Prairie football preview: Pena in pursuit of perfection

Prairie linebacker strives for his best in all he does on and off field

By Paul Valencia, Columbian High School Sports Reporter

Published:

 

Justin Pena

Coach: Terry Hyde.

2013 record: 4-5, 2-3 3A GSHL.

Key players: Justin Pena, sr., rb/lb; Adam Ayala, sr., ol/dl; Denzel Hamiel, sr., qb/rb/db; Jordan Marti, sr., rb/lb; Zane Anglin, so., ol/dl; Eric Creamer, jr., rb/db; Bryson Pena, so., rb/lb; Trace Maier, so., ol/dl; Kody Keyt, jr., wr/db; Reuvim Poomarenko, jr., wr/db.

Season outlook: Patience. Coach Terry Hyde is preaching patience with this young squad. "We are going to grow. And there is a lot of talent,' Hyde said. And plenty of optimism, too. It might take a couple of weeks to get in the flow, but the Falcons believe they have the skill to finish in the top two in the four-team league.

2014 SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 at Heritage

Sept. 12 Hockinson

Sept. 19 at Kelso*

Sept. 26 Fort Van.*

Oct. 3 at M. Morris

Oct. 10 R.A. Long

Oct. 17 At WF West

Oct. 24 at Col. River*

Oct. 31 Battle Ground

  • -- 3A GSHL game

Home games played at District Stadium

For more on high school football, go to The Columbian's high schools sports blog at:

blogs.columbian.com/high-school-sports

Coming Thursday:

Class 2A, 1A

Coach: Terry Hyde.

2013 record: 4-5, 2-3 3A GSHL.

Key players: Justin Pena, sr., rb/lb; Adam Ayala, sr., ol/dl; Denzel Hamiel, sr., qb/rb/db; Jordan Marti, sr., rb/lb; Zane Anglin, so., ol/dl; Eric Creamer, jr., rb/db; Bryson Pena, so., rb/lb; Trace Maier, so., ol/dl; Kody Keyt, jr., wr/db; Reuvim Poomarenko, jr., wr/db.

Season outlook: Patience. Coach Terry Hyde is preaching patience with this young squad. “We are going to grow. And there is a lot of talent,’ Hyde said. And plenty of optimism, too. It might take a couple of weeks to get in the flow, but the Falcons believe they have the skill to finish in the top two in the four-team league.

2014 SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 at Heritage

Sept. 12 Hockinson

Sept. 19 at Kelso*

Sept. 26 Fort Van.*

Oct. 3 at M. Morris

Oct. 10 R.A. Long

Oct. 17 At WF West

Oct. 24 at Col. River*

Oct. 31 Battle Ground

  • — 3A GSHL game

Home games played at District Stadium

For more on high school football, go to The Columbian’s high schools sports blog at:

blogs.columbian.com/high-school-sports

Coming Thursday:

Class 2A, 1A

Justin Pena’s coach is just as excited about Pena’s excellence in school as he is about his football skills.

Maybe a little too hyped.

His coach said Pena had a 4.0 grade point average.

“He’s exaggerating,” Justin Pena said, noting he has received one B in high school.

So maybe he is not a perfect student. Nor a perfect football player.

But Justin Pena, a senior linebacker for the Prairie Falcons, pursues perfection. On the football field. In the classroom.

“He walks through the gate, and the switch goes on,” Prairie coach Terry Hyde said, referring to when Pena steps on campus. “It’s 100 miles an hour in everything. He wants to be perfect in everything.”

Pena says his studies have to come before football.

“School is what’s going to get me somewhere in life,” he said.

But he does want to play football for at least four more years. He has looked into small colleges in Minnesota, places he could study biology and play the game.

School and football do complement each other, Pena said. Study habits can be used outside of the classroom.

“It helps me pick up the plays a lot faster,” Pena said.

While viewing video, he has the ability to see things that others might miss.

“You can tell people’s ticks. If a lineman leans forward that tips you off that it’s going to be a run. Little things like that give me an advantage,” Pena said.

His academic skills are a combination of natural talent and the discipline to work.

“I study real hard, but I can pick up things a lot quicker (than others),” Pena said. “But if I were to give anybody a tip, it’s to study real hard.”

Still, it takes more than just a good football mind to be good football player. Pena has the physical ability, too. A year ago, Pena was voted by the coaches to the first-team defense for the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League.

Interestingly, for a guy who is so cerebral about the game, Pena’s favorite play on defense does not always require a lot of thought.

“As a linebacker, I love to blitz, coming off the edge,” he said. “I get to let the instincts out. I don’t have to think as much. Just go be physical.”

Sometimes it is better to just go make things happen. The Falcons, of course, want to make the playoffs, be one of the top two teams in the new, four-team 3A GSHL.

“We want to get a name for ourselves and let everyone know Prairie is the real deal,” Pena said.

The Falcons thought they were on their way to that last year. But they learned that a good thing can go bad in a hurry with a few bad decisions here or some tough breaks there.

Prairie opened the 2013 season with non-league victories over Class 4A Skyview and Battle Ground. The Falcons went 2-5 the rest of the way, though, and missed the playoffs.

“Don’t think of the long term. ‘We’re good. We’re 2-and-oh. Great start.’ We just fell off from there,” Pena said. “I guess we were too good to work hard.”

That will not happen with this year’s squad, Pena said. This Prairie team has the chemistry to make something special happen.

“Nobody expects anything from us, so there’s no pressure on us. We always have a chip on our shoulder. We always have something to prove.

“We’re working hard. We’re always hungry. And we’re the underdog,” Pena said. “Eventually, the underdog triumphs.”

Especially when that team is led by a student and athlete in pursuit of excellence.