VANCOUVER — Victories.
Another league title.
A possible long playoff run.
The Mountain View Thunder expect all of those things this football season.
But even if all of those things happen, those will not be the only memories for the Thunder.
“It doesn’t really matter what everybody hypes it up to be. It’s just a matter if we play as one,” said senior Joey Roberts.
Linemen Zeek Fromel and Roberts are making sure that the togetherness started long before the first game of the season.
They have organized bowling outings and late-night meals at local 24-hour restaurants for their fellow linemen. They have organized trips to Multnomah Falls and the Columbia River. They have hosted gatherings at their homes.
Roberts has choreographed a different handshake for his quarterback, running backs, wide receivers, and tight end.
“They do it every day,” Fromel said. “I see them working on them.”
This is all by design, of course, to reinforce the philosophy that while the games remain important, a football team is more than just Friday nights in the fall.
The linemen, in particular, are close. Just a few days before the official start of football practice in mid-August, they went on a camping trip. No coach needed to organize it. This was all by the leaders.
Fromel and Roberts said they wanted to start something they hope will continue long after they graduate. They want these non-football activities to become tradition.
“Every single day, we’re doing something together,” Roberts said.
Because every single game, they plan on moving mountains, creating space for the guys with the ball to run. Every single game, they will lead the Thunder’s charge.
“They are great leaders,” Mountain View coach Adam Mathieson said of Fromel and Roberts. “Coaches can help it go so far, but greatness comes from within. These kids have done everything we’ve asked and more.”
With four starting offensive linemen returning for a Thunder team that averaged more than 260 yards rushing per game a year ago, this year’s squad does expect more.
Glen Perry, who rushed for seven touchdowns and more than 800 yards last season as running back, is moving over to quarterback. Behind this line and under Mountain View’s system, it’s quite possible he could go for 1,000-1,000 (rushing and passing yards) this season.
Nile Jones and Jack Mertens likely will be the featured backs. But really, there is no such thing at Mountain View. One game, one player will get 15 touches, while the next game, it could be another player with all the carries.
Defensively, the team will be led by Andrew Gulliford and Mitchell Delmage, two all-league linebackers in 2016.
Playing a tough non-league schedule, the Thunder went 1-3 to start last season, but then rolled to a 5-0 mark in the 3A Greater St. Helens league, winning by an average of 32 points per game. Second-place Kelso was the only team to be within two touchdowns of the Thunder.
Of course, one of the challenges for such a favorite is to try to forget about this “favorite” nonsense, Mathieson said.
The same non-league schedule, against four Class 4A teams, will keep the Thunder focused. Plus, it helps to have people such as Fromel and Roberts to keep the team level headed.
“We just always try to work to be the best we can,” Fromel said.
It is fun to dream big, too. The Thunder do believe this could be a chance to go well into November.
In the process, their linemen can execute their favorite plays.
“Block for five seconds, then pancake the dude after (pushing) him back five yards,” Fromel said.
Roberts prefers the “double-pancake.”
“You get off the ball, pancake the guy right in front of you, go to the second or third level, get yourself a linebacker or a safety. Two for the price of one,” Roberts said.
“That’s a rarity. That’s the perfect play,” Fromel said.
Fromel and Roberts have also put together a perfect plan for Team No. 37, as they say at Mountain View, because it is the 37th season of Mountain View football.
“We’re going to do great as long as we play like we did in camp,” Roberts said. “We were rolling.”
“The best teams are the ones you feel like a family,” Fromel added. “That’s the things we’ll remember for years. Family is the closest bond you’ll ever have.”