After only two years in the Intermountain Conference, the Hood River Valley High School football program has made its presence felt.
In 2002 it was the offense. This year it has been the defense. And just as last year’s voting reflected the dominant HRV offense, the 2003 all-league voting rewarded the IMC’s No. 1-ranked defense with five first-team selections.
Junior linebackers Luke McCarthy and Bryan Williams were joined by senior defensive tackles Zach Royall and Jorge Lujano, and senior safety Kyle Maurer.
Four of the five were also named to the second team on offense, while the fifth (Lujano) received the Eagles’ only offensive first-team nod. Meanwhile, senior running back Rocky Level, who finished fourth in the league in rushing with 822 yards and 13 touchdowns, was named to the second team.
In addition, Williams and his 114 tackles finished second behind Summit senior Eric Elshire (107 tackles) for Defensive Player of the Year honors — a fact that disappointed coach Mitch Sanders.
“In my mind, there is no question who the best defensive player in our league was,” he said. “Summit had a great year, but they gave up 63 points to us. That right there probably should have put Bryan first.”
However, despite the snub, Sanders was elated that his team received the recognition it deserved after a second consecutive 6-1 league season. Besides the 10 first- and second-team selections, the Eagles also received nine honorable mentions: Maurer at running back, Level at linebacker, Nigel Bond at running back and defensive end, Jason DeHart at guard, Heath Goin at tight end, Danny Newton at cornerback, Nolan Johnson at kicker, and Alex Dominguez at center.
Having 12 players honored is a tremendous accomplishment for any program. But the football team wasn’t the only HRV squad to reel in all-conference honors this week.
Both soccer teams received two first-team selections apiece, while senior Alexander Ponce was named the IMC boys Player of the Year after scoring 18 goals and leading HRV to a 12-2 record.
“It’s kind of exciting,” said Ponce, who hopes to play NCAA Division I soccer next season. “I didn’t really expect it, but I don’t think many other guys had the same numbers as me.”
Ponce was joined on the first team by junior defender Sean Rawson. Senior midfielder Jose Avila and junior striker Jorge Hernandez were named to the second team, while senior defender Miguel Najera and senior goalkeeper Julio Loza received honorable mention.
On the girls soccer team, senior midfielder Lisa Tedford made the first team for the second straight year. She was joined by senior striker Acer Lopez, who led the Eagles with 10 goals this season.
Fellow senior Anna Hidle was named to the second team, while freshman Justine Bryant and junior Emily Sager received honorable mention.
Rounding out the HRVHS all-conference selections this fall was junior volleyball standout Meghan Flink, who received honorable mention following her third season of varsity play.
“I’m really happy for her,” said HRV volleyball coach Jen Baklenko. “She really kept us together and I think the other coaches realized that.”
The HRV volleyball team will return Flink and up to 10 others to the varsity roster next year.