A championship encore

New leaders look to set the tone for Camas

Drake Owen can't wait to get his hands on the football for the Papermakers. He is one of the key receivers back in the fold from last year's state championship team.

Everybody in Camas still talks about that state football championship victory like it happened yesterday.

Fans can’t wait to come out and see the Papermakers pick up right where they left off, but the players and coaches will tell you that was last year. It’s a new season and the hard work has to start all over again. A lot of athletes are anxious to fill the roles needed on the field and prove they can do big things for a small town.

“We don’t get a year off just because we won state,” said senior defensive back Isaiah Abdul. “That’s not going to happen. We only get one senior year and we have a whole group of guys to train to keep the legacy of Camas rolling.”

Opportunity presents itself Friday, when the Papermakers open the season against Central Catholic High School at Hillsboro Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

“We’re trying to figure out who we are right now. We’re seeing new leaders emerge every day,” said senior linebacker Luke Bruno. “Every year, the goal is to win as many games as we can. Nothing is changing here. It’s just another year. We have a new group of guys coming in and we’re still working hard every day.”

Head coach Jon Eagle looks forward to the challenge of playing football in a stadium they have never been to before against a team filled with athletes ready to prove themselves to their coaches and fans. Although Eagle commends his players for their hard work, focus and attention to detail in practice, the one thing that he and the other coaches cannot teach them is experience.

“I think we are doing some great things. Our QBs are getting better, our o-line is getting better and our d-line is getting better. We have a lot of athletes. I think that’s a good place to start,” Eagle said. “I think we are going to fly around and play with confidence on both sides of the ball. You just can’t give players experience. You can work on skill. You can work on knowledge of the game. But you can’t work on experience until you start playing games. That’s the one thing you can’t manufacture on a practice field.”

Which makes this first game important to every Papermaker in football pads. Standing 5-foot-10, Abdul might be one of the smallest guys on the field, but he has one of the biggest hearts.

“I love going up against bigger guys. It’s great because they doubt me. I play on doubt. I play on guys who think they are going to push me around,” Abdul said. “I just want to show that it doesn’t matter how big you are, strong you are or fast you are. As long as you put in the work and keep your head down and just be relentless, you can do anything. You just got to have that dog in you. Play with a chip on your shoulder.”

Abdul went through a learning curve last season, developed into a starter on the backfield and came up with some big interceptions, including one in the state championship game. He thanks former teammates Sedric Reuter, Michael Matthews and Jack Colletto for helping him progress quickly. When Abdul came into one of his first games and tackled somebody, Reuter was one of the first players to congratulate him.

“Just having those teammates surrounding me showed that this is more than just football,” Abdul said. “This is a family. We’re all in this together.”

When writing down his goals for this season, all Abdul could think about was the highest expectations.

“Obviously, I had a great season last year. But I want to be better,” he said. “I want to be more of a team guy. I want to push people like the seniors we had before inspired me.”

Eagle looks forward to seeing more leaders like Abdul develop throughout the season. This first game should answer a lot of questions.

“We just need some experience. We don’t have much experience, so we got to be patient and we got to try and get better week by week,” Eagle said. “Sometimes, we have to remember that a lot of our players haven’t been in this position. We will try to be patient and give our players multiple opportuntities to show what they can do.”