The Hawks are ready to fly.
The Nelson High School football team knows it won't be easy and knows there will be hurdles along the way, but the Hawks are determined to move forward, nonetheless.
"We use the Lou Holtz (quote) about learning to be a champion, and step one is about learning how to compete, and step two is about learning to win, and right now, we're in step 1," said Nelson coach Aaron Hazel. "We're just learning how to compete every day. Our goal at the end of this season is to be in step two, learning how to win and building some momentum going into the offseason and then going into the spring."
The Hawks believe they can build their offense behind a front line led by junior Nolan Allen (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) and sophomore Noah Julison (6-1, 275), players who can set the table for quarterbacks Alex Nita (a 6-1, 190 junior) and Avirey Durdahl (a 6-0, 180 freshman) to succeed.
"Nolan and Noah are our team leader guys. Noah is a big, strong kid. He's got a bright future ahead of him, and Nolan is a junior and plays every step of the game for us and goes hard," Hazel said, adding that Nita "knows the kids and … he's got a little bit of maturity so he's kind of been the guy, but Avirey's got the whole package and he's been doing some good things."
At running back, the Hawks will look to junior Jack Gandert (5-9, 170) and sophomore Alex Leontyuck (5-9, 205), along with junior Dylan Barton (5-11, 180) after he returns from a shoulder injury.
Sophomore Owen Hunt (6-2, 185) and junior Connelly Courtney (6-2, 205) will go at tight end, while junior Max Kirsch (6-0, 180) and junior Reid Gray (5-8, 160) will see time as wide receivers.
"Max is kind of the blow-the-top-off guy and Reid is kind of shifty — he doesn't weigh much, but he's slippery and does some good things for us," Hazel said, adding that both junior Kyle Pankey (6-1, 185) and sophomore Jaxon Larson (6-0, 185) would also see significant time.
Head coach: Aaron Hazel
2020-21 record: N/A (first-year team)
2021 outlook: "Our goal at the end of this season is to be … learning how to win and building some momentum going into the offseason and then going into the spring." — Aaron Hazel
League contenders: Central Catholic, Clackamas
On the defensive side of the ball, Nelson will call on junior Logan Shorey (6-1, 185) and sophomore Boone Standley (6-3, 215) up front.
"Logan is an undersized guy, but he's quick. He can cause some havoc," Hazel said, adding that Standley "is kind of an edge player for us. He's going to be a big, big strong kid in a couple years. He's just learning how to use his body."
At linebacker, the Hawks will look to Leontyuck and Allen inside, while Hunt and sophomore Charley Engelgau (5-9, 175) are ready on the outside. In the backfield, Nelson will call on junior Vlade Thilavanh (5-8, 150) and sophomore Sam Lewis (5-11, 165) as cornerbacks, while Kirsch will lead the way at safety.
"Sam Lewis, he's a kid who started out as a swing varsity kid and ended up being a varsity starter, made two interceptions and is just making plays all over the place," Hazel said. "And then (Thilavanh) is … just rock solid over there. He's doing a great job for us."
As for his overall goals for the Hawks' "D," Hazel said it's all pretty straightforward.
"For us, it's just limiting big plays and swarming to the football to make sure that we're not giving up those big chunks," he said. "So far, we've done a great job of that."
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