‘Just a lot of joy’ for the Battle Ground Tigers
It took a moment or two for the head coach to realize the significance of last week’s win for the Battle Ground Tigers.
The quarterback knew right away.
So did all the other seniors.
For the head coach, the new head coach, the Week 2 win came after a Week 1 loss. Not the end of the world to lose one game, after all.
For his players, though, that victory was years in the making.
“It felt really good. You knew the work you put in finally paid off, and you knew you were going to come back to a school that was happy,” senior quarterback Kameron Spencer said after the Tigers rolled past Centralia 41-6 in Week 2.
It had been a long, long time since there was a Victory Monday at Battle Ground High School after a football game.
The Tigers had lost 18 in a row dating back to Week 6 of the 2019 season. They lost three in a row to end that campaign. Then lost five in the abbreviated spring season of 2021. Last fall, an 0-9 mark.
This year’s loss in the opener made it 18 in a row.
The Week 2 win gave the Tigers a breath of fresh air.
Spencer said it was really easy getting out of bed on Monday. The school day did not disappoint.
“Just a lot of joy,” he said.
They earned those smiles, too.
“It was incredible, knowing the seniors and what they’ve been through,” coach Mike Woodward said. “A lot of those seniors played as sophomores, too. They’ve experienced it. They’ve been right in the thick of those losses.”
Frustrated, sure, but the Tigers never doubted this day would come if they put the time in on the practice field.
“You would never know it,” Woodward said of the losing streak. “I never sensed that about them. I’ve never heard them complain about it. I’ve never seen the ‘woe-is-me attitude’ or ‘we can’t do it this year.’ None of that. I’ve seen nothing but kids showing up and playing hard every day.
“That was pretty darn exciting to see their faces afterward.”
Again, for Woodward, it took a beat or two for the enormity of the moment to hit him.
“It was different for me,” Woodward said. “You forget some of these kids haven’t experienced a win in forever. That made it even better.”
Spencer and the Tigers have been competing long before the actual season started. As soon as Woodward was named head coach, he announced that no one on the team, regardless of previous status, had earned a starting role.
That included the quarterback.
“I wasn’t about to lose my job,” Spencer said. “I had to keep working harder than everyone else. That’s what stuck out to me.”
Woodward needed Spencer to be tougher.
“We know he can throw it through a wall, but we need him to be able to run the ball, too,” Woodward said. “He’s got to be a tough, tough player.”
Spencer took it to heart.
At one point during workouts, Spencer noticed the defense needed an extra guy. While a teammate was getting reps at quarterback, Spencer stepped in for the scout defense to play … defensive end. He ended up practicing the position for most of the summer.
Honestly, not too many quarterbacks will be on the defensive line, even in practice.
But his willingness to try something new, something so difficult, really impressed Woodward and his teammates.
“He took over,” Woodward said. “He’s taken on and embraced that leadership role. His buddies, his teammates, have really rallied around him.”
That quality helped the Tigers after they lost in Week 1 to Mark Morris.
“We just didn’t get the result that we wanted,” Spencer said. “We looked at the film and we saw unbelievable improvement from myself and the entire team. It was still heart wrenching, but not as heart wrenching as it had been.”
The Tigers knew they were close.
A week later … victory.
“Everyone was clicking,” Spencer said. “Everyone was on their game.”
Now, it is on to Week 3, a rival game against Prairie. The Falcons are on a roll at 2-0.
At Battle Ground, no one is overreacting to one win. The Tigers showed promise, and Spencer has another promise:
“Just to keep building,” Spencer said. “We want to see major improvement every week.”
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