Hockinson still has some star power


Feb. 20—For the past six years, Hockinson football has ruled the 2A Greater St. Helens League. The Hawks are 29-1 in the league with a pair of 2A state championships in that time.

Unquestionably, this will be Hockinson’s most challenging and competitive league slate since 2016. But the Hawks still have the pieces of league favorites.

Daniel Thompson and Cody Wheeler form a dynamic tandem in the backfield. Makaio Juarez is a shifty skill guy who can move around the field, and when he touches the ball, scores more often than not. Andre Northrup is their next leading wide receiver, although Peyton Brammer and Sawyer Racanelli leave big shoes to fill.

“Just because some stars left doesn’t mean we don’t have star power,” said coach Rick Steele, who noted when injuries and disciplinary issues sidelined the team’s biggest stars last year, the team still made the state semifinals. Largely, that was behind this year’s group of players.

Ridgefield and Columbia River are likely Hockinson’s biggest challengers. The Spudders bring in several players from King’s Way Christian, which is not fielding a football team this year. That group is highlighted by three-star defensive line recruit and Army commit Bailey Meek.

The Spudders also return quarterback Luke Price and the multi-skilled Tanner Roberts, who has played quarterback and receiver in the past but may move into the backfield this year.

“We want to raise the expectation,” Ridgefield coach Scott Rice said. “We’re not little ol’ Ridgefield anymore.”

Columbia River, too, brings back a strong group led by quarterback Mason Priddy. He’ll have seniors Jacob Ayers, Max Sturtevant and Keith Blau to distribute the ball to and seniors Dylan Dean, Caeden Craig and Brayton Osterweil protecting him.

“Last year we took some lumps with only five or so returners,” second-year coach Brett Smedley said. “This year, it’s dang near the opposite. This group has put in a ton of time. There’s a lot of continuity.”

Washougal, after an historic 2019, graduated several key pieces, none more impactful than linebacker Brevan Bea. Tristan Farrell steps in a quarterback, and at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, will stand tall in the pocket and can make the throws to move the offense.

“I would have been comfortable starting him last year,” Washougal coach Dave Hajek said.

Peter Boylan, Gavin Multer and Gabriel Kent give him weapons to use. Theodosy Berry returns at safety to anchor the defense. The offensive line, though, has just one returning starter in senior Shawn Harris.

Hudson’s Bay, which drops from Class 3A, is the dark horse of the league. The Eagles are led by returning starters quarterback Raven Barnes and wide receiver Devontay Moore. Hayden DeGrandpre, a state wrestler, will shine in the trenches. The schedule-makers did the Eagles no favors, though, by matching up Bay with Hockinson, Columbia River and Washougal in consecutive weeks.

In Woodland, a familiar face has returned to the program, as Mike Woodward takes over again after a one-year hiatus. He led the Beavers to a playoff appearance in 2018. The Beavers are headed by four-year starter Jason Bowman, whose physical presence on the offensive line is always a bonus. JJ Fuerst, a state wrestler, takes over at quarterback and Woodward said he hopes to be able to use Fuerst’s athleticism in similar ways to when Tyler Flanagan was leading the backfield.

Longview schools Mark Morris and R.A. Long continue to deal with rough patches in their programs. The Monarchs return all-league defensive back Jamison Watson. The Lumberjacks are headed by new coach Jon Barker, a Mark Morris alumnus.

Players to Watch

Daniel Thompson, Hockinson, sr., RB/DE

“If the kid was 6-2 and 210 pounds, he’d be a Pac-12 athlete,” Hockinson coach Rick Steele said. Those bold words say a lot about what Steele thinks of the undersized back (5-8, 170). He’s strong, explosive and coming off an 825-yard, six-touchdown season.

Max Sturtevant, Columbia River, sr., WR/DB

The undersized receiver caught 35 passes for 500 yards and three scores last year. He enters the season as Columbia River’s captain and leader. “We are where we are right now as a program due to Max and the efforts of his buddies,” coach Brett Smedley said.

Raven Barnes, Hudson’s Bay, sr., QB

The Eagles returning quarterback threw for 282 yards and ran for 100 while scoring six touchdowns in the 3A Greater St. Helens League in 2019. With another year under his belt and a move to the 2A GSHL, Barnes’ dual-threat ability will pose problems for opponents.

Bailey Meek, Ridgefield, sr., OL/DL

The three-star Army defensive line commit makes the move to Ridgefield after King’s Way Christian shuttered its football program. He adds a big body on the offensive line and a massive threat on the defensive side. “There’s big expectations of what he can accomplish,” coach Scott Rice said.

Jason Bowman, Woodland, sr., OL

A four-year starter at offensive tackle, Bowman continues to flourish in the Woodland system as a leader. He returns to a familiar offense with Mike Woodward back at the helm and should help lead a relatively young group.

Key Games

Washougal at Ridgefield, Feb. 26

Schedule makers smiled upon Ridgefield in this shortened season. They don’t have to play Columbia River and Hockinson, making this Week 2 matchup with Washougal one of the Spudders’ stiffest tests.

Hockinson at Columbia River, March 6

There’s a better than decent chance this game could decide a league champion or at least give the winner a chance at a share of the league title. An experienced Columbia River side will have the best chance of any team to halt Hockinson’s league title streak.

Columbia River vs. Hudson’s Bay, March 19 at Kiggins Bowl

An old Vancouver rivalry is renewed in a late-season scrap at Kiggins Bowl. Ray Lions’ Eagles will surprise many teams after dropping down to the 2A ranks. Columbia River will likely enter as the favorites but Bay won’t make it easy.


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