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Hudson’s Bay linemen do the heavy lifting to help get Eagles football off to 5-0 start

Strong, experienced O-line gets rushers nearly 5 yards a carry

By , Columbian staff writer
2 Photos
Hudson's Bay's offensive line, featuring tight end Noah David, from left, and linemen Michael Brinson, Tai Telea, Timote Vaea, Jake Hildebrand and Jeremiah Moen, stands for a portrait Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, at Hudson's Bay High School. The line has been key in the Eagles 5-0 start to the season.
Hudson's Bay's offensive line, featuring tight end Noah David, from left, and linemen Michael Brinson, Tai Telea, Timote Vaea, Jake Hildebrand and Jeremiah Moen, stands for a portrait Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2023, at Hudson's Bay High School. The line has been key in the Eagles 5-0 start to the season. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Disappointed by a 3-6 season and falling short of the playoffs last fall, the Hudson’s Bay football team knew it was incumbent upon them to work harder this offseason.

They took the first step Jan. 1 when the team reconvened for workouts following winter break. Players and coaches quickly noticed the commitment level was markedly higher than seasons past.

Among the tone-setters was a group of offensive linemen, Jeremiah Moen, Jake Hildebrand, Timote Vaea, Tai Telea, Michael Brinson and blocking tight end Noah David, who practically lived in the weight room during the offseason and maintained a steady regiment leading into fall practices.

“We all got a lot bigger, a lot stronger and we just wanted to dominate this year,” Hildebrand said. “We weren’t going to take 3-6 as an answer.”

“We knew it was going to be difficult, but we just had to keep putting in the work,” Brinson added. “We set a goal — we’re going to be the best … we’re going to work hard to be the best. Now, it’s starting to open our eyes like, ‘all right, we’re in it.’ ”

They weren’t just empty words. Through five games this season — all wins for the Eagles — they’ve backed up their proclamations behind that balanced offensive line, which head coach Mark Oliverio calls the foundation of the team.

Bay’s run-heavy attack has yielded approximately five yards per carry this season, allowing ball-carriers like Rafael Bauman, Aqeel Bauman and Talan Leon Guerrero to thrive.

The team’s 32 points per game ranks second in the 2A Greater St. Helens League behind Washougal, the defending league champion, which will face Bay on Friday at Kiggins Bowl. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

“I love it. It’s our identity,” Moen said. “We’re smash-mouth football. We’re here to hit people, be intense, and we’re going to get that ball down field and run it down your throat.”

The unit is relatively young, but brings a lot of experience to the table. Moen (left tackle), Hildebrand (left guard) and Telea (right guard) were all starters last season as sophomores. Brinson, also an all-league defensive lineman, made the switch from tight end to right tackle last season and is back on the line as a senior.

Adding Vaea at center was the final piece of the puzzle, according to Oliverio. Despite never playing the position before, the senior has stepped up to play a critical role for the Eagles.

“One thing I loved about it was, it changed me a lot,” Vaea said. “I’m over here (thinking) I hate offensive line. I like it now. I wanted to play (center) because it was my last year.”

They enjoy spending time together away from football, too. Most of it revolves around eating.

Each week, the linemen have what they call “Hawaiian Wednesday,” when they go to their favorite spot, Hawaiian Time, for hefty plates of meat, rice and mac salad. They invite their quarterbacks, running backs and receivers, too, but it’s a linemen-centered occasion.

“Sometimes some of us can’t make it because of money or whatever,” Hildebrand said, “but we always try to cover each other, or look out for each other whenever we can because we just like that time (to) bond and have dinner together. It’s a great thing.”

There was also a recent trip to Applebee’s for “all-you-can-eat boneless wings” when the linemen consumed so many wings that, according to Vaea, they were eventually cut off.

“The next day, they stopped selling it, and we started dying (laughing),” Vaea said.

Plus, whenever the team tallies at least 400 offensive yards in a game, offensive line coach Jared Bacon buys breakfast burritos for the boys up front.

“That’s something we strive for every game,” Moen said.

The group’s connection off the field plays a part in how they operate on the field during games and practices. That’s especially true in moments when they’re tired, but need to summon an extra ounce of energy to finish the job. Having that bond allows them to hold each other accountable.

“Sometimes when you’re not motivated in a game or you’re having an off day at practice, just knowing that everyone here wants to win … we do it for each other rather than ourselves,” Hildebrand said. “So it’s that extra level of encouragement like, ‘Hey, I know he’s busting his ass, I know I should not be slacking off.’ And that mindset has definitely built our program this year.”

“We fight for each other. If you’re feeling down, you’re feeling tired, you got four other dudes right here pushing you along,” Brinson added. “So it’s just a constant pushing of each other. Because I won’t lie, I do be gassed in the games a little bit … but they be like, ‘Hey Michael, come on, let’s go!’ ”

Finding another gear is a big reason why Bay is off to its best start since 2001. In their Sept. 22 win at Ridgefield, the Eagles sustained three long offensive drives and sealed the win on a Bauman kickoff return touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

The following week, Bay’s physical line play on both sides of the ball prevailed again in a 28-14 win over Mark Morris, which moved the Eagles to 5-0, including 3-0 in the 2A GSHL.

“I can’t even believe it … we’re 5-0,” Telea said. “I say, ‘is that really us? Wow, we did that.’ ”

For many on the Eagles’ roster, this season is already the most successful they’ve had playing football. Now that they’ve experienced a taste of winning, they want more. The linemen, in particular, have proven they’re willing to work for it.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime offensive line,” Brinson said. “It’s a special group of guys. I’m really glad I’m with them.”