A player-of-the-week award lifts up entire program
VANCOUVER — Technically, it was an individual honor when the WIAA recently named Julian Bojorquez the state Player of the Week for boys soccer.
It was not an individual award to Bojorquez and the Heritage Timberwolves, though.
The recognition he received after scoring nine goals in three matches also means the team got recognized by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association. That is what the Timberwolves were celebrating.
“I wanted to share it with everybody else,” Bojorquez said. “I felt I was doing something good for my school and for my team. But it wasn’t just my effort. It was the team’s effort. I felt a lot of pride for the team.”
The Timberwolves are not anyone’s pick to win the tough Class 4A Greater St. Helens League. However, the squad has shown a to be more competitive in recent seasons. Coach Bryan Housley called it a work in progress.
Progress is the key word, though.
Bojorquez said he cannot remember winning in his first season on varsity, when he was a freshman. He can recall a lot of lopsided losses, though.
“I didn’t want to continue the losing. I wanted to change the Heritage history. We had to improve our Heritage name,” he said. “That was a big factor when it come to motivation.”
The Timberwolves nearly got to a .500 season the next year. Then last year, the team won 10 matches.
This season, they went undefeated through the first six matches before losing to Hudson’s Bay on Saturday. The team sits at 3-1-3.
Housley has watched Bojorquez mature into not just an excellent soccer play but into a leader as well.
“He’s the catalyst for the team. He’s the guy who sparks everybody else,” Housley said. “He’s the guy others look to as the go-to guy. He finally started to embrace it a little bit.”
Housley acknowledged it was a big deal for a Heritage soccer player to get noticed by the WIAA. Now in his sixth year as the coach of both the boys and girls teams at the school, Housley said it is the first time a boy in the program has been in such a spotlight.
“He’s been around for four years. He’s seen us get beat by double-digits. He’s been the guy who helped us even the score up the last few years,” the coach said.
Housley said the program had to change its culture since he arrived. The coach wanted to create a competitive environment at practice, but also insisted his players kept their priorities in order, with academics coming first.
“Guys have to vie every week for starting spots. It was not assumed. And they had to go to class,” Housley said.
Now, all the Timberwolves understand the expectations. The motto for the program: Work Hard. Play Hard. Stay Hungry.
There are more promising signs, too. The junior varsity squad, coached by former Heritage standout Bailey Thomason, is undefeated. Thomason, the head coach’s stepson, still plays college soccer at Warner Pacific.
Housley said he hopes the more competitive program and family atmosphere will attract more students to come out for Heritage soccer in the coming years.
“It’s been refreshing that the new guard has been so persistent trying to get the W’s,” the coach said.
Housley noted that he considers the boys and girls teams to be part of one big Heritage soccer program. Both squads volunteer their time in the community. It is not just about the game.
“We take pride in wearing Timberwolves and wearing purple,” he said.
It has been a long road for Heritage soccer. Bojorquez has seen a lot of the change. He, and his teammates, are now celebrating that they have been recognized for making positive changes. Bojorquez said he has had scoring surges in club ball, but the nine goals in three matches was a first for him in high school competition.
“It was a really cool experience,” Bojorquez said of that WIAA honor. “It just felt like Heritage accomplished something. We all contributed into that.”
He has been playing the game for as long as he can remember. He used to kick potatoes when there was no ball in sight.
“Any time I was stressed, I’d go to soccer immediately,” he said. “Soccer is all I could ask for.”
Next year, he is expected to take his skills to Corban University in Salem.
For now, though, he has a senior season of soccer to finish at Heritage.
“It has had a huge impact in my life,” Bojorquez said. “Letting go of it is going to be hard. But life is full of chapters. This is just another chapter.”