Receiver Evan Mendez says this year’s squad is ‘all one, all together’ and ‘all family’
The Fort Vancouver Trappers are No. 1 in high school football.
(Read that sentence again. For Trapper fans, that has to look pretty cool.)
And no, that sentence is not fake news. It is just in a context that differs from the norm in the sports world.
The Fort Vancouver Trappers are No. 1, on the practice field anway. All of them wear the same jersey number.
“We’re all one. We’re all together. We’re all family,” said junior receiver and defensive back Evan Mendez. “We all help each other, make each other better.”
“We’re all equal to each other,” junior lineman Kenan Weinmaster said.
“This year, I really feel the unity,” added senior lineman Carlos Flores Villalobos.
That is how it must be done at Fort Vancouver, a football program that has suffered, on the scoreboard, for years. But also a program that features good students, high-character teens, and a wave of optimism with a new approach.
This will be the first full, traditional football season that Fort Vancouver, a Class 2A school, will be playing in the Trico League, a Class 1A league. The Trappers got clearance to play at a smaller classification prior to the 2020 fall season that did not happen.
Fort Vancouver coach Doug Bilodeau said he treated the abbreviated spring football season as if it were spring football in college, a preparation for the upcoming traditional season. He wanted to lay the groundwork for expectations and improvement.
Whatever he and the Trappers did, it worked. Word spread. There is something special going on with Fort Vancouver football. The team went 0-5 in the spring, but the team won a lot, too.
“There are a lot of positives the scoreboard won’t talk about,” Bilodeau said.
How about 25 to 47?
That is how many football players the team had in the spring and how many there are out for football for this season.
“It’s good looking at what the future is going to bring for Fort,” Mendez said. “I haven’t seen something like this in a minute. Haven’t seen this many people out for Fort in a minute. It’s good to see a lot of people.”
(In the world of slang, where up might be down and day might be night, a minute means a long, long time.)
“We haven’t had great seasons. The goal is to change that around,” Mendez said. “It looks like we have a good group out here. We have more of a bond. It’s been looking good. We look strong. We’re not there yet, but it is one step. We’re taking each step slow. It will take time.”
The Trappers are on a journey to respectability. They already have it in terms of showing up, of representing their school, and working through a very difficult situation. They also want to earn it on the field, on the scoreboard.
“We do have a good chance at winning games this year,” Flores Villalobos said.
Weinmaster said the atmosphere around this squad is so positive.
“If we do win a game, we’ll be over the moon,” he said. “Even if we lose a game, we’ll be alright. We’ll just wipe it off, and at the next practice, we’re right back at it.”
Of course, during games, all the players will have their individual numbers on the game jerseys.
Plus, with talented athletes such as Mendez, Fort knows it will have an opportunity to shine at times throughout the season. In four games in the spring, Mendez had 485 yards receiving. He made several highlight-worthy catches.
“He kept our offense alive,” Bilodeau said. “He’s a very talented young man. Very humble. Very quiet.”
Mendez also is a Fort Vancouver Trapper, all the way.
“I’m proud to represent Fort,” Mendez said. “I’m proud to put on the jersey every Friday.”