Young Knights ready to overcome their lack of numbers

Paul Valencia
Paul Valencia
Reporter

VANCOUVER — The offseason gave the King’s Way Christian Knights a bit of a detour on the way to the 2017 high school football season.

Their head coach from last season took a college job and their new coach, Tom Schroeder, was not hired until July.

That’s a big change.

The Knights understand, though, that change is part of everyday life. Those who adjust well to change have more positive experiences.

Riley Danberg got caught up in the change as well.

The King’s Way Christian Knights football team is roughly half the size as the team that made the Class 1A high school playoffs last year but first-year coach Tom Schroeder still expects his team to compete for a postseason berth this year. Photo by Mike Schultz

The very first team workout with the new coach, Danberg was asked to play a new position.

“I don’t mind. I like it,” Danberg said.

Still, he was all-Trico League at linebacker last season. It could have been tough to consider moving to noseguard, right?

Not for Danberg. Sure, there is plenty of action at linebacker, but it is nothing like being the center of attention on the defensive line.

“I like it because you’re there, you’re in the middle, you’re in the trenches, you’re always just in it,” Danberg said. “I’m willing to do any position. I just enjoy football.”

As a linebacker, he would have to first read and react. At noseguard, it’s just boom!

“Now, you’re instantly hitting somebody,” Danberg explained. “I like hitting people. I can go through people. I’m very excited.”

First-year King’s Way Christian coach Tom Schroeder refuses to call this a rebuilding year for his Knights, who hope to compete in the Class 1A Trico League.

He also is excited about the changes at King’s Way Christian. Not that there was anything wrong with last season, when the Knights went 7-3 and made the playoffs. It’s just now it is one team from one school. Last year, the team combined with a few Seton Catholic players. This year, it is just King’s Way athletes.

Of course, there were more than 20 King’s Way seniors on that team last year, too. The team has a participation number in the mid-20s as it prepares for the Week 1 game against Fort Vancouver.

There were more than 20 King’s Way seniors on last year’s team that went 7-3. This year’s Knights team has a participation number in the mid-20s as it prepares for the Week 1 game against Fort Vancouver. Photo by Mike Schultz
There were more than 20 King’s Way seniors on last year’s team that went 7-3. This year’s Knights team has a participation number in the mid-20s as it prepares for the Week 1 game against Fort Vancouver. Photo by Mike Schultz

“We do have a young team, and we are small numbers-wise, but I do think with the guys we have we are going to surprise some people,” Danberg said.

Schroeder took over the program after many years as an assistant at Camas. The Papermakers won the Class 4A state championship a year ago.

Now, he’s coaching in a Class 1A league at a school with Class B enrollment numbers.

“We don’t have many numbers, but we have a special force behind it,” Schroeder said. “Keep working our butts off and good things will happen.”

He also said he refuses to call it a rebuilding year. That, he said, would be unfair to the seniors.

A team can build for the future while still excelling in the present.

Defensive lineman Chandler Wann joins Danberg as the only returning all-league players for the Knights. Wann is an offensive lineman, too. Schroeder said he has already noticed just how intelligent Wann is on and off the football field.

Kemper Shrock, a sophomore with a cannon arm, will likely be the starting quarterback for the King’s Way Christian Knights this season. Photo by Mike Schultz
Kemper Shrock, a sophomore with a cannon arm, will likely be the starting quarterback for the King’s Way Christian Knights this season. Photo by Mike Schultz

Kemper Shrock will likely be the starting quarterback, the coach said. A sophomore with a cannon for an arm, he will need experience to reach his potential.

“I’m always confident going into things,” Schroeder said. “Never know what’s going to happen. Hoping for the best for them. We’ll just keep encouraging them.”

The Knights do that away from the football field, as well. In the days leading up to August practice, the team went away to Long Beach for a unity camp. Two days of games, laughter, and bonding. Schroeder had a couple guest speakers, former players of his who he remains in touch with years after their high school days.

“It was nice to hear how he treats his guys,” Danberg said of Schroeder. “He’s almost like a father figure to them. He wants to be part of your life. He doesn’t just want to coach you in football.”

The camp also was an opportunity for the older players to meet the younger ones. There are a dozen freshmen in the program.

“That camp was definitely needed for us,” Danberg said.

The players took turns learning about each other. Not just how they can perform as football players.

Danberg said it is all about trust. Trust on the field, trust in life. At King’s Way, it is more than just a game, more than just a season. That is a way of life.

And on the field, Danberg trusts that his change of position is good for the team.

Getting to hit people as soon as the ball is snapped is just a bonus.

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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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