VANCOUVER — This is about respect.
It has nothing to do with the win-loss record, or being competitive. Not yet anyway.
Right now, the goal for the 2017 Fort Vancouver High School football program is to earn respect.
“Even if we don’t win, I don’t care, just as long as we’re not embarrassing ourselves,” junior Ezekiel Block said.
The Trappers went 1-8 last year, with a number of those losses coming in lopsided performances.
Yet Block is not talking about the record. A year ago, the Trappers were involved in two fights. One caused a game to be called early.
“It was kind of annoying. Teachers and administrators were getting on our case,” Block said. “It was really embarrassing. The only thing in the newspaper was our fight … until basketball season.”
Block said he, personally, was not involved in the fights, but he and all the Trappers were associated with the brawls because they all wear the same uniform.
Starting now, he wants that Fort Vancouver uniform to stand for sportsmanship, for honor, for integrity.
That also starts at the top, with a new head coach. Steve Broussard, a former Seattle Seahawks running back, is the new coach. Block has been impressed with what he saw this summer.
“He’s trying to teach us the right way to tackle, the right way to block,” Block said.
More importantly, Block said, he is preaching discipline.
“If he says we’re going to run, we’re going to run,’’ Block said. “If he says we’re going to the weight room, we’re going to the weight room. He said if people aren’t showing up to class, he’s going to make them run.”
The number of players out for football is not exactly ideal for a Class 3A program, but Block said there is a silver lining to that, as well.
“Most of the kids that don’t want to be disciplined aren’t coming out for football anyway,” he said. “That’s fine.”
Block is an honor roll student and a three-sport athlete at Fort. Known more for his baseball skills, he also held a key role for the basketball team as a sophomore and he started most games at defensive end for the Trappers last fall.
While the team managed to win just one game, and there were those ugly incidents, it was not all bad.
That one win came at Homecoming. For one night, the players were victorious, and their fans rushed the field to celebrate. In another game, Block and the defense held the opponent to zero first downs in the first half.
Broussard said he expects this season to be the foundation for a stronger future. He noted players such as Nehemiah Rasheed, James Durr, Sean Mintah, Nick Laurenza, Tyler Runkle, and Colby Milani to be leaders.
“If we can play hard and compete … my job is to teach them the fundamentals of the game,” Broussard said. “Keep it simple enough that they can fly around and play football. Then you find out who your football players are, and you go from there.”
He acknowledged this will be a long-term project.
“It’s been bad, and the morale is not very good,” he said of the program of late.
It is his responsibility to change that.
“No question about it, I’m excited,” Broussard said. “Our biggest thing is them showing up … just trying to get the excitement back.”
Plus, all Trappers have the benefit of being part of something new.
“There’s no preconceived notions about the kids. I don’t know what they can do. Everybody’s got to prove themselves,” Broussard said. “Everybody gets a fresh start. We all start from scratch.”
No matter the record, the Trappers can control whether they can walk off the field feeling good about themselves.
Block would love to win more games, but he is after something much more important this season.
“Just go out there and have teams wanting to come back and play us again because of good sportsmanship,” Block said. “Change the perception that people have about our football program.”