Coach talk: 4A Greater St. Helens League football

Camas, Skyview, and Union renew Big Three rivalry while Battle Ground, with a new coach, looks to bring toughness back to the program in the mighty Class 4A Greater St. Helens League.

Camas, the defending league champion, has high expectations again

One team last won the state championship in 2019.

Another won it all in 2018.

And yet another has the longest active streak of making it to the state playoffs.

That’s three teams out of a four-team league with an awfully impressive resume going into the 2022 high school football season.

Yes, the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League might only have four teams in it, but the teams that survive the regular season will have a shot at a deep playoff run.

Camas has won two state titles since 2016. Union won it all in 2018. And Skyview has reached state the past three seasons in which state playoffs were held.

Oh, and all three coaches of those teams said that Battle Ground is going to be improved.

“I know by the time we get to our league season, those guys will be dialed in,” Union coach Rory Rosenbach said. “I know they will be dialed in. I hope we’ll be dialed in. That’s why I love competing in this league. It’s a battle.”

The four teams will square off in the final three weeks of the regular season. The top two teams will advance to the Week 10 preliminary round, with a shot to advance to the state playoffs.

“The other three head coaches, they’re all exceptional men and competitors. Great coaches and good for kids,” Camas coach Jack Hathaway said. “It’s always a battle to go up against Skyview and Union. Battle Ground adding (Coach Mike) Woodward, it’s a tough league. It’s going to be fun. It always is.”

Skyview coach Steve Kizer returns for his 19th season. He became solo head coach of the Storm the year Evergreen — then a 4A GSHL team — won the state title. Since then, Camas has two titles, Union has one, and Skyview has been to the semifinals or beyond three times.

“Camas has a machine out there,” Kizer said. “I guess Union is going big-time, too. And at Battle Ground, they’re throwing the ball all over the place. They look a lot better.”

This is Woodward’s first time coaching in the 4A GSHL since he was at Hudson’s Bay for three seasons from 2004-06. (Bay, now a 2A team, was a 4A team in 2004.) Woodward also coached Mountain View to back-to-back state semifinal appearances in 2001 and 2002. 

He is back in the league, but he always followed it.

“Being friends with these coaches, I’m in the loop,” Woodward said. “I’m not oblivious to what I’m getting into.”

Battle Ground has lost 17 consecutive games dating back to the 2019 season. Now Woodward takes over.

“I’m honored and proud of Southwest Washington football,” Woodward said. “It’s the best league in the state. We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

He and the Tigers know that nobody else believes in them, but he promises that the Tigers will not go in and lie down in front of the Big Three. 

For now, it is about the Tigers learning his system, gaining some experience in the non-league part of the schedule, and, hopefully, picking up some wins along the way. 

As far as the GSHL?

“It’s a long season. Weeks 7, 8, and 9, we’ll worry about that when we get there,” he said.

Camas is the defending league champion. The Papermakers reached the state quarterfinals in 2021.

“We always have the highest of expectations,” Hathaway said. “That’s what we strive for, the high expectations. Our league championship is a huge goal for us. Every year, we want to make a deep, deep playoff run. Our kids know that. It’s alright to expect it.”

Skyview finished second in the 4A GSHL last year, won in Week 10, and made it to the state round of 16. The Storm are young this season. But there is time. There is always time in a four-team league.

“We have to gain some experience,” Kizer said. “If you see our schedule, we’ll gain a lot of experience.”

Skyview opens, for instance, with longtime Oregon power Jesuit. By Week 7, the Storm will be battle tested.

Union was the odd team out of the playoff picture last year, at least among the Big Three in the 4A GSHL. 

“I’m excited about this group. A really fun group to work with,” Rosenbach said of the 2022 Titans. “A really good group personality. The older guys are super tight. They hold each other accountable. They don’t take it easy on each other.”

At Battle Ground, this season will be about toughness. Woodward is a graduate of Battle Ground. He said when he grew up, the Tigers might not have won every game, but they always felt they were the toughest team in the league.

That mentality has to return in Battle Ground, Woodward said, and when it does, the Tigers could eventually be in the playoff discussion with the the Big Three in the 4A GSHL. 

Opening week:

Mark Morris at Battle Ground, 7 p.m. Friday

Camas at Yelm, 7 p.m. Friday

Skyview at Jesuit, 7 p.m. Friday

Eastlake vs. Union, 4 p.m. Saturday at McKenzie Stadium

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