In his final two seasons before heading off to Ridgeview, where he won a state championship, The Dalles head football coach Andy Codding posted a 14-7 record with consecutive playoff berths and a pair of playoff wins.
At the start of the offseason, Codding devised a team rallying cry for the 2019 campaign — 1-0.
He and the coaching staff are trying to raise expectations for everyone involved in the program, and that comes down to the athletes putting in extra effort in everything they do, every day.
“Whether it is every rep in practice, in every game, every time they run a sprint or every time that they are taking a test in school, we want them competing to do their best against everybody else at the same time,” Codding said. “It is about keeping your eyes on the next rep too. It’s not looking too far ahead. It’s not about worrying about what happened last time, or in the last game, last week or last year; it is about what we can do to compete against what’s in front of us right now.”
With a new coach comes a new offensive philosophy.
Back in his first go-around, Codding ran an offense featuring the likes of Ray Niko, Cody Crane, Duncan Wilcox, Isaac Bailey and Nate Timmons, which scored 614 points (29.2 average) in those last 21 games (2009-2010).
Over the past two seasons, the Riverhawks have scored 305 points in their past 17 tilts, going 6-11 under former head coach Steve Sugg.
This year, Codding has added depth and impact skill players at multiple positions.
“We want to take what the defense gives us,” Codding said. “I think we have the ability to be diverse in what we do offensively, to where if we wanted to, we can be one-dimensional in either direction and still be successful. We have some weapons and we are going to use them. It might look different from one week to the next, but we run an offense where the defense can’t stop everything, and we are going to try to exploit what they are giving us.”
With a new coach, there is a positional battle at every position, including quarterback, and senior Gabe Helseth, a 2018 all-league winner, likes what he has seen so far in camp.
“This offense is very different from last year,” Helseth said. “We went from a very open, wide, spread offense to something new, so it has taken a little bit for all of us to get on the same page. It is a lot of change, but I think that our guys are adapting to it very well.”
Among the returning class of all-league offensive stalwarts joining Helseth are Steven Preston and offensive linemen Miguel Torres and Dalles Seufalemua.
With that duo in the trenches, TD racked up 144 points (18 points a game) and totaled 2,054 yards, 1,326 passing, on 255 attempts.
Helseth completed 100 of 228 passes for 1,237 yards (154.6 a game), with six touchdown passes, and he also did damage with his legs, posting 125 yards and three end zone trips.
Preston, as a versatile H-back, had 39 totes for 189 yards and a touchdown, and he hauled in 19 balls for 164 yards and a pair of scores.
TJ Green, a senior receiver, totaled 35 catches for 510 yards and three touchdowns last year, said that the offensive players TD are unmatched.
“We are practicing with a lot of confidence right now and we are going to come out ready to play,” Green said. “We have a lot of offensive weapons. Our speed is unbelievable, and defenses are always going to be on their heels. Last season was not our best and we know that we can do better than that. We are focused and motivated, and we are coming out stronger and ready to play.”
Entering this season, The Dalles has as many as 18 seniors on the roster, playing their final varsity campaign.
The sense of urgency is higher than ever before for that group, so they have a goal in mind to finish strong and cap their legacy in the right fashion.
“If we can play well and accomplish our goals, it would definitely be a good end to our high school career in football,” Nelson said. “I think it will make the town proud, especially since it has been a long time since we made it far in the playoffs. I also think that it would show good respect to coach Codding. He’s got a good track record of turning programs around, and I think this will be another accolade for him.”
The Dalles starts off the season on the road at Henderson Field against Hood River Valley at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6.
Intermountain Conference action is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27 in Prineville versus Crook County.