Through all of the trials and tribulations The Dalles football team went through in the 2014 season, head coach Steve Sugg is confident that they will be better men and players in the future.
At the Columbia River Conference meetings last week, opposing coaches lauded the offensive play of Devin Wilson, Payton Eaton, Riley Bardes, Dominique Seufalemua and Joey Duong for all-league votes.
“We had a good mix of players take the role as leaders for us,” Sugg said. “We had a core group that never quit and kept playing until the last whistle. We will build around them and bring in some of our young guys and get the building process going next year and after that.”
Wilson grabbed first-team honors as a utility players and he was placed on the second team as a wide receiver.
Eaton was a second-team pick at running back, Bardes earned a second-team spot as an offensive lineman and both Seufalemua (quarterback) and Duong (offensive lineman) were named as honorable mention players.
All told, Wilson rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns, and added a team-high 24 catches for 186 yards and two scores.
In the Riverhawks’ last game of the season, Wilson scored the lone touchdown on a five-yard run, as he finished with 60 yards rushing on 14 carries.
Wilson is a junior, and Sugg is looking forward to having one of his most dangerous weapons back in the fold running and catching the ball in several offensive roles next year.
“Next year, he will be our No. 1 guy coming back, so it will be my job to get him the ball any way possible,” Sugg added. “He is going to have to run the ball for us and catch the ball for us. He will definitely be the guy on offense.”
On the year, Eaton, a senior, played running back and quarterback for the Riverhawks, leading the offensive unit with 797 all-purpose yards.
In two games against CRC playoff teams Pendleton and Hermiston, Eaton rushed for 164 yards on 46 carries.
He also added four catches to his statistical line.
“He had some pretty good games against some good teams,” Sugg said. “He works extremely hard, so he is deserving of everything he got.”
With his physical style of running between tackles, Eaton was a shoo-in for league representation.
“He gave everything he had for this team,” Sugg said. “It is a great honor for him to be selected. They only pick two running backs for first team and he was just behind those two Hermiston kids, so it made it tough get in the lineup. It does not take away how good a year he had for us.”
Bardes was one of the road graders for the Riverhawks’ line and he helped lead open the holes and gave protection for 1,192 yards of offense.
Through the year the offensive line was in flux, so Bardes was given the responsibility of giving line calls.
“He is the one kid who led by example,” Sugg said. “He wasn’t a real vocal leader this year, but in the offseason he was in the weight room and all summer long he put in extra work to get better. He has always been there and was willing to work hard.”
In his first full varsity year at quarterback, Seufalemua showed he is one of the better signal callers in the conference and was voted on as an honorable mention athlete.
All told, Seufalemua completed 82 of 191 passes for a 43 percent rate and 790 yards. He threw five touchdown passes, including a career-high 81-yarder to Eaton in a game earlier this season against Summit.
Seufalemua was a threat to run the ball and his two touchdowns proved that his legs are just as potent as his arm.
“He is a tough kid,” Sugg said. “Every coach in the league told me that they really respected Dom for the heart he showed in all of these games. With our offensive line injuries, he just took a pounding. But he never quit.”
With a year under his belt, Seufalemua will grow into the position even more as he gains rapport with his receivers and tight ends.
Capping the all-league players is Duong, a senior lineman.
Along with Bardes, Duong helped a Riverhawk offense complete 60 percent on red zone opportunities. The Dalles also averaged nearly 27 minutes a game in time of possession.
Sugg will miss Duong’s attitude and willingness to do whatever is asked.
“He is a real hard worker, who led by example,” Sugg said.
“I hope our younger kids saw what it takes to be a successful football player. Joey is a smart kid and never backs down from competition,” he added.