football family.

The first goal is a league title, something that has not happened at Union since that 2009 season. Nelson said this squad will not be satisfied with just that, though. The Titans expect another long playoff run.

They want to put off this end of an era for as long as they can.

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