Playoffs aren’t the only goal for the 2017 Evergreen Plainsmen

Paul Valencia
Paul Valencia

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.

Nadil Hodzic was just another football player as a sophomore. Then he dedicated himself to the game and turned in an all-league performance for the Plainsmen as a junior. Photo by Paul Valencia
Nadil Hodzic was just another football player as a sophomore. Then he dedicated himself to the game and turned in an all-league performance for the Plainsmen as a junior. Photo by Paul Valencia
Nadil Hodzic, left, took up the game of football as an eighth grader. He has learned a lot in his high school years. Photo by Paul Valencia
Nadil Hodzic, left, took up the game of football as an eighth grader. He has learned a lot in his high school years. Photo by Paul Valencia

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.

The Evergreen Plainsmen are determined to return to the Class 3A high school football playoffs, but this season they want to do so with a winning record.

“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.

Nadil Hodzic, near, and the Evergreen receivers hope to put up big numbers this season. Photo by Paul Valencia
Nadil Hodzic, near, and the Evergreen receivers hope to put up big numbers this season. Photo by Paul Valencia

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.

The Evergreen Plainsmen, practicing under the lights here, hope to glow under Friday night lights this season, in search of a winning record. Photo by Paul Valencia
The Evergreen Plainsmen, practicing under the lights here, hope to glow under Friday night lights this season, in search of a winning record. Photo by Paul Valencia

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.”

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About The Author

Paul Valencia joins ClarkCountyToday.com after more than two decades of newspaper experience. He became the face of high school sports coverage in Clark County during his 17 years at The Columbian. Before moving to Vancouver, Paul worked at Oregon daily newspapers in Pendleton, Roseburg, and Salem. A graduate of David Douglas High School in Portland, Paul enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years as a soldier/journalist. He and his wife Jenny recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. They have a son who has a passion for karate and Minecraft. Paul’s hobbies include: Watching the Raiders play football, reading about the Raiders playing football, and waiting to watch and read about the Raiders playing football.

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