The Dalles Middle School’s seventh grade football team wrapped up the 2017 fall season with a perfect 6-0 record and outscored their opponents by a 135-27 margin. In six games, the Wildcats averaged 22.5 points a contest, hitting 20 or more points four times, including lopsided wins over Armand Larive (32-0) and Sandstone (44-0). The defense held teams to one touchdown or fewer five times, with three shutouts.
When visualizing the direction of The Dalles Middle School football program, coach Paul Beasley has greater long-term goals in line for his athletes, which span further than just wins and losses.
With a solid core of supportive parents and driven athletes, the journey towards academic and athletic success should come sooner rather than later.
“From a program perspective, they embraced our mandates and exceeded my expectations,” Beasley said. “We have high academic and citizenship expectations for all our athletes. Although we did have some of the boys academically ineligible at times, they all worked hard and brought their grades up to be able to participate. They were good teammates and treated each other with respect.”
This seventh-grade group of 27 finished with an undefeated 6-0 record and outscored their opponents by a 135-27 margin, posting shutouts in three games against Armand Larive (Hermiston), Sandstone (Hermiston) and Hood River, by a combined, 82-0.
The Dalles had its closest win of the season on Sept. 21, a 13-8 victory over Henkle Middle School (White Salmon, Wash.), and then posted back-to-back shutouts over the two Hermiston schools to move its record to 3-0.
Once the calendar switched to October, the Wildcats continued their dominant ways, starting with a 20-12 triumph on the road over Corbett.
In a rivalry matchup at home opposite Hood River, The Dalles found the end zone one time and the defense held strong in a 6-0 victory on Oct. 12.
The following week in Washougal, the Wildcats came away with a 20-7 win, to cap their unbeaten campaign.
“The team really came together against Washougal and had their best performance of the season,” Beasley said.
Working with coaches Nate Timmons, Sam Heka and Kevin Marx, Beasley said it was one his most satisfying and enjoyable seasons in his more than 30 years as a coach.
“Nate, in particular, was incredibly prepared every practice, ran the offense to perfection, and was our connection to coach (Steve) Sugg and TDHS football program,” Beasley said. “I cannot say enough about his dedication and efforts on our middle schoolers’ behalf. It is critical to the development of our student-athletes at the middle school level to have dedicated and experienced coaches to prepare them.”
That coaching group implemented the same offensive and defensive sets as the high school team to prepare these athletes for a successful experience at the varsity level, which is an important aspect of creating a seamless transition from one stage to the next.
Much like speaking a foreign language, once an athlete can soak in and keep all of the information and allow instincts to take over, they will put themselves ahead of the curve.
More than that, Beasley believes that the program needs to get back to a solid core of fundamentals, like blocking and tackling safely.
That is the most important thing the coaches can give these athletes.
“If we can pass on the fundamentals, they can play the sport safely and enjoy what they are doing,” the coach said. “We don’t want them too bogged down with X’s and O’s at the expense of overall enjoyment. If we can play a fundamental style of game, they can be effective and successful.”
Many of the names on the roster have won a significant amount of games and accomplished success in other sports like baseball, basketball, track, cross country and soccer, so that has created a winning atmosphere and an attitude of sacrifice, dedication and hard work as the main ingredients to this finished product.
“This was an incredible group to work with from the first day of practice until our last game,” Beasley said. “They are a mature, hard-working and incredibly coachable bunch. Due to their high football IQ, we were able to use most of coach Sugg’s offense, run for us by Coach Nate Timmons, and they were dominant on defense. The sky is the limit for this group. If they stay together, they will be a force to reckon with in high school.”