Fort Vancouver football: A winning week, even in defeat

The Fort Vancouver Trappers gathered to meet just prior to taking on St. Helens at Kiggins Bowl on Friday night. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Fort Vancouver Trappers gathered to meet just prior to taking on St. Helens at Kiggins Bowl on Friday night. Photo by Mike Schultz

Trappers vow to fight together, win or lose, which makes them victorious regardless of the score

Evan Mendez just had to do something special. Not for him. For his teammates.

The game was out of reach. One score would not change the result. This was going to be a loss for the Fort Vancouver Trappers.

But the Trappers wanted that winning feeling anyway. 

The Fort Vancouver Trappers could finish strong … once again.

The Fort Vancouver Trappers put together a strong week of practice, coming off their first win since 2019, in preparation for Friday’s game against St. helens. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Fort Vancouver Trappers put together a strong week of practice, coming off their first win since 2019, in preparation for Friday’s game against St. Helens. Photo by Mike Schultz

So there was Mendez, in the end zone, waiting for a pass from quarterback Kaeleb Cvitkovich. It was Mendez vs. a defensive back. It was Mendez jumping just a little bit higher than his opponent. It was Mendez securing the ball as he took a big hit.

Touchdown Fort Vancouver with 2.9 seconds left in the game.

“I was just trying to help my team out,” Mendez said. “I was a little disappointed in myself, but they supported me. I was just happy to be part of helping us out a little bit.”

“Evan was double covered, even triple covered at times in this game. It was tough to look for him,” Cvitkovich said. “I tried and I tried, he just wasn’t (open). Finally, I threw a fade. I threw it high. I let him go make a play. He got smacked, and he held onto the ball. And I love that.

“Three seconds left, let’s get in the end zone.”

Final score: St. Helens 62, Fort Vancouver 22.

A loss on the scoreboard, but this was a winning week for the Trappers.

Fort Vancouver senior Evan Mendez, shown here earlier in the game, made a leaping catch to score a touchdown with 3 seconds left in Friday’s game. Photo by Mike Schultz
Fort Vancouver senior Evan Mendez, shown here earlier in the game, made a leaping catch to score a touchdown with 3 seconds left in Friday’s game. Photo by Mike Schultz

Fort Vancouver topped Stevenson 29-27 on the previous Friday, the first win for the program since the 2019 season. 

This past week, the Trappers got to celebrate a victory over the weekend. They got to share the experience with their classmates in school. They got to prepare for the next game — this one against St. Helens — knowing they had it in them to win.

And even when the game did not go their way Friday night at Kiggins Bowl, they still found a way to feel like winners.

“Even though we lost, we’re all going to be there on Monday,” senior Brayden Vilendre said. “We’re family.”

That’s right. The Trappers will return to practice next week looking for the next challenge.

The Trappers fell to 1-3 this season. Yet, the Trappers are still optimistic. After all, in every game, something positive has happened for the Trappers.

Against Vashon Island, trailing by nine in the closing seconds, the Trappers scored.

Against Hoquiam, the Trappers scored three touchdowns in a minute.

Against Stevenson, the Trappers rallied to win. 

And against St. Helens, the Trappers made sure they scored last, to gain some momentum heading into Week 5.

“We persevere all the way until the end,” Cvitkovich said. “This week, we persevered and scored with 3 seconds left. Perseverance is what I learned that we’ve got.”

Fort Vancouver quarterback Kaeleb Cvitkovich said his team has perseverance, showcasing a never-say-die attitude in all four games this season. Photo by Mike Schultz
Fort Vancouver quarterback Kaeleb Cvitkovich said his team has perseverance, showcasing a never-say-die attitude in all four games this season. Photo by Mike Schultz

Clark County Today visited with Mendez, Cvitkovich, and Vilendre during the week, to talk about what it was like to experience a Victory Monday, to go to practice with one’s head held just a little bit higher than in previous weeks.

“It was liberating. It was something our school, our teammates, needed,” Vilendre said of the Week 3 victory. “Honestly, the win doesn’t really matter to me that much. It’s about the teamwork we had during that game. We played a pretty good game. Some things happened, and some things happened right. It just all fell into place. It felt nice to share that with our teammates who have been working so hard.”

Cvitkovich loved that the Trappers had to rally for that win, too. 

“We couldn’t have done it without each other, and all of our positive energy,” the quarterback said.

And not just from the Trappers on the field and on the sideline.

“All the people in the stands, all the people who were rooting for us,” Cvitkovich said. “We couldn’t have done it without them, so thank you guys.”

That Friday win turned into a weekend of celebration. Then it was time to go back to school on Monday.

“Everyone was kind of in a way better mood,” Vilendre said. “It’s like something just lifted off of us.”

Fort Vancouver senior Brayden Vilendre described last week’s win as liberating. The Trappers had not won a game since 2019. Photo by Mike Schultz
Fort Vancouver senior Brayden Vilendre described last week’s win as liberating. The Trappers had not won a game since 2019. Photo by Mike Schultz

Cvitkovich said teachers and classmates kept congratulating them. 

“It was well deserved for the kids. They’ve worked really hard,” said James Ensley, the athletic director at Fort Vancouver. “You can only talk about so many little successes until it actually shows. It was a culmination of the hard work they’ve been putting in to finally be able to have that experience of having a win.”

After 15 losses in a row, the Trappers hit the practice field on Monday with a new vibe. That sweet taste of victory made them want a bigger bite.

“It’s been a lot more hard work. Way more hard work,” Mendez said of this past week’s practice. “We don’t want to get cocky off of a win. We want to work hard and focus on the next game.”

“It was a little more hard core, a little tougher,” Cvitkovich said. “As good as Friday was, we had to get it out of our system. As soon as we hit the field on Monday, we had to start getting prepared for another Friday night.”

Unfortunately for the Trappers, this week’s game did not go as planned. It was, however, a one-touchdown game at the half. Cvitkovich scored on a short run with 1:10 to play in the second quarter to make it 16-8.

St. Helens scored the first 32 points in the third quarter. The Trappers were not going to get their first two-game win streak since 2010.

But they also were not going to stop competing.

There was defensive end Tayvon Vance getting in the backfield and slowing down the St. Helens ball carrier late in the third quarter. He didn’t make the tackle, but he made the play, allowing time for his teammates to rally to the ball and make the tackle for loss.

Then there was Fort receiver Anton Hill, reacting immediately to a St. Helens interception, making the tackle to ensure there would be no pick-six against his team.

Jordan Oldfield broke free for a 43-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter for the Trappers.

Jordan Oldfield scored Fort’s second touchdown of Friday’s loss against St. Helens, breaking free for a 43-yard touchdown run. Photo by Mike Schultz
Jordan Oldfield scored Fort’s second touchdown of Friday’s loss against St. Helens, breaking free for a 43-yard touchdown run. Photo by Mike Schultz

Then there was that final Fort Vancouver drive. The Trappers went 63 yards in five plays, with a running clock. Mendez soared for the catch, absorbed the hit, and got that final score for his teammates. 

“We don’t give up. We keep fighting. We fight together,” Mendez said. “We fight as one.”


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