Mike Woodward returns home to coach his Tigers
BATTLE GROUND — It was the August prior to the 1984-85 school year when Mike Woodward went to his first football practice at Battle Ground High School.
He still remembers where he was standing, just looking around, trying to get a feel for what football was about, what high school was going to be about as an incoming freshman.
By his senior year, he was an all-league wide receiver, and football would help define the rest of his life.
Earlier this week, 38 years after his first day as a high school football player, Mike Woodward walked on to the Battle Ground football field as the head coach of the Tigers.
“It’s home,” Woodward said.
He mentioned Washougal coach Dave Hajek and Columbia River coach Brett Smedley. Those guy
s already understand what it is like to coach at the schools they played for back in the day.
Now, it’s Woodward’s time.
“They can attest that there is something about being home. It feels right,” Woodward said.
Woodward has had a coaching career that has taken him to the final four in the Tacoma Dome a couple times to home games in San Diego, and back to Southwest Washington.
He was the head coach at Mountain View, reaching the state semifinals in 2001 and 2002. Then Hudson’s Bay. He spent nine seasons in Southern California. Then he returned to the region and was the head coach at Woodland.
Through it all, he always wondered: “What would it be like to end my career where it started?”
“This is the third time that this job opened in the six years I was at Woodland,” Woodward said. “The timing just felt right.”
Woodward said he wants this era of the Tigers to be similar to the Tigers he played with back in the 1980s.
“Back then, Battle Ground, it was all about toughness. We always wanted to be the toughest kids in Southwest Washington,” Woodward said. “It didn’t always equate to wins, but we were tough.”
Today’s players appreciate that mindset.
“He really cares about the program,” senior Ryder Sharrow said. “I think he’s an outstanding guy. He definitely puts the kids first. And the numbers are up from last year. Everyone’s dedicated to putting the work in.”
Sharrow also said he and his teammates are not backing down from the overwhelming challenge ahead of them in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League. In this four-team league, most of the talk centers around Camas, Union, or Skyview.
“I’m excited about those matchups,” Sharrow said.
Those league games won’t come until Weeks 7, 8, and 9 for the Tigers.
Right now, it is all about a new beginning.
“To me, football starts back in December when you hit that weight room,” Sharrow said.
Still, Wednesday was the first official day of practice.
“Now that we’re out here, it’s game time,” Sharrow said. “It starts now.”
And the Tigers have a coach who truly loves being where he is today.
“I can remember my first day of practice as a freshman,” Woodward said. “Coming here, knowing that feeling as a player and now as a coach, it just felt right. It’s an incredible feeling and super exciting.”
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