Highlanders get off to a rocky start
October 4, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
It’s been a difficult start for the 1-3 Hazen High School football team, but as Highlanders coach Drew Oliver puts it, his young squad is close to breaking out.
“We’re so close to being a good football team,” he said. “We’re certainly not there by our record and not by our performance on Friday nights, but we’re doing a lot of good things in practice.”
Inexperience and execution problems have plagued the Highlanders, a young team that saw more than 15 seniors graduate in 2013, and has a relatively small senior class.
Hazen began its season traveling to Tacoma to take on Franklin Pierce Sept. 6. The Highlanders kept it close through the first quarter, down only 7-0, but Franklin Pierce erupted for 27 points in the second quarter.
Franklin Pierce went on to win, 48-20. Hazen quarterback Nolan Hoover threw two touchdown passes, both to receiver Isaiah Davis. Ryan Wong rushed for a 19-yard touchdown for the other score.
The Highlanders hosted rival Liberty in week two, hoping to take one from the Patriots, after the fellow East Renton Highlands school won last year’s matchup.
At the end of the day, though, it was the Liberty student section’s right to chant “We run Renton,” when the Patriots defeated the Highlanders, 28-7, Sept. 13.
The officiating loomed large in the game, as two long Hazen touchdowns were erased by penalty.
“We had some execution problems throughout the game,” Oliver said after the loss. “Too many penalties cost us situations.”
The lone bright spot in the loss was junior Marquise Lee, who scored the team’s only touchdown on a 3-yard run. Lee also led the team in rushing with 96 yards, and tackles with 9 1/2.
“He’s a fierce competitor,” Oliver said. “It doesn’t matter where we put him on the field, he loves football and he loves being out there. He seems to show up in the right spot at the right time. He’s got some great natural instincts for playing this game.”
The entire team was clicking on all cylinders in Hazen’s 46-0 shutout of Highline Sept. 20. Lee rushed for 128 yards on just five carries, including an 84-yard touchdown run.
Sophomore Kaleb Magee rushed for two touchdowns and compiled a total of 84 yards on 12 carries. Brandon Ivy and Ryan Wong each had rushing touchdowns of their own.
On the defensive side, the Highlanders were in the backfield disrupting the Highline quarterback all night long. Hazen recorded three sacks.
Senior Jordan Abdullah led the defense with five tackles, including four for a loss and one sack. Linebacker Joe Glaefke also returned a fumble for a 17-yard touchdown.
A week later, Hazen lost a close one to Lindbergh, 13-7, Sept. 27.
Lindbergh led 7-0 through the first three quarters, before Hazen tied it, 7-7, in the fourth. Hoover completed a 20-yard pass to Lee for the score.
The Eagles would tack on one more score to take the lead and game. It was a solid night for Hazen quarterback Hoover, though, who completed 11 of 16 passes and threw for 118 yards.
“The kids, to their credit, their effort in each game has been sound, and their want to and desire has never wavered, which can’t always be said for a team when they’re losing,” Oliver said.
Oliver said he’s confident the light will eventually go on for his young team, as it matures and cuts down on the execution errors.
“For us, we’ve really been stressing that our victories come Monday through Thursday. I think getting kids to practice consistently and showing up and getting better at our stuff each and every day, that’s what it’s going to take,” he said. “It’ll click. It’ll get there.”