VANCOUVER — Nadil Hodzic never figured on becoming an all-league football player because, well, he never really figured on being a high school football player.
Life has a way of offering some interesting opportunities.
Hodzic struggled his first year playing football, as an eighth grader. While the game was not simple for him at the time, he did find a simple love for the game. That led to him deciding to give it another season, as a freshman at Evergreen.
That led to one more year. And another.
As a junior, Nadil Hodzic was voted second-team, all-league by the coaches in the Class 3A Greater St. Helens League as a tight end.
Looking back at his beginning in the sport, Hodzic just smiles at the memories.
“I remember starting one game, and I got jumped over,” he said.
Not exactly the makings of a star.
But in Hodzic’s case, it was the start of something special. He started focusing more in practice. He took offseason workouts seriously.
“I started doing it, and I loved it,” he said.
The passion for the game is all one needs at first; not instant success.
“There’s always room for improvement in football,” Hodzic said. “You can always get better. You can get better each day. It’s nice to look back, ‘Oh, I was that way, but look at me now and look how good I can be.’”
His coach said he hopes every team has a player such at Hodzic.
“He is the poster child of not letting anybody else label you,” Hyde said. “Believe you can do it and keep working for it. He’s the epitome of that.”
Come to think of it, Hyde would love to be able to say that about the 2017 Evergreen Plainsmen.
The 2016 squad went 2-7 in the regular season, but those two wins were in league play, forcing a tiebreaker for the final playoff berth. The Plainsmen won that event, advancing to the state qualifying round.
Sure, the season ended there, but the Plainsmen made it.
Then again, that two-win record stands out … and not in a good way.
The Plainsmen do not necessarily expect a 9-0 season but they do expect to be playing for a playoff spot again. They are hoping for the program’s first winning regular season since 2008.
Offensive linemen Alex Rodriguez, a three-year starter, and Connor Bell are all-league returners.
Hyde expects big seasons from his skill players, as well. David Crawford and Miguel Cruz will see a lot of looks at wide receiver. Zyell Griffin, a sophomore, is a running back and wide receiver. And running back Eli Vaa-Leiataua is another player to watch.
Under center will be Triston Fich. A senior, this will be his first year as a varsity starting quarterback but this will be his third year in Hyde’s system.
Serge Rusnak, a defensive lineman, is a “man among boys,” according to Hyde.
Together, they hope to bring Evergreen a winning season.
Confidence is high, especially for Hodzic. He crushed it in the offseason and his coaches took notice.
“As a sophomore, he was just kind of in the mix,” Hyde said. “Last year, he stood out. That’s a credit to his work ethic and his want to be good.”
Plus, Hodzic had something to prove. In the middle of the season last year, he had an experience on the field after scoring a touchdown. He had arrived. He had beat the odds.
Now, he believes his teammates are going to be able to say the same thing.
“We all want it,” he said of the winning season, of a chance at a league title. “We’ve been 2-7, but 2-7 is not our goal this year.”