Highlanders renew old league rivalry

September 3, 2008

By Jim Feehan

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Hazen High School football coach Scott Leick instructs his 2008-09 team on preparation details for them to attend to at the end of a morning football practice. Photo by Greg FarrarHazen High School football coach Scott Leick instructs his 2008-09 team on preparation details for them to attend to at the end of a morning football practice. Photo by Greg Farrar


One thing is certain this year with the Hazen High School football team - the players won’t have any long bus rides to play a nonconference opponent. Last year, the Highlanders played at Union High outside of Vancouver, Wash. Three years ago, Hazen played at Pullman High School.

This year, the nonleague opponent, Liberty High School, shares the same ZIP code. Hazen and Liberty renew an old rivalry when the two Renton Highlands schools meet Oct. 10 at Liberty.

“The farthest we’ll travel this year is to Highland Stadium in Burien,” Hazen Coach Scott Leick said.
Also new this year, Foster High School, of Tukwila, joins the Seamount League.

The Highlanders will see the return of six starters on both offense and defense from a squad that went 3-4 in league play and 3-7 overall last season.

Last season, Hazen passed for 699 yards. Look for that total to increase, as Hazen will use a spread formation on offense. The team will use a shotgun, three-receiver and single-back set.

“We’ll be quicker on offense as opposed to the power game people are used to seeing,” Leick said. 

Sophomore quarterback Travis Johnson, of Newcastle, leads the offense. As a freshman, Johnson came on at the end of last season to lead the Highlanders to three conference wins.

“He came out ready to play this season and he’s put a lot of work in during the summer,” Leick said regarding Johnson. In addition to attending a team training camp at Central Washington University in late June, Johnson also participated in a quarterback camp in California this summer.

James Holland will anchor the rushing attack once again. As a sophomore, Holland rushed for 576 yards last year and was an All-Seamount League honorable mention.

“He’s just a big, strong kid with very good speed,” Leick said.

The offensive line sees the return of four starters, led by senior Courtney Sanders, an All-Seamount League first team selection. “He has great skills, a good work ethic and he’s taken on a leadership role on the team,” Leick said.

Kevin Schwab moves from fullback to guard while Nick Bunch will play the other guard. Jordan Hjelmaa, an All-Seamount League honorable mention selection, will play center and Nate Williams will play tackle.

The biggest question going into the season is who will be among the wide receivers, Leick said.

Holland may be used more coming out of the backfield. Leick said he is impressed with newcomer junior Tyler Searles at tight end.

“He’s 6-3, 6-4, good size with hands,” he said.

On defense, Sanders moves from linebacker to defensive tackle. Hjelmaa and Bunch are set at defensive end and Matt Hu, an All-Seamount League honorable mention selection rounds out the front four.

The linebackers include Schwab, Holland and Searles.

Arjuna Bridges returns at defensive back. Newcomers juniors Tyler Snow and Anthony Pina will join him. 

Leick said Kennedy is once again the team to beat in the Seamount League.

“They are probably one of the top five schools in the whole state,” he said.

Renton has a lot of team speed and Evergreen remains a mystery, with its new coach who came from a successful program at Hermiston, Ore.

Leick said he’s excited to play Liberty once again.

“The kids grew up in the same area, eat at the same restaurants and shop at the same stores,” he said. “It’s such a natural rival.”

Highlanders Schedule
All games start at 7 p.m.
Sept. 5 – Evergreen at Renton Stadium
Sept. 11 – Highline at Renton Stadium
Sept. 19 – Foster at Neudorf Memorial Stadium (Tukwila)
Sept. 26 – Renton at Renton Stadium
Oct. 3 – Lindbergh at Renton Stadium
Oct. 10 – at Liberty
Oct. 17 Mount Rainier at Highline Stadium (Burien)
Oct. 24 – Kennedy at (Highline Stadium (Burien)
Oct. 30 Tyee at Renton Stadium

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