By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– Quiet yet humbled sitting while listening to his third-year coach talk about him in front of the team and their families.
Muscular in stature as he’s just wrapping up his sophomore season for the Gervais Cougars Football team, Dyontae Navarrete’s name was the last to be called in Gervais’ award sports banquet.
And as Navarrete walked up shook his Head Coaches hand, there was no vibe or sign of ego or ‘look at me’ when he got his awards that included the PacWest Top Honor, knowing if it wasn’t for those teammates around him, he wouldn’t have gotten the honor.
“I think it’s pretty amazing and it’s all thanks to my line, they played a real big part in this and thank you for everyone who voted for me,” said the humble Navarrete. “The season didn’t go as we planned but our team did good, we fought hard and fought until the end.
Head Coach Josh Crawford knows the excitment behind having the POY on his team and that is returning next year and the year after that as Navarrete is eager to get back to it right now.
“It’s super exciting, he’s already working towards next year already and I told the kids, ‘Take till Christmas Break off expect those who wrestle’ and I think we got nine football players wrestling and I think last year we had two,” starts Crawford. “So I think that’s going to help and he’s one of those kids that’s ready to work and football’s not coming around for seven months or whatever. It’s exciting especially for him coming back. It’s going to be exciting.”
For Navarrete, this award along with the Offensive Back/Receiver of the Year, first-team Running Back and second-team Linebacker honors, this season just adds to the fuel and the legacy that this young gentleman is building for the future, and it starts with hard work and team bonding.
“Just train harder for next year and get a better bond with my teammates,” he said
Will Perry spoke to how awesome it was to see his teammate taking home the trophy a year after Scio’s Dru Cook took home the same honor in 2016 as the Cougars saw 10 athlete’s honored this year, an increase from the last two-seasons.
“It’s huge because Dyontae, came out and improved all last season,” said Perry, who was a second-teamer this season. “Did great last year, I feel like he could have won it last year too, but came out this year and proved it. We blocked for him and he got what he deserved.”
“It’s huge because freshman-year I think we had two or three-guys that even got Honorable Mention, we had no first-teams besides maybe Neal (Sigleer),” Perry continued about the number of his teammates being honored. “Then last year we got a few, won a couple of games, a lot better and improved; and then this year, it went up-and-beyond it. I think seven-or-eight guys being thrown up there and we all came home with something.”
Crawford spoke to the development of the program, from 0-9 his first year to a 2-7 season in 2017 and a few bounces the other direction from possibly competing for a playoff spot as Gtown is making the move down to 2A with Colton, Sheridan and Chemawa in 2018.
“It is grown every year,” said Crawford. “So the first-year I was here, we had one first-team, last year I think we had two, this year we had five and the Player of the Year. Like I said to the parents, the Player of the Year is a Team Award because in Football you can’t do it by yourself, so if your the running back and you get Player of The Year, I mean that’s a big deal for the whole team.
“For me, as a coach who and someone who loves working with kids, it’s amazing to see the kids get the recognition they deserve.”
What was special to see too was Natali Herinckx.
While competing with the Gervais Girls Soccer team this year as a senior, the first-team PacWest footballer too tried her hand on American Football, seeing her first live action against Willamina with an extra point.
But, the adventure was making the adjustment to kicking the ball over the cross-bar and not below it.
“It was interesting, he just kind of every-time I went out there, even in the games, he’ll tell me’keep your head down’ and so I was like ‘ok’. It was different the first time I went out there, I only made like three-out-of-ten,” said Herinckx. “And it was like, ‘ok. I know how to kick. I should be able to more than that’ but it just slowly got muscle memory and it worked out.”
And though a few of her teammates were victims of a few of her kicks, she got the hang of the dynamics of kicking on the gridiron while keeping her dynamics of kicking a soccer ball like she can on the pitch.
“People talk about life-changing experiences and I just sort of open-my-eyes to…yes I was the only female out there, but it was also like, ‘wow I can actually be apart of this team’ even though I came halfway through the season, they still welcomed me.”
Crawford was impressed with the drive and passion that Henrickx had in kicking for the team and enjoyed seeing the senior improved throughout the season.
“Very impressed, all she wanted to do was be apart of the team,” said Crawford. “She didn’t care what she did so kicking for us was not something…we don’t work on it a lot and she made it so we worked on it a lot because she would stay afterwards with us.
“But it was excited to she wanted to do it and watching a kid not being able to do something and not believe they can do it and then be able to see they can do it and do it is amazing and senior night she made a 28-yard Field goal. So it was amazing for me to see and watch and all she asked for on Senior Night was to kick a Field Goal and she didn’t want a extra point, she kicked plenty of those.
The game was against Blanchet Catholic to close out the season and Crawford remembered the request that she had and told Henrickx if the opportunity is there they’ll do it.
“So I told her if we get an opportunity, we’ll kick it and it happened I believe it was fourth and 11 and we put a field goal up and she made it. So she was 100-percent for field goals so that’s awesome and I think she was like 80-percent for extra points and that’s with never kicking before. I think if she was here the whole year, she would have been first-team all league kicker to be honest.”
Imagine that. First-team in both sports, but hey, it’s not everyday you get to be honored in two sports; and when asked, Henrickx just smiled and humbly answered with:
“I don’t know, just honored,” she said. “I wish more of my soccer teammates would have gotten recognized because they all did…some of them improved a lot and other one’s were essential parts of the team that didn’t get recognized so I’m just honored to have gone and wished they also got this.”
Follow Jeremy McDonald on Twitter at at @J_McDonald81 or like jmcdonaldmedia on Facebook!