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Battle Ground football preview: Lifelong bonds give Tigers chemistry

Progress continues in coach Kesler's third year

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: September 3, 2019, 4:10pm

Mason Wann and Brody Smith aren’t the only Battle Ground football players who have played together since age 8.

That cohesiveness not only boosts the Tigers’ senior class, but the program as a whole.

“It makes everything go smoother,” said Wann, a starting offensive guard and defensive end.

Leadership quality is a big strength for head coach Mike Kesler — “The group of kids are showing by example,” he said — relying on Wann, Smith and others to pave the way in turning around the Tigers’ fortunes. Last season’s 3-6 season was a step up from a 1-8 campaign in Kesler’s inaugural year.

Now in his third season, Kesler said things are on track for where he wants the program to be.

High school sports fall tab 2019

This article is part of The Columbian's High School Fall Sports 2019 special section, published in print on Sept. 1. View it online.

Are they there yet? Not quite, but it’s progressing nicely, he said.

“I always tell them,” the coach said, ‘the successes will come more this year.’ When the successes come, the wins will take care of themselves.”

Those same leadership qualities from Wann, Smith and others in the senior class not only is an improvement, but helped attract nearly 100 players, the program’s largest spring and summer turnout under Kesler. It led to big growth at the team’s George Fox team camp, learning trust and how to play as a unit.

Smith, a linebacker and fullback, gave a simple, yet effective in-house recruiting pitch in attracting new players: Why not?

“It’s the only time you’re going to be playing football in your high school career,” Smith said.

Said Wann: “Even if they don’t like it,” he said, “they can see if they like it. And most of the kids do.”

3 things to know

— Team’s first two non-league games are against new opponents from ’18 (3A Seattle Prep, 2A Burlington Edison)

— Program had highest turnout numbers in coach Mike Kesler’s tenure.

— Coach states leadership is the team’s biggest strength.