Bea: ‘Like a second home’
Without question, Holden Bea can make the drive to Idaho’s campus without the need for a navigation system.
“I’ve been there a lot,” said Bea, Washougal’s quarterback and reigning 2A Greater St. Helens League offensive MVP. “It was already like a second home, and now, it’s even more like my second home.”
That’s because since 2019-20, a Bea family member has played women’s basketball at Idaho. Last season, three Beas — older sisters Beyonce and Skylar, plus a cousin, Jaiden — were on the roster.
Soon, Holden Bea will be on campus.
Idaho plays football at the Football Championship Series level and has been a Big Sky Conference member since 2018. Bea dove into why he chose to play football at a FCS-level school when other larger schools at the Football Bowl Subdivision level expressed interest in the quarterback.
“With Idaho,” Bea said, “it felt like they wanted me. … And the way I look at it, I wanted to be wanted, and Idaho made it pretty clear. And that feels good and ultimately, that really helped me make my decision pretty easy.”
For Bea, Idaho is a natural fit, and he carved his own path through football.
This fall marks Bea’s third year as Washougal’s starting quarterback. He’s coming off a 2022 season with 2,559 yards and 30 touchdown passes while leading the Panthers to the Class 2A playoffs. But he’s poised to do more beyond statistics in his final high school season.
“It’s more of the mental game for me,” he said. “Physically, I’m going to be bigger, faster, stronger this year, but mentally, I’m going to be more confident and more precise about the reads I’m making. … This year I’m trying to eliminate those mistakes and just follow the game and take it where it takes me.”
Kawalek: ‘Super excited to get started’
When Ryan Kawalek isn’t playing football for La Center, there’s a good chance you can find him at his favorite fishing spot in Southwest Washington.
Where that is, Kawalek isn’t sharing.
“It’s classified information,” he said, smiling.
What he’ll gladly share is why Idaho is the best place for him. He’s visited the campus twice since February.
“I’ve never been asked that before,” he said. “I like being able to just move people from point A to point B without them being able to do anything. That’s cool with me. And I like protecting my quarterback.”
Idaho has six players on its 2023 roster who hail from Washington’s Class 1A schools. Despite playing at the 1A level in high school, Kawalek said he and his teammates never back down from a challenge when facing higher-classification schools at summer scrimmages or jamborees.
The Wildcats hold their own.
So does Kawalek.
“We’ve never gotten pushed around, so I feel like we can compete,” he said.