Aloha football still winning despite early season adversity
The 2019 season was a bit of a fairy tale for the Aloha football team.
The Warriors finished 9-2 overall, defeated state power Jesuit in a thrilling 42-41 overtime game, and made it to the second round of the state playoffs before losing a 51-40 contest to Lakeridge. But despite last year's success and this season's 2-2 start, head coach Bill Volk couldn't be prouder of his kids, who have seen more than their share of adversity over the past 12 months.
"As a coaching staff, we couldn't be more elated for these guys," Volk said. "We had a very senior-heavy team last year, and this year's team is very young, and with the injuries we've had, it's great to see these kids play in some real quality football games. It's been fun to be a part of."
Aloha starting quarterback Hunter Gerard broke his collarbone in the Warriors' second game of the year versus Mountain View, and then in the following game, they lost their backup in the first quarter due to another injury, which forced standout receiver Tanner Volk behind center.
But despite their quarterback issue, in addition to a handful of other key injuries, the team has remained focused and continued to work, pulling out a 19-14 win over Southridge on March 26.
"We've lost some key guys from a team that didn't have a lot to begin with," Volk said, "But it's 'next man up,' and it's up to us and the kids to prepare for the next game."
Volk said that to an extent, the injuries were predictable. But like other coaches throughout the state, Volk knew that with nearly a year of limited preparation time, kids to an extent would be more vulnerable than in years past. Weight rooms and practice fields were closed, contact was limited, and as a result, players are more susceptible to injury.
"Not having the ability to train the muscles and bones of the body for the last 15 months, we knew could be a problem," the coach said. "We tried to do as much conditioning and on-the-field strength work that we could with limited resources, but it's been tough. We've been proactive, and we're always trying to do our best to protect the kids while looking at every aspect to do so."
Volk's son Tanner, who has committed to attend and play football at Central Washington this coming fall, has been one of the team's leaders. But amongst those carrying the torch for the Warriors this season include: Vidal Cruz-Luna who has anchored the offensive and defensive lines; junior lineman Tomas Salcedo Hernandez, whom Volk says might be handling the ball in years to come; lineman K.J. Carrier; senior running back Logan Moore; two-way players Diego Soto and Adrian Mashia; and fresh faces Anthony Liggins, Mataio Payne and sophomore center Myles Pankratz, whom Volk said has had some learning curve moments but has risen to the occasion and stepped up, proving to the coaches that he's their guy.
The coach also wanted to give props to senior receiver and linebacker Michael Christie, whom he said may not be a verbal leader but is one who "works and works and is to be commended."
So, with a youthful roster and a handful of games this spring to prepare for next year, is Volk excited about next year's group of Warrior football players?
"Absolutely," he said. "We've had quite a few reps on the field, and I think a lot of our guys have learned a lot of the ins and outs they'll need going forward. It's been a huge growing experience, and there's a lot of learning going on, but I think the learning curve is vertical right now and we couldn't be more pleased where we are."
Aloha is next scheduled to play Franklin at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 3, at Franklin High School.
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