Riverhawk football

Joe Codding of The Dalles lines up to snap the ball.

During the COVID-19 shortened spring football season, The Dalles High Riverhawks had a sensational start while winning two of their first three games, including a season-opening, 27-6, win March 12 over the Putnam Kingsmen. The Riverhawks are hoping to start their nine-game fall season with some momentum once again.

The Hawks have a number of reasons to feel optimistic with new head Coach Lynn Helyer guiding a 35-player squad that has eight seniors providing leadership.

“We’re trying to make some positive changes and I’m excited about the core group of kids that we have, but we do need more kids to become involved with our team,” said Helyer, whose assistant coaches include Andy Codding, Jim Taylor, Jacob Tasse and Dan Telles.

The Dalles started practice Aug. 16 in preparation for what will be its first official OSAA Class 5A regular fall season for the first time since 2019. The Riverhawks open the season with a nonleague game when they meet the Forest Grove Vikings Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Wahtonka campus in The Dalles. The game will be broadcast by Al Wynn on radio station KODL 99.1 FM beginning with a 6:30 p.m. pregame show.

The spring season wasn’t sanctioned by the OSAA and the 2020 fall season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Dalles had a 2-3 spring record and the Class 6A Vikings were 0-6 in the spring.

The Hawks have a number of returning varsity players who helped lead them to a successful spring season, including senior wide receiver/defensive back Jaxon Pullen, junior center Joe Codding, junior Riley Brock, sophomore Anthony Jara, junior running back/linebacker Marquies Sagapolutele and junior offensive lineman Mynoah I’aulualo. Other key returning players include senior offensive lineman/defensive lineman Majestic I’aulualo and sophomore running back/linebacker Maureese Sagapolutele.

“Pullen and Brock have both looked very strong in practice and they’re both taking repetitions at quarterback,” said Helyer. “One of them will be our quarterback and the other one will be our wide receiver. The strength of our team is our offensive line right now. We’ll have Marquies and Andre Niko at running back helping lead our ground game and so I think we’ll have a pretty good two-back, West Coast Offense. Mynoah has had some injuries that last couple of years, but he’s recovered well now, and he’s looked really solid in practice. We’ll just take what the defense gives us and make our opponent defend us sideline to sideline.”

Pullen led the Hawks in receiving and rushing in the spring and he was selected as a Special District 1 first team all-league cornerback. Codding earned an SD1 second team all-league award. Jara earned SD1 honorable mention in the spring while leading the Riverhawks in tackles on defense and he’ll be one of the defensive leaders again.

“I’m looking forward to the season opener and I feel like we’re just a few key parts away from having a pretty solid team,” said Helyer, a former Hawks assistant coach who recently moved back to The Dalles from Monmouth, where he lived the last six years. “We’ll put our first 11 players on offense up against anyone else in our league.”