Lumberjacks look to bounce back with veteran leadership

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By | Skye Hopkins

Humboldt State’s Head Football Coach Rob Smith said he believes the Lumberjacks are ready to take on the 2017 season after a successful fall camp. Smith is entering his 27th year of coaching and has spent the last 10 years as a Lumberjack.

Prior to starting his coaching position at Humboldt in 2008, Smith was head football coach at Western Washington University and director of athletics at Grays Harbor Community College. After a 17-year career at Western Washington, Smith received recognition for holding the highest win total and winning percentage the school had ever seen.

“After 27 years, it is one year at a time,” Smith said. “I still enjoy what I am doing and coaching these young men is a lot of fun.”

Smith has won two conference championships at Humboldt and has the chance to coach several of his 2015 championship players one more time. He is excited for the potential that comes with the upcoming season and appreciates the team’s accomplishments.

“It is always tough reclaiming the conference championship,” Smith said. “But that is why you play the games. We are excited to get started.”

Although the Lumberjacks had a tough 2016 season finishing with a record of 6-5, the team is ready to bounce back to its 2015 season form.

In a recent preseason poll, Humboldt State football was picked to finish third behind defending champion Azusa Pacific and Central Washington.

The majority of the team’s high-powered offense is returning, including senior All-Americans Alex Cappa and Ja’Quan Gardner. Chase Krivashei is coming off of a redshirt season, where he only played three games as a senior receiver, will join the 10 returning players on the offensive side of the ball.

“Beginning of the season, we are just trying to get ready for the year,” Gardner said.

The defense is led by linebackers Jeff Shott, Curtis Williams and Connor Cox. That unit is returning on six starters from last season.

“We’re fired up. Getting ready for Azuza Pacific and Cety’s, and the season,” said Williams. “We are trying to go all the way this year.”

Ja’Quan Gardner is entering his fourth season as the Lumberjacks starting running back, he will be leaving as the career rushing leader at Humboldt. His 4,121 yards are the most in school history by 1,000 yards.

“It’s my last camp. Its exciting, but kind of sad because it is my last one,” said Gardner.

With several returning offensive players just a step away from setting records at Humboldt State, Smith is excited to see how well the fairly new defensive side of the ball will perform.

“On the offensive side Krivashei will be the career receptions leader. Robert Webber is going to be the career passing leader here at Humboldt and Cappa has been lineman of the year in the conference for three straight years, maybe four,” Smith said.

All of the veteran talent on offense should keep the Lumberjacks in contention for the conference title all year long.

“On defense it has been almost a complete turnover,” Smith said. “But this team, thus far, has shown me that they have the type of potential to win another championship.”

With many new additions, Smith sees the work in progress but admires the leadership on offense and developing defensive leadership.

“It is a lot of work,” Smith said. “It is a grind. We will be ready come September.”

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