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Jojo Siofele battles back from injury to brighten Union’s outlook

Paul Valencia

Paul Valencia

VANCOUVER — That first season made Southwest Washington take notice, and not just because he was a freshman playing varsity football in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League.

He had a four-game span when he scored 14 touchdowns. He barely played in three games and still finished with around 800 yards and those 14 scores.

That first season made the expectations soar for his second season.

Only, his second season lasted less than three quarters after tearing a ligament in his left knee.

The Union Titans expect to fight Skyview and Camas for a playoff berth in the difficult Class 4A Greater St. Helens League. Photo by Paul Valencia

The Union Titans expect to fight Skyview and Camas for a playoff berth in the difficult Class 4A Greater St. Helens League. Photo by Paul Valencia

Jojo Siofele is back for Season No. 3 with the Union Titans. Healthy. Read to run. Ready, in fact, to make people take notice again.

After eight consecutive winning seasons, the Union Titans have now had back-to-back 4-5 campaigns. The Titans, with Siofele leading the ground attack, say they are done with the losing records.

Siofele, in fact, wants to set school records.

“I want 30 touchdowns. I want 2,000 yards,” Siofele said. “Especially if we go deep in the playoffs, that’s a must.”

Jojo Siofele, in the knee brace, has been cleared for contact. He scored 14 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore, then two more in one half last season before suffering a knee injury. Photo by Paul Valencia

Jojo Siofele, in the knee brace, has been cleared for contact. He scored 14 rushing touchdowns as a sophomore, then two more in one half last season before suffering a knee injury. Photo by Paul Valencia

Still, that seems like a lot. Siofele paused, then noted:

“I just set my goals high. I don’t want to set them low,” he said. “I want to push harder.”

The Union Titans’ postseason plans bolstered by key additions and Jojo Siofele’s return from injury.

Lincoln Victor, who can flat-out fly, also wants to show that he has worked on his passing game, giving Union a true dual threat at quarterback. Photo by Paul Valencia

Lincoln Victor, who can flat-out fly, also wants to show that he has worked on his passing game, giving Union a true dual threat at quarterback. Photo by Paul Valencia

One of the things that could hinder Siofele’s chances of reaching his goals of 2,000 yards and 30 touchdowns is the talent around him. The Titans are loaded with wide receivers, including the arrival of Darien Chase from Mountain View. (Chase is considered one of the top recruits in the state for the Class of 2019.) Plus, the Titans have an experienced quarterback in Lincoln Victor. Victor played a bunch as a sophomore in 2016, and if he cannot find an open receiver, he can take off running, leave defenders behind with his blazing speed.

Still, this offense gets its fuel from Siofele, a monster who can break tackles between tackles, or go outside and destroy a cornerback.

When he went down last season, it was a shock to the whole system. Even for first-year coach Rory Rosenbach.

“Even though he was only a sophomore, he was the leader,” Rosenbach said.

Siofele, who played one series in the second half of that first game, finished with 72 yards on eight carries with two touchdowns. Pretty good start. But a horrible end all the same.

Game plans had to change. So did assignments. Rosenbach said he ended up moving three players to compensate for one.

Siofele was crushed when he found out the worst news after that Week 1 injury.

“I just broke down. I actually cried,” he said. “I just thought all the hard work I put in … was for nothing.

“Sitting out for a year, that was like torture to me,” he said.

Darien Chase, who starred at Mountain View as a freshman and sophomore, is now at Union. Chase is one of the top recruits for incoming juniors in the state. Photo by Paul Valencia

Darien Chase, who starred at Mountain View as a freshman and sophomore, is now at Union. Chase is one of the top recruits for incoming juniors in the state. Photo by Paul Valencia

ClarkCountyToday.com reporter Paul Valencia previews all 18 of Clark County’s high school football teams this week with the assistance of photographer/videographer Mike Schultz. On Tuesday, we begin the series with a look at the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League teams. Checkback in coming days for the previews of Class 3A and 2A GSHL and Class 1A Trico League teams as we prepare you for the 2017 high school football season.

Click to view all previews.

Siofele snapped out of his funk for his team, though. He was there at practice. As soon as he was cleared to begin workouts, he had the same approach that led to his dominating freshman season.

“If anything, we had to slow him down a bit,” Rosenbach said.

Darien Chase takes this one to the house, a pick-six in practice Saturday. He expects to do that in games, too. Photo by Paul Valencia

Darien Chase takes this one to the house, a pick-six in practice Saturday. He expects to do that in games, too. Photo by Paul Valencia

While Siofele was healing this offseason, the Titans started thinking big about the fall of 2017. They lost a heartbreaker to 7-2 Battle Ground and played state semifinalist Skyview tough. With their returning talent, and additions, Union hopes to be one of the two playoff teams from the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League.

Besides Chase, look for Alishawuan Taylor to see a lot of balls headed his way. A 6-foot-3 wide receiver, he’s called “The Dream” because his first names sounds like the last name of Hakeem Olajuwon.

Aiden Nellor, a senior tight end and defensive lineman, is a “Saturday kid,” Rosenbach said, referring to the potential to play college football. Braedon Ensley earned second-team all-league status as a running back, filling in for Siofele last year. Ensley can line up anywhere on the field, and he’s an automatic threat.

Defensively, Riley Miller, a team captain, will lead the linebackers. Zion Fa’aopega will help Nellor along the defensive line.

All are excited about the upcoming season. Siofele, though, has a little extra motivation.

“Playing football, it’s my passion,” he said. “I love playing with my teammates. I love working with my teammates, building the bond, trusting each other. Playing Friday night lights. I missed out. It made me more hungry.

“It’s game time, and I’m ready to go off,” Siofele said.

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About The Author

Paul Valencia

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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