A truly special first day of football practice

Players grateful for the chance to start up a traditional sports season

A new coach, a new practice time, but still the defending state champions.

That was the vibe for the Camas Papermakers on Wednesday morning.

In the afternoon, the Mountain View Thunder introduced Team 41.

And all throughout Clark County, high school football teams were hitting the practice fields for the first time this season. Well, officially anyway.

Camas linemen go through a drill during the first day of high school football practice on Wednesday. Photo by Paul Valencia
Camas linemen go through a drill during the first day of high school football practice on Wednesday. Photo by Paul Valencia

Through the summer months, there are team workouts, conditioning, and other informal practices.

But for the 2021 fall football season, Wednesday was the official start. 

Ridgefield celebrated the new year with a midnight practice, which is becoming a tradition with the Spudders. The other schools went to work at various times Wednesday.

Camas won the Class 4A state championship in 2019. There were no state playoffs in 2020, and none for the abbreviated season in the spring of 2021. 

So, sure, Camas is still the defending champion.

To be fair, this year’s seniors were sophomores when that team won it all.

“I guess we are,” senior Jairus Phillips said of still being champs. “But if we are not defending, why not just go for another state championship? Hold us to that. That’s the goal in the long run.”

The expectations with Camas football have not changed, but there certainly was one big change since the spring campaign. Jon Eagle resigned and is now coaching in college. Jack Hathaway is the new head coach.

Jack Hathaway takes over as head coach of Camas football. He said expectations are still high, and he loves the challenge. Photo by Paul Valencia
Jack Hathaway takes over as head coach of Camas football. He said expectations are still high, and he loves the challenge. Photo by Paul Valencia

“It’s a beast of a program with high expectations, and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Hathaway said. “We have a tremendous coaching staff and great kids, high-energy kids. They love to work, and this is a special place. I’m fortunate to be in this spot and just thrilled to get going.”

Another change? Hathaway prefers morning practices. His predecessor preferred evening practices. Well, Hathaway is in charge now, so Camas was on the field by 9 a.m. 

Phillips noted Wednesday is just the start of a lot more things, with a normal fall football season on the horizon. In a few weeks, Camas will be playing football on Friday nights at Doc Harris Stadium.

“It’s going to be insane. It’s going to be crazy fun,” Phillips said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to have all the fans there and everything, and all of that noise.”

At Mountain View, the coaching staff describes each team by its number, as in the number of football seasons since the school opened. This year marks Team No. 41 for the Thunder.

The players are practicing on a natural grass field to the north side of the campus. The rest of the campus is the current school, parking lots, and the massive construction project for the new school.

But football is football, and the Thunder are just happy to be preparing for a traditional football season.

“It means a return,” Mountain View senior Valike Tamakloe said. 

Not just a return to football, but a return to regular life.

Mountain View senior Valike Tamakloe said the first day of football practice means the start to a return to everyday life, where students can be children again after enduring so much the past 18 months. Photo by Paul Valencia
Mountain View senior Valike Tamakloe said the first day of football practice means the start to a return to everyday life, where students can be children again after enduring so much the past 18 months. Photo by Paul Valencia

“It’s been an interesting time with COVID and everything,” Tamakloe said, also noting all the protests and civil unrest. “It’s just time for us to get back to being children again, you know.”

Being a regular high school student is appealing to the football players as well as their classmates.

“It’s been a journey,” Tamakloe said. “From not even finishing our sophomore year, then going to junior year online. It was an unprecedented time. It’s nice to get out here and cut loose.”

Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson can relate. A career educator and football coach, a first day of practice, in August, brings a new meaning after all that the world has been through the past year-and-a-half.

Mountain View football coach Adam Mathieson gives final instructions before his team took to the field for its first practice of the season. Photo by Paul Valencia
Mountain View football coach Adam Mathieson gives final instructions before his team took to the field for its first practice of the season. Photo by Paul Valencia

“It’s just fun to be back,” Mathieson said. “Obviously, there are things you want to do to be as safe as possible, but for the most part, we’re looking around and this looks a lot more like 2019 than it did 2020.”

High school football players (and the other fall sports athletes who will start practice on Monday) are thrilled to be part of this new beginning.

It is football season. 

Which means it is about to be volleyball season. And girls soccer season. And more. 

And it means school is right around the corner, as well.

Wednesday was a reminder that there are better days ahead.

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