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By Jordan Nailon
On an evening dedicated to the seniors of the Spartan football program, it was the bond of the
pee wee ranks that owned the night. While the pee wee Spartans made memorable appearance during the Senior Night half time festivities, the youthful memories of yesteryear were fresh on the minds of this year’s seasoned veterans.
Although they dropped their penultimate contest at Spartan Stadium 28-6 to the 2A Bobcats of Aberdeen, the grizzled Forks seniors, who count few in numbers but long on heart, spoke in genuine gilded tones of their comrades post-game.
Each of the four-year Spartans noted the uncommon bond that their group has forged through countless contests dating back to their own Little League days.
As senior lineman Kody Hansen puts it, “We’ve been best friends since Little League.”
The Spartans 5-foot 9-inch, 246-pound tailback/nose tackle and full time bruiser, Miguel Morales, agreed with Hansen, his brother in arm pads. Morales put the emphasis on brother, saying, “Ever since we were little kids, every sport we’ve played we’ve played together and it’s helped us become more of a family. Not a team. Family.”
Shaped and toned like an anvil at 5 feet 8 inches, 205 pounds, Dimitri Sampson is another broad-shouldered senior running back for the Spartans. A stalwart of a linebacker on defense, Sampson shares an almost telepathic connection with his brute running back partner Morales.
As Sampson explained it, “I know he (Morales) has my back and I can just follow him and get my yards.”
“I don’t have your back,” quickly quipped back the lead blocking Morales. “I’ve got your front.”
Javier Contreras, who dazzled the crowd with a spectacular horizontal diving interception in his last-ever home game, did not hesitate to contribute to the complimentary air, noting, “I can feel the energy when I hand the ball off to them. Either one of them.”
“Javy” then painted his fellow seniors with a broad brush when he proclaimed, “They’re all frickin’ good at everything thing they do.”
Despite the prevailing fondness of their memories, these senior Spartans have absorbed more than their fair share of defeats. Absorbing defeat from bigger teams that hail from larger outposts was often expected by outsiders, but those adversities only intensified the unification of the Spartans seniors of the gridiron.
“Ever since we were in youth league we always had a team with just 14 players and just our group of four seniors. We’ve always kind of been the underdogs,” explained Morales.
Coach Mark Feasel said he noticed right away that this year’s senior group had been strengthened by their early trials.
“It really starts to feel like that when you are the underdog,” explained Feasel. “When you face adversity like that, that’s when the family type bonding, the family structure comes out.”
When pinpointing the origin of his relentlessly punishing running style, Morales pointed specifically to the methods of his youth league coach Tony Tamua.
“He just ran me until I was dog tired,” remembered Morales. “It taught me to never stop. He basically taught me everything I know.”
The senior Spartans’ never-quit attitude is evident to anyone who’s paying attention and that certainly includes their head coach.
“The seniors have just been fantastic,” said Feasel. “Every single guy gives you everything they’ve got and that’s all you can ask for.”
Feasel spoke of how senior transfer Jack Kell, a wide receiver and cornerback, has been a spark for the Spartans this year.
“He’s a big, athletic kid,” said Feasel. “He has been a great asset for us this year, just being able to come right in and play. He gives us good looks on the practice field and on Friday nights, too.”
That leadership is bound to pay dividends in the future for Forks. As Feasel sees it, “When you look at the numbers of this senior class they don’t have the numbers they need to do what they want to do, but they never quit on you. But when these younger guys get to be upperclassmen, they are going to play at a very high level because they’ve been there and they’ve seen it before, from these (senior) guys.”
All of the Spartans agreed that beating the then highly touted Tenino Beavers on Homecoming night was, as Feasel put it, “a standout game,” on their resumé.
Hansen spoke of how he savored upsetting the heavily favored Beavers, saying, “The whole town was buzzing. You could feel it when you were going around town.”
Feasel noted feeling redemption for a sour triple overtime loss to Tenino last year.
Sampson relived his 76-yard touchdown run from the game’s first play, touting that, “I used all my moves!”
Reflecting on the collective body of work of his seniors at the end of the night Feasel said, “I’m proud of them, but I just wish we could have gotten them the wins that they deserved.”
To their credit the senior Spartan players choose to embrace their challenges rather than wallow in their defeats.
Morales, who scored the Spartans only points of the night on a smashing touchdown run and also cobbled together an impressive kickoff return that ended on the Aberdeen 10-yard line, confessed, “Every chance I get to play with my boys, that’s the best feeling.”
Hansen agreed, saying, “It was an unreal experience tonight. I just love my team. There is nowhere else I’d rather be.”
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