Highlanders at a ‘crossroads’ after disappointing start

October 4, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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After a strong 2011 season, expectations were high for the Hazen High School football team, which is why the team’s 2-3 start is a bit frustrating for Hazen coach Drew Oliver.

“We’re kind of at a crossroads here in the season and we’ll see how we respond in the second half,” he said.

In its season opener, Hazen had a come-from-behind victory, defeating Franklin Pierce, 37-28, behind a strong performance from running back Mason Jacobs, who scored three touchdowns.

By Scott Coburn
Kyle Nelson, Hazen High School senior wide receiver, runs for a 64-yard touchdown Sept. 21 during the fourth quarter against Lindbergh.

Hazen started out slow for the second straight week, but picked it up in the fourth quarter, when they took on Liberty. This time, it wasn’t enough to overcome the slow start and the Highlanders lost, 25-22.

Oliver said he was happy with Hazen’s effort, but added that his team was disappointed by the close loss.

“I’m very proud of my team as far as effort is concerned,” he said. “I’m not happy on the scoreboard and the team isn’t either. I told those guys that we are past moral victories in our program, and three years ago that would have been a moral victory for us.”

But on Sept. 14, the Highlanders bounced back with a 50-21 victory against Highline in its Seamount Conference opener.

Running back Marquise Lee rushed for more than 200 yards and two touchdowns as the Highlanders cruised to a victory.

Lindbergh spoiled Hazen’s Homecoming game on Sept. 21, when the Eagles squeaked out a 10-9 victory. Hazen didn’t score until the fourth quarter, after a Sam Bunnell field goal and 64-yard receiving touchdown by Kyle Nelson.

Finally, on Sept. 27, Hazen lost to Kennedy Catholic, 35-0.

“We held it close for the first half, and we were battling, but then it feels like we physically got kind of worn down in the second half and just didn’t really perform very well,” he said.

Oliver said his team is better than what they’ve shown in the first five weeks of the season, and the goal is to turn that around.

“I’ve certainly seen the team much more capable than we’re showing right now,” he said. “I know we have a team that is capable of hanging with most anybody out there, but we just haven’t really shown that yet. So, our challenge is trying to bring that out.”

One thing the team must focus on is playing a complete game and not putting themselves in a hole by slow starts, Oliver said.

“Our focus will be on putting a four-quarter football game together,” he said. “We want to continue to finish strong, but we want to start strong as well.”

Most of all, the team needs to shake off the tough start, Oliver said.

“We need to remember that we enjoy football, and sometimes I think we lose sight of that and I know I do as a coach, too,” he said. “We need to keep them focused on the fact that we are all out there to have some fun, and I think our team plays better when they are loose like that.”

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