The preseason gauntlet was rather stinging to the Aloha football team.

In the first three games, Aloha’s faced a trio of top-10 teams: Thurston (the Warriors won 37-34), Tigard (lost 56-7) and Clackamas, which the Warriors lost, 35-7, on Friday.

Seven of the Warriors’ nine opponents are currently ranked in the 6A’s top 10. And, with Sunset traveling to Aloha this Friday, there’s no letdown or chance for Aloha to regroup against a cupcake program. Head coach Bill Volk said they have to do better against high-quality foes but also noted the Warriors relish trying to upend those squads ranked ahead of them. They’re finding out more about themselves and where their biggest weaknesses lie, rather than masking them with blowouts over overmatched, undermanned units.

“It’s kind of like you want to beat up on your big brother, not your little brother,” said Volk. “I think our kids have always said they’d rather fight the best than not fight at all. What better way to find out how good you are than to face teams that are challenging? You learn more from a loss than a win. This is solid preparation for the postseason, so we’ll see how we do.” by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Aloha wide receiver Richard Belog looks for room to run against Clackamas.

Volk said Aloha started out flat, but as the game progressed, the Warriors began to improve. Clackamas jumped on Aloha early, scoring on all four of its possessions of the first half — drives of 76, 87, 71 and 89 yards to go up 28-0 before the Warriors could really respond. Aloha had two marches inside the Clackamas 25 on its opening duo of drives, only to come away with zero points.

Once the Warriors stabilized themselves, Volk felt they held their own against a team that the head coach noted was admittedly faster, bigger and technically sound.

“We were working on our jobs and not worrying about our opponents and what they were doing,” said Volk. “We feel if we take care of our position, we’re going to play a lot better, and I think we did.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Aloha Warriors wide receiver Ryan Schwartz  (11) turns upfield against Clackamas Cavaliers safety Hayden Kirsch  at Clackamas High School.

Get energized

Senior wide receiver Maurice McSwain played well despite the increasing amount of attention he’s beginning to attract on the outside. Volk said running back Calvin Davis ran hard, and the offensive line improved as a cohesive group. Junior Ryan Schwartz was a factor offensively and defensively and picked off a pass midway through the third quarter that thwarted a Cavalier drive inside the red zone. Senior signal caller Nick Krautscheid scored the Warriors’ lone touchdown in the fourth quarter on a one-yard plunge with 5:21 to go. Linebacker Jacob Maxwell also fired up the Warrior defense with his play, bringing the wood from the second level.

“Our kids got energized — they played hard and for another,” said Volk. They went up against a strong opponent who’s very much recognized across the state as a contender, and it was a chance to measure up. We’re a young team, and they did a good job of that and playing hard.”

Aloha opens its Metro slate this Friday against Sunset in the league’s only contest. The Apollos have a high-powered, explosive offense with a defense that’s solid across the board, and at 3-0 in the preseason are brimming with swagger. Volk said Sunset is much bulkier than Aloha at nearly every position, and the team’s regularly well-prepared with the guidance of head coach Faustin Riley.

“They cover details of the game in all three aspects: offense, defense and special teams,” said Volk. “Some of our best teams have had the closest games with Sunset — win or lose. For us, it’s a great challenge to start league out. It’s a humble position to be in to begin league play.”