Tackle

Senior Brody Smith #24 works on the defensive line drills

during football practice at Battle Ground High School, Aug. 23.

Turn on the Friday night lights: Football season is here

Football teams around the county are gearing up for the 2019-2020 season of “Friday Night Lights,” and so is The Reflector’s sports section. In this special section, you can read all about the six teams we cover — La Center, Woodland, Ridgefield, Hockinson, Prairie and Battle Ground — and their hopes and dreams for the upcoming season as well as key players to watch on the football field this year. 

The La Center Wildcats are preparing for the season with confidence as last year a team full of freshmen built the foundation for a successful 2019-2020 season. In John Lambert’s 21st year as head coach, he plans to take the team of “molded individuals” to postseason delights in the 1A Trico bracket. 

In his first year as head coach of varsity football at Woodland High School, Garrett Lutgen has a three-pillar system to prepare his team of young players for a season of greatness in the 2A Greater Saint Helens League (GSHL) as last year a team loaded with seniors led the Beavers to a 8-2 record in the regular season. Lutgen and the team said their No. 1 goal is to prove themselves as a team and prepare to compete. 

Head coach of the Ridgefield Spudders Scott Rice is sticking to traditions while also making changes to the program at Ridgefield High School. Starting off with a midnight practice, he plans to “highlight the sense of urgency.” With track superstar Trey Knight coming back to the 100-yard field, the Spudders are giving it all they have in their 2A GSHL bracket.

Undefeated powerhouse Hockinson plans to keep the Hawks flying high this year with a number of senior stars. While Sawyer Racanelli is out for the season due to a knee injury, Head Coach Rick Steele said there’s a strong new presence to take his place. With a stout offensive line and quarterback Levi Crum, Hockinson is preparing to go for it all again in the 2A GSHL bracket.

The Prairie Falcons are hitting the field with the motto “day by day we get better and better so we can’t be beat,” and that is just what they plan to do. In his second year as head coach, Mike Peck plans to teach discipline and hard work so the Falcons can succeed in the 3A GSHL this year. 

Mike Kesler and the Battle Ground Tigers are “preparing to make waves” this year in the 4A GSHL league by working hard and finishing strong. In his third year as head coach, Kesler hopes being competitive and working together will help the Tigers “finish strong, give it their all and leave it out on the field.” 

With these six teams ready to go, it’s going to be another great year for football in north Clark County. 

La Center Wildcats

Head Coach - John Lambert

Classification - 1A

League - Trico

2018 SEASON

Regular Season - 4-9

La Center

The La Center High School football team practices in the rain at the La Center baseball field Aug 21.

In his 21st year of coaching La Center football, Head Coach John Lambert is preparing for a season of confidence after a fresh team of Wildcats went 4-9 in the regular season last year. 

“This year, I feel really good about where we are at. We have a lot of (good players) coming back,” Lambert said. “Right now, we are trying to get all the fundamentals in and all the basics down.”

La Center

Darren Cepeda hands the ball to Jeremy Humphrey during a practice at La Center High School Aug. 21. 

Lambert said the 2018-2019 season was a year of adversity for the Wildcats and he plans for this season to be a successful campaign. 

“Last year really was the year we had a ton of adversity and it was great,” he said. “It really molded this team into who they are now because they don’t take anything for granted and they really had to earn it.”

Building a team full of family bonds and friendships is the key for many of the Wildcat players who have redemption on the mind this year. 

“I think the kids are looking for a little bit of redemption from last year,” he said. “This is our opportunity to show ourselves and our fans our team (of Wildcats).”

As for players to watch, Lambert has his eyes set on Micah Adams, a junior. 

Humphrey

Jeremy Humphrey throws the ball to his teammates during football practice at La Center Highschool, Aug. 21.

“Micah didn’t play much last year. It was his first year playing football, but he got into the weight room this year,” Lambert said. “He plays tight end and defensive end and he just needed time. He’s naturally an athlete and you’re going to see tremendous growth in him.”

Another player Lambert has high hopes for is Sam Kitchel, a senior defensive end. 

“He is our sack machine,” Lambert said, noting that Kitchel led La Center in sacks last year.

“(La Center football) is a cool thing to be a part of and it’s definitely something I’m going to remember for a long time,” Kitchel said. “We’re always lifting each other up and there’s a big team mentality.”

Max Muffet, a senior linebacker, echoed Kitchel’s thoughts on the family mentality. He said his personal goal for this year is “being where he needs to be and focusing on my job.” 

“If everyone focuses on their job, we win games,” Muffet said. “It’s not paying attention to the guy next to you. It’s helping the guy next to you do what you need to do to win games.”

Players to watch

Andrew Scott

Andrew Scott

Year: Senior

Wide Receiver

“There’s a lot of people coming back (to the team this year) and there’s a lot of people that know what they’re doing already. This year, we’re perfecting instead of re-learning all the skills.”

Max Muffet

Max Muffet

Year: Senior

Linebacker

“(My goal) is being where I need to be and focusing on my job. If everyone focuses on their job, we win games. It’s not paying attention to the guy next to you. It’s helping the guy next to you do what you need to do to win games.”

Sam Kitchel

Sam Kitchel

Year: Senior

Defensive End

“(La Center football) is a cool thing to be a part of and it’s definitely something I’m going to remember for a long time. It’s a family. We’re always lifting each other up and there’s a big team mentality.” 

Hockinson Hawks

Head Coach - Rick Steele

Classification - 2A

League - GHSL

2018 SEASON

Regular Season - 9-0

Playoffs -  4-0

Blocking

Hayden Pinke helps freshman Hayden Sloan with his blocking techniques during football practice at Hockinson High School in Brush Prairie Aug. 22. 

After two undefeated seasons and two state championships, the Hockinson Hawks have their eyes set on more success heading into their 2019 campaign. 

“Two years ago when we won our first state championship it was ‘why not us?’ That kind of comes off like a chip on our shoulder,” senior quarterback Levi Crum said. “We’re a little farm town over here, not a lot of people know who we are. But we’re here to play football and we’re here to win.”

With a lineup full of experienced seniors, the Hawks are looking for their third straight state division championship in the 2A. 

“Most of them have been starting for the last two years,” Head Coach Rick Steele said. “They’ve played through 27 straight victories, two state championships and they’ve never lost a football game as starters.”

Running

Sophomore Kenyon Johnson runs after a catch during practice at Hockinson High School in Brush Prairie Aug. 22. 

This year, coach Steele said he has high expectations for the team. He’s excited about the potential of the offensive line. 

“Our team motto is run and gun,” Steele said. “We’re going to throw the football and we’re very excited about our offensive line, and I’m very excited for our backfield.”

Last year, quarterback Levi Crum led the Hawks to a 42-37 state championship victory at the Tacoma Dome with the help of star receiver and University of Washington commit Sawyer Racanelli. This year, due to a knee injury, Racanelli isn’t playing. But that’s not stopping Steele from keeping a positive attitude. 

“With us losing Sawyer Racanelli to a knee injury, there’s kids that have to fill in for that spot. They have to fill in for the production that Sawyer gave us,” Steele said, adding that sophomore Liam Mallory is going to play in Racanelli’s spot. 

“He’s only a sophomore but he had four huge plays in the state championship game last year as a freshman,” he said. “That’s a big deal for a kid that young to step into an arena like that and perform. This is a kid that can make plays. He’s gonna make a name for himself this year.”

Steele is focused on “developing playmakers” for the Hawks. 

Throwing

Freshman Tyler Litle works on his throwing techniques during football practice at Hockinson High School in Brush Prairie Aug. 22.

He said quarterback Crum is a team leader both on and off the field. 

“He’s got a lot of targets to throw too but he’s the one that gets the ball to these bigtime playmakers,” Steele concluded. “He’s like having a coach on the field and he’s got great leadership qualities.”

Players to watch

Jeremiah Faulstick

Jeremiah Faulstick

Year: Senior

Tight end and

linebacker

“I’m just ready to pancake some kids and show people my blocking ability.”

Peyton Brammer

Peyton Brammer 

Year: Senior

Tight end

“I’m trying to come to practice every day giving it everything I got. With games, I’m giving it everything I got. I’m gonna push my teammates, and hopefully they push me back.”

Levi Crum

Levi Crum

Year: Senior

Quarterback

“Each individual has to be accountable for themselves. Our coaches preach that all the time. You better come ready, you better bring the team the best you got. If we can have 11 people on the field doing that, we’re doing pretty good.”

Ridgefield Spudders 

Head Coach - Scott Rice

Classification - 2A

League - GHSL

2018 SEASON

Regular Season - 3-5

Squad

Junior Luke Price catches the ball during football practice at Ridgefield High School Aug. 22.  

After a few rough years, Ridgefield High School Head Coach Scott Rice plans to keep traditions alive while also making changes in his first year as head coach of the Spudders, starting with a midnight practice on the first night of football season. 

“I think there’s been some great tradition in the past and some great players that have come through, and we just have to kind of move the organization a little bit faster,” he said.

For his first year at the helm, Rice will guide a team with just 16 seniors and juniors and a batch of 24 freshmen. He’s established “bringing a sense of urgency” as the team motto, and he tells his team to treat every play as a scoring play.

“The beauty is that a lot of these guys are young,” Rice said. “Once we get the base in, now we can move it 100% and we can move really fast. That’s the goal.”

To help highlight the sense of urgency, Rice plans to “completely revolutionize” the team’s offense. In the past, Ridgefield relied on single players to carry the team, Rice said. He wants to transform the offensive mentality to a “spread philosophy” and “get guys involved in the perimeter.”

Blocking drill

The Ridgefield football team works on blocking during practice at Ridgefield High School Aug. 22.  

On defense, Rice feels confident the team is in good shape with many returning players such as Ethan Mollet, who “plays to win.” 

“Defensively we’re making some tweaks and modifications but defense I think is going to be really strong,” he said. “We have a lot of returners there.”

Throw

Sophomore Ashton Madson throws a football during practice at Ridgefield High School Aug. 22

Rice said sophomore Ryan Jenkins has a lot of room to grow and is another player to watch.

“With the addition of a couple coaches, we got a real good chance of developing some guys that are going to be breakout guys for us this year,” Rice said. 

Along with Jenkins, Ridgefield track and field superstar Trey Knight is joining the team as a wide receiver. 

“It’s senior year. I’ve always wanted to play football all four years,” Knight said. 

Knight said he needs to train for the football field because “it’s a little larger than the 6-foot circle” that he throws his shot puts in.

Coach Rice said Knight has a lot of talent to bring to the team. While the rest of the team is young, there is plenty of room to grow, he said. 

“We’re in a good position of just keep getting better every single day,” Rice said. “Do your job, execute and the rest will take care of itself.”

Players to watch

Hunter Abrams

Hunter Abrams

Year: Senior

Running back

“I like winning and that’s what we’re planning on doing.”

Trey Knight

Trey Knight 

Year: Senior

Wide receiver

“It is a lot of fun to go out and hit some people. You have a whole team, and it’s kinda nice to know that even outside of football they have your back.” 

Ethan Mollet

Ethan Mollet

Year: Senior

Center

“I feel like we have a lot of new faces as well as returning faces and I believe that with the combination of the two we can create a team that’s hard to beat.”

Woodland Beavers

Head Coach -  Garrett Lutgen

Classification - 2A

League - GHSL

2018 SEASON

Regular Season - 8-2

Drills

The Woodland High School football team works on their conditioning in the rain while at practice on the Woodland football field Aug. 21. 

With a team of young players, Woodland Head Coach Garrett Lutgen has a three-pillar system for the Woodland high school football team to make its mark.

“Prepare to lead, prepare to serve and prepare to compete, those are our goals,” Lutgen said.

Last year, a team full of Beaver seniors led Woodland to an 8-2 record in the regular season in the 2A (GSH) league. Lutgen isn’t letting a large graduating class stop the Beavers from having another great year as 21 freshmen have joined the team. 

“Our No. 1 goal this year is to prove ourselves as a team. We had a really talented team last year and this team wants to make a name for themselves,” Lutgen said, later adding that while the team might not have any “stars,” the squad is “full of a bunch of really good and solid kids that have played football for a while.”

The 2019-2020 school year is Lutgen’s first year as head coach for the varsity team, but it isn’t his first year with the kids in uniform. 

“I had them for two years in middle school and went 24-0 with them,” he said. “This is just jumping back on the bike.”

As for players to look out for, Lutgen said quarterback Isaiah Flanagan and “bookends” on the defensive line, Jason Bowman and Mike Karchesky, will be keys to Woodland’s approach.

Tackling drill

The Woodland High School football team works on their tackling techniques during practice on the Woodland football field Aug. 21. 

“He’s always been a solid player for us and has been a starter since his freshman year,” Lutgen said of Bowman. “He works hard and is in the weight room with his ‘bookend’ Mike Karchesky at 6 a.m.”

Lutgen plans to work on building up the team’s endurance with conditioning and defensive skills. For this, he has brought back Woodland High School alum and college football star Zach Lacey to assist with teaching defensive skills.

“These are my home roots and I would love to bring a little something to this program,” Lacey said. “Something new and something fresh, things I wish I had been taught a couple different things in high school.”

Lacey graduated from Woodland High School in 2013 and attended Eastern Oregon University where he made the all-star team and worked on the “technical side of football.”

Catching

The Woodland football team works on their catching techniques during practice on the Woodland football field, Aug. 21. 

“I was taught a lot of good things over at Eastern Oregon and I feel like it’s my duty to show these kids how to properly, technically play football,” Lacey said. “Once I realized it was a technical game I had more fun than I’ve had in my entire life.”

Players to watch

Isaiah Flanagan

Isaiah Flanagan

Year: Senior

Quarterback

“My favorite thing is that it’s really a family. You come out here and play with your friends and people you have known your whole life from CCYF and up.” 

Jason Bowman

Jason Bowman 

Year: Junior

Left Tackle

“It’s like a big brotherhood that’s connected. It’s not like any other sport.”

Mike Karchesky

Mike Karchesky

Year: Junior

Right Tackle 

“I think we got a good team this year and I think we need to grind. Overall, it’s good to be out here and it’s a family.”

 

Prairie Falcons

Head Coach - Mike Peck

Classification - 3A

League - GHSL

2018 SEASON

Regular Season - 5-4

Play

The Prairie High School football team works on a play during practice Aug 23. 

Playoffs -  0-1

Some of the last lines of the Falcon Creed read “be tough, physically and mentally,” and that is exactly what the Prairie Falcons plan to bring to the football field this year. 

“Our motto is day by day we get better and better so we can’t be beat,” senior running back Devante Clayton said, noting that every member of the Prairie team is a big family. 

“I love the family that they have created here,” Head Coach Mike Peck said about the team. “They really build each other up, and one of the coolest things is they hold each other accountable in a positive way.”

After leading the Falcons to the playoffs last year, Peck plans to work on improving blocking and tackling in his second year as head coach of the team. 

Blocking

Junior Logan Elliott works on his blocking techniques during football practice at Brush Prairie High School Aug. 23. 

“Football comes down to three things, blocking, tackling and getting off blocks, and those three skills you can never be good enough at. We’re focusing on those every day, and if we’re good at those three things, we’ll be a solid football team,” Peck said, adding that discipline was a weak point for the Falcons last year. “As you’re getting better, that’s one of the hardest things to improve is that discipline aspect. That’s what separates good teams from great teams. That’s been a big focus for us this offseason and this fall camp right now is to be the most disciplined team we can be.”

Peck said he loves coaching football because of “what the game brings and what it means.” He said the game of football is a “vehicle to a bigger purpose and the same things that will make you successful on the football field will make you successful in life.”

In terms of being successful on the field, Peck said the team is full of good players who can make explosive plays. 

Drill

Senior Austin Tran runs after making a catch during practice at Brush Prairie High School Aug. 23. 

“I think we have some really quality depth at our positions,” he said. “As a team, we’re making great plays and I think as a group we have the ability to make (a good season) happen.”

Peck wants the team to “execute on offense, defense and special teams” and said the team is “trying to be the best version of us that we can be and take it one day at a time. That’s our big motto, we want to work hard, have a great attitude and effort and be coachable. If we do those things and harp on it every day, we’re going to be OK.”

Players to watch

Tim Banaszek

Tim Banaszek

Year: Senior

Center

“Hitting people (is my favorite part of football). You can’t hit people in class when you’re mad so you just come out to football after school and hit people and the coaches are happy you’re hitting people.”

AJ Dixson

AJ Dixson

Year: Senior

Quarterback and wide receiver

“The feeling of getting a touchdown rather than scoring a basket is such a different feeling. It’s really nice.”

Devante Clayton

Devante Clayton

Year: Senior

Running back 

“Our motto is day by day we get better and better so we can’t be beat.” 

Battle Ground Tigers

Head Coach - Mike Kesler

Classification - 4A

League - GHSL

2018 SEASON

Regular Season - 3-6

Ready

Players get into position during football practice at Battle Ground High School Aug. 23. 

“Finish strong, give it your all and leave it out on the field” is the motto for Head Coach Mike Kesler and the Battle Ground Tigers this year. 

“This year, the goal is to improve. This is year three for me, and we’ve improved the second year from the first year. That’s the whole goal right now is get better and improve,” Kesler said.

Last year, the coaches were able to train the 30 incoming freshmen in the weight room and get them prepared for the upcoming season on varsity and junior varsity. 

Tackling

Junior Braden Fisher tackles freshman Kameron Spencer during football practice at Battle Ground High School Aug. 23.

“They got to participate in our spring football, and this year we had the opportunity to take them to our team camp, which really helped them,” Kesler said. 

As for seniors, the Tigers have 15 and are ready for a year of building character and finishing games stronger. 

“What I would really like to do is improve our record from last year and also be competitive for every game,” Kesler said. “There were times last year that we were good at certain points of the game but we just didn’t finish games, and this year I’m hoping that we work hard throughout the four quarters of a game and at the end put ourselves in a position to win.”

To help build a sense of teamwork for the 2019-2020 season, Kesler took the team out into the community for outreach.

“They’re a good bunch of kids. It’s not only the game of football. They’re gelling as a team right now and finding out what it means to work hard together,” he said. “During the summer time, we did a few community outreach things and taught the kids to be good community members and making sure that they understand that even though they’re not on the football field at the time, everybody knows that they’re from Battle Ground High School.”

Drill

Senior Jason Johnson runs while keeping his eye on the ball during football practice at Battle Ground High School Aug. 23.

As for players to watch, Kesler has his eyes on Steven Hancock, Mason Wann and Brody Smith. 

“(Hancock) is a very athletic individual. He is very smart in the classroom and he’s a good athlete. I think he has the opportunity to play at the next level,” Kesler said, adding that Wann and Smith have great leadership skills that the team needs. 

Defensive line coach David Davis said the team is ready to make their mark this year. He hopes to help kids “tap into their inner ‘I can do it.’”

“They’re gonna make some waves. You can see that in how they talk and how they put 100% into everything,” Davis said. 

Players to watch

Brody Smith

Brody Smith

Year: Senior

Defensive end and running back

“Really right now I think our main focus is to get better as a whole, become brothers, build a stronger bond with one another, and by doing that, winning more games.”

Mason Wann

Mason Wann

Year: Senior

Offensive and defensive lineman

“(My favorite part about football is) being in front of a home crowd underneath the lights, the spotlight is on you, and just the competitive nature of football.”

Steven Hancock

Steven Hancock

Year: Senior

Defensive end

and running back

“Making the whole crowd cheer (is my favorite). When you know all eyes are on you it’s a whole ‘nother feeling.”

 

FOOTBALL SCHEDULES

Ridgefield Spudders

 

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at La Center High School

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13 King’s Way Christian

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at Columbia River High School

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 Mark Morris

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 at Washougal High School

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 R A Long

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18 Woodland

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 Prairie

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1at Hockinson High School

Battle Ground Tigers

 

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at Seattle Prep.

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13 Burlington-Edison

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 Mountain View

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 Prairie

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 at Skyview High School

7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10 at Heritage High School

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18 Camas

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 Union

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at South Kitsap

 

Hockinson Hawks

 

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 Toppenish

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13 Archbishop Murphy

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at R A Long High School

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 Columbia River

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 at Woodland High School

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 at Mark Morris High School

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 Washougal

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 Ridgefield

 

La Center Wildcats

 

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 Ridgefield

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13 at Woodland High School

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 Hoquiam

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 Kalama

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 at King’s Way Christian

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 Stevenson

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 Columbia-White Salmon

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at Castle Rock

 

Woodland Beavers

 

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at Kalama High School

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13 La Center

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 Washougal

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 at R A Long High School

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 Hockinson

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 Montesano

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18 at Ridgefield High School

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 Columbia River

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 at Mark Morris High School

 

Prairie Falcons

 

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at Parkrose, Oregon

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13 Washougal (at Battle Ground Highschool)

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20 at Black Hills

7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27 at Battle Ground High School 

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 Kelso (at Battle Ground High School)

7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10 Mountain View High Scho (at Battle Ground High School)

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18 at Hudson’s Bay High School

7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25 at Ridgefield High School

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1 Evergreen (at Battle Ground High School)

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