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News / Sports / Prep Sports

All-Region football: Elijah Andersen, Woodland

Junior had a memory-filled season with Beavers

By Meg Wochnick, Columbian staff writer
Published: December 9, 2023, 6:05am

Need something celebrated? Leave it to Elijah Andersen to make it happen.

With Woodland High’s historic 2023 football season having ended in its Class 2A state playoff defeat to Clarkston and still hours to go on a long bus ride back from the Washington/Idaho border, Andersen didn’t want to hear a silent bus and see sad faces of teammates.

So, with the help of teammate Zach Young, the Beavers’ do-everything junior flipped on speakers, turned up the music volume, and a mosh pit began inside the charter bus that carried the team to and from its first state playoff game since 2013.

The singing and dancing didn’t stop for hours until the bus reached Woodland.

“Even though we lost,” Andersen said of the team’s 44-6 defeat that ended their season at 8-3, “we still had something to celebrate. All of the seniors understood it and they loved it. …

“We got off the bus, and we were drenched in sweat.”

In fact, there was plenty to celebrate for Woodland, which captured its first league title since 2007 and reached the state playoffs for the first time in a decade. And Andersen, The Columbian’s All-Region football player of the year, was a big reason for it.

The unanimous 2A Greater St. Helens League MVP played various positions — receiver, running back, direct-snap quarterback — on offense depending on the play call. In 11 games, Andersen had 30 touchdowns and tallied nearly 2,500 all-purpose yards. At safety, he racked up 101 tackles and three interceptions.

Although weeks have passed and Andersen has moved on to the basketball season for the Beavers, he still looks back at what was a memory-filled football season.

“You think about your season being over and then you get sad,” he said, “but then you remember all the stuff you did. Even though it didn’t end the way you would’ve loved it to, the season was still such a success with everything we did and all the hard work we put in.”

What’s even more impressive is Andersen played the final four games on a torn medial collateral ligament in his knee.

Andersen didn’t want to sit out, especially given what was at stake the following week after the injury occurred: the league championship game against Ridgefield.

In that game, Andersen had 156 rushing yards and three touchdowns. For good measure, he also made the final pass breakup on defense as time expired, sending Woodland players, coaches and fans into a celebration frenzy at midfield after the 28-21 win.

“That feeling really doesn’t go away,” Andersen said.

Given the wave of success this season, Andersen believes this is the start of something big for Woodland football.

The program last won consecutive league titles in 2006 and 2007 and last had eight or more victories in a season during a three-year stretch in 2012-14.

Andersen believes momentum with Woodland football, behind a strong 2023 season with Andersen as a do-everything player, isn’t a one-year wonder.

“I think it’s a complete restart,” he said. “I think this is the first year where we’re going to be able to keep it moving. I’m really confident next year we’re going to go even further.”

Rest of All-Region Team

OFFENSE

QB: Holden Bea, Washougal

Senior and Idaho commit passed for 2,567 yards and 28 TDs and rushed for 823 yards and 14 touchdowns.

RB: Porter Drake, Mountain View

Senior was the 3A GSHL co-offensive player of the year, rushing for 1,605 yards and 19 touchdowns.

RB: Jacob Williams, Seton Catholic

Junior rushed for 1,415 yards and 18 touchdowns, powering Seton to the 1A state semifinals for the first time.

REC: Trenton Swanson, Camas

Senior and Idaho commit was the 4A GSHL co-offensive player of the year with 76 catches for 982 yards, 6 TDs.

REC: Gavin Packer, Skyview

Slowed by injury early, the junior came on strong late to finish with 36 catches, 725 yards and 10 touchdowns.

REC: Sam Evers, Washougal

Senior led the region in receiving yards with 1,090 on 56 catches for 13 TD as Panthers returned to state playoffs.

REC: Aiden Nicholson, Mountain View

Senior was the Thunder’s big-play passing target with 29 receptions for 713 yards and nine touchdowns.

OL: Alex Sederstrom, Skyview

Senior was a leader on an offensive line that set the tone for a potent offensive attack for state quarterfinalist.

OL: Carson Osmus, Camas

Washington State-bound senior started at left tackle for team that returned all five starting offensive linemen.

OL: Tai Talea, Hudson’s Bay

Junior right guard is a two-time first-team all-2A GSHL selectee and centerpiece of solid offensive line.

OL: Fox Crader, Evergreen

Oregon-bound senior two-way player missed some time for injury but was dominant when he was on the field.

OL: Payton Stewart, Kelso

Senior, at 6-foot-7, 280 pounds, powered Kelso’s potent run game, received offers from Northwestern, OSU.

DEFENSE

DL: Ayden Jones, Camas

Junior’s plays included a fumble recovery against Skyview, which led directly to a TD for the Papermakers.

DL: Riah Tua, Skyview

Junior is one of the best pass rushers in the area. Battled through injuries midseason and still made an impact.

DL: Ryan Kawalek, La Center

A two-time All-Region pick on offense, the senior Idaho commit also played D-line this year and made a huge impact.

DL: Danny McDonnell, Ridgefield

Senior was 2A GSHL defensive MVP despite missing the first two games due to a stress fracture in his back.

LB: Nikko Speer, Camas

Junior was the 4A GSHL defensive player of the year, one of the Papermakers’ captains and leaders of the team.

LB: Ayden Denbo, Mountain View

Senior was 3A GSHL defensive player of the year. Highlights included pivotal goal-line stand in OT against Kelso.

LB: Jacob Champine, Battle Ground

Senior was part of a stellar linebacking core and emerged as a key leader on both offense and defense for Tigers.

LB: Kellen Wiggins, Skyview

Senior spearheaded another strong linebacking corps for the Storm and was a dependable leader.

DB: Joe Callerame, Seton Catholic

Junior had a penchant for hard hits, forcing turnovers and making big plays on defense, offense and special teams.

DB: JJ Thompson, Mountain View

Senior was four-year starter and named a 3A GSHL first team all-purpose player and defensive back.

DB: Angel Lopez, Battle Ground

Senior led team with three interceptions, including a game-sealing pick six in win against Union.

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DB: Riley Artis, Skyview

Senior had a phenomenal season as go-to player for the Storm’s defense. Also a talented, explosive receiver.

AP: Rafael Bauman, Hudson’s Bay

Senior was versatile player, one of the Eagles’ main playmakers, had nearly 900 rushing yards and big returns.

K/P: Koby Johnson, Washougal

Senior was 57 of 61 on PAT kicks (three blocked) and made four field goals, including 43-yarder vs. Orting.

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