LACEY — Elijah Camacho cracks a smile when asked about his height.
He admits he stands 5-feet-41/2, but that height is often fibbed to 5-6 or 5-7 on the published River Ridge High football roster.
That’s OK with Camacho, a senior fullback and linebacker, because more often than not, he’s the smallest player on the field, and Camacho uses that to his advantage with opposing defenders.
“I’m lower (to the ground) and it’s harder for them to shoot on me and tackle me,” Camacho said. “I have less to worry about than all these lengthy guys.”
His height advantage bodes well beyond football. Camacho is a standout wrestler who placed fifth in Class 2A at 160 pounds last February at Mat Classic XXV. He was the first River Ridge wrestler to place at state since Marques Ford won the 152-pound state title in 2010. Camacho reached the 2A semifinals before falling to Kingston’s Bobby Reece, who
stands 6-1 and went on to win his third straight state title.
But back to the gridiron: Camacho – whose weight is up to 185 pounds, thanks to a summer working on a Colorado farm — starts this season healthy.
A broken left ankle sustained during team camp cost him significant playing time during his junior year. Still, River Ridge had its second winning record (5-4) in three seasons.
Camacho’s absence was noticed, however.
“When he’s out there,” Hawks coach Steve Schultz said, “we do better.”
Schultz praised Camacho’s football intelligence. Soon to be a four-year starter on defense, Camacho persuaded Schultz to move him to “rover,” a hybrid between a linebacker and a safety.
Camacho thinks the switch can be a big benefit for a player who often goes against bigger and taller players.
“I can see the ball better,” Camacho said. “I”m not so much in the trenches with all the commotion.”
On offense, Camacho will still play fullback and contribute his blocks to a line that averages upward of 220 pounds. Only, Camacho will now block for a new tailback — sophomore Chris Leiba — who had a monster freshman season at defensive back. The fast Leiba also ran a leg on the Hawks’ 2A state title-winning 4x100 relay team.
At times, however, Camacho will be the lone powerback, getting 15-20 carries a game, Schultz said, and a few catches out of the backfield, too.
“He knows how to run the ball,” Schultz said. “For a little guy, he’s a good receiver.”
Camacho might not be as quick as Leiba, but he’s fast and rises to the challenge.
“I like guys underestimating me,” Camacho said.
About the Hawks
Coach: Steve Schultz, 11th year
2012: 5-4, fourth in 2A Evergreen Conference
Offense: Coordinator (set) — Schultz (spread option); returning starters — 2
Top players: RB Elijah Camacho, 5-6, 180, sr.; OL Tommy Clark, 6-3, 225, jr.
Defense: Coordinator (set) — Jerry Madrid (3-5); returning starters — 7
Top players: DB Chris Leiba, 5-7, 145; DB Daniel Montesa, 5-9, 155, sr.; DL Vaughn Berg, 5-10, 220, sr.; LB Jonathan Lazik, 5-8, 220, jr.; DL Sean Roberts, 6-0, 220, sr.
Outlook: Big up front? That’s River Ridge, averaging better than 220 pounds across the line, led by Clark at 6-3, 225. Speed is another big factor; two members of the Hawks’ state title-winning 4x100 relay team — Leiba and DeJuan Frye — play football. The 5-4 mark in 2012 was the team’s second winning season in three years.
All games at 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 6 — TIMBERLINE
Friday, Sept. 13 — at Sequim
Friday, Sept. 20 — at Ridgefield
Saturday, Sept. 28 — HOCKINSON
Friday, Oct. 4 — at Black Hills *
Thursday, Oct. 10 — CENTRALIA *
Friday, Oct. 18 — W.F. WEST *
Friday, Oct. 25 — at Tumwater *
Friday, Nov. 1 — CAPITAL *Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 email@example.com * denotes 2A EvCo game; home games (at South Sound Stadium) in CAPS firstname.lastname@example.org