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The 5-foot-6 standout running back is making a difference for a Jaguars team on the up-tick.

PMG PHOTO: JOHN LARIVIERE - Century High School running back Elijah Garcia (9) carries the ball during the Jaguars' opening week win over Forest Grove Friday, Sept. 2, at Century High School.
There's an old saying: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog."

Century High School running back Elijah Garcia exemplifies that.

"Elijah may be short on height, but he's big in leadership," Century head coach Danny Kernan said. "Height has nothing to do with the game when you work as hard as he does. He was voted a team captain by his teammates, and he's earned it."

The 5-foot-6 senior rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns while adding a touchdown catch in the Jaguars' opening-week win over Forest Grove.

Garcia is a four-year varsity player and earned all-league honorable mentions on both the football field and basketball court last school year. But while an accomplished athlete on the field, it's off of it where he most impresses his coach.

"Elijah is one of the most competitive and hardworking kids I've ever coached, and that is what separates him from a lot of high school players," Kernan said. "He studies the game and works hard for everything he wants. He's always asking questions and looking to improve. His dedication in the offseason in the weight room has shown in his play and improvement throughout his four years."

The senior isn't just about the work, either — he's also about turning that work into winning.

The Jaguars won just one game last season, and they've already equaled that total after just one week. But Garcia isn't satisfied. In fact, he's not even close.

"We're not going to get complacent after one win," he said. "We've got more business to handle, and I want to make the state playoffs and eventually get to the Columbia Cup or state championship games."

Those are lofty goals for a team that entered the year with little fanfare, and a school that Garcia said is routinely disrespected when it comes to athletics. He wants to change that perception and said he and his teammates have used that as motivation to prepare for this year.

"Being at Century, you're looked down on as a sports school, and that really motivated us this summer," Garcia said. "You know, you just get tired of losing and tired of being doubted, and I think this season is the season that we prove a lot of people wrong."

So far, so good.

The Jags lost 11 all-league honorees from last year's team but still managed a 20-point win over the Vikings in Week 1.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Century junior Elijah Garcia dribbles the ball and scans the Glencoe defense during a Jaguars' game against the Tide last school year at Century High School., Forest Grove News-Times - Sports  In addition to Garcia's standout game, junior first-year starting quarterback Jonny Ellis had 254 yards passing and accounted for three touchdowns, and fellow junior Aydin Ellis had a key interception at the tail end of the first half. Those contributions didn't surprise Garcia, who has nothing but good things to say about his teammates.

"We have some really good athletes," he said. "Our offensive line really grew, linebackers King Luafutu and Ethan Wedel are really competitive guys, our quarterback can play, and overall, everyone's gotten stronger, faster, and put in the work."

Garcia added his coaches into the group that is doing the labor as well, working with the team and school as a whole to help construct a successful foundation of winning on the field and in the classroom.

"Everyone wants to bring a winning culture back," Garcia said. "Our coaches have done a really good job of helping to get support from the community, our parents, the staff here, and trying to get everyone to support each other and really make a change."

And that support is also motivation for Garcia, who said he works and competes in part to make the people around him proud.

He said his family and friends come in big groups to his games, and he wants to make it worth it for them to be there.

"They come to watch me play, so I want to put on a show for them," Garcia said simply.

The senior, who carries a 3.5 GPA, said he plans to go to college next fall and maybe study sports marketing. He's not sure if football will be in the cards, but if the opportunity presents itself, he would love to continue playing the game.

"I'm not sure if that's going to happen yet," he said, "but if that offer comes, I'll definitely take it."

Kernan will be rooting for him, but until then, the coach is going to enjoy what time he has left with the type of player that doesn't come around all too often.

"Throughout his four years, he has made it to every workout, and even with playing multiple sports, (he) is always looking to not only better himself, but his teammates," Kernan said. "He's one of those special kids that you wish you could have for four more years."

Century went on to lose a heartbreaker to Ida B. Wells 24-20 on Sept. 8, and is 1-1 on the season.

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