The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

The Student News Site of Columbia Heights High School

The Heights Herald

Varsity football takes strides and improves upon past seasons’ performances

The offense huddles up after a play during a regular season game against Twin Cities Charter.
Janelle Gillis
The offense huddles up after a play during a regular season game against Twin Cities Charter.

The Columbia Heights Hylanders varsity football team is district champs for the second time in history, and the factors that led to this achievement are many, but they all add up to a single refrain: teamwork.

Starting with the impressive Hylanders offense, led by running back Terrence Wilson (12), who played a vital part as he rushed for 889 yards and eight touchdowns, this season was all about distance. Quarterback Colton Labeau (11) also made a huge impact, throwing for 768 yards and four touchdowns in his first year as the Columbia Heights starting quarterback. He was supported by seniors Jency Davis and Izsaiah Wilson as well as Julian Manjo (11), who had a combined 782 receiving yards with five touchdowns total. 

The offense averaged 17 points per game including one total blowout win in which the running game was unstoppable and the defense was ruining the opposing team’s gameplan. This victory gave the Hylanders the attention they needed as they started to see an increase in the audience throughout the next few games. Overall, the offense performed amazingly despite adversities like inexperience and still-developing chemistry.

“This football season was pretty solid considering the teams we played,” Labeau (11) said. “This team had a lot of chemistry by the end, which made the closing practices and games of the season much more enjoyable.”

“The offense has been decent, [but] we can definitely make some improvement,” Assistant Coach Basil Muhammad and former Hylander wide receiver said. “Everybody’s effort is there, but I just think we have to come together as a team and execute a little bit better.” 

Labeau’s view of the offense was more positive than Coach Basil’s due to this being his first year as the starting quarterback and being able to form chemistry with the players while Coach Basil’s views the offense as still young and developing.

Now let’s flip sides of the ball and talk about the defense, led by LaRon Collins (11). Collins was a staple of Columbia Heights, leading the team with 89 tackles and five sacks. Other key contributors included the aforementioned Davis, who racked up four interceptions, and linebacker Jamir Richmond (12), along with juniors Julian Manjo, Ronnie Caldwell, and Khoi Le. The defense held opposing teams to an average of 17 points per game and recorded one shutout. Overall, the defense performed decently considering the aggressiveness of the teams they played.

“The defense has been solid — there [have] been ups and downs because of some of the injuries and different things that we’ve dealt with, but as a whole, the group outperformed what I thought we would do at the beginning of the year,” Defensive Coordinator John Rockwell said. “We’ve grown up, matured, and become much better than what we started [with] before the season.”

A significant part of the team is the culture. The upperclassmen are well-respected role models for the underclassmen. Everyone on the team still considers each other family and works together as a team to win games, and they will again next year too.

Every few seasons, the Hylander football schedule changes, and 2023 was one of them. The teams they faced consisted of Benilde-St, Margaret, Saint Anthony, Minneapolis Edison, Twin Cities Charter, Academy Force, Brooklyn Center, Minneapolis Patrick Henry, and Big Lake. The team’s toughest matchup this year was at Benilde-St. Margaret, which just so happened to be their first game of the season. They look to have the same schedule next year as well.

Whether it’s peewee football or the National Football League, every team has its key players. This year’s Hylanders were relatively small in size compared to past years with mostly upperclassmen leading the pack. Led by senior captains Izsaiah Wilson and Terrance Wilson as well as junior captain Jalue Dorjee, some other notable players besides those already mentioned included cornerback/receiver Julian Manjo (11), and lineman Ronnie Caldwell (11), both of whom are players to watch in the 2024-25 season along with Labeau and Collins.

Longtime head coach, tech. ed. teacher and former Hylander Mr. Matt Townsend coached the Hylanders football team with fellow Columbia Heights High School (CHHS) alums Rockwell who worked with the linebackers and wingbacks on defense, and Mr. Pete Heryla, who was the offensive coordinator and worked with the linemen. First-year coach Muhammad was the wide receivers coach and Howard Rogotzke coached the defensive backs, and all five deserve accolades in addition to the players for their dedication and for inspiring the young team. 

To sum up the Hylanders’ 2023 football season, they had a great run and outperformed their expectations, ultimately achieving a better record than the year before. The Hylanders football team should be returning most of its players, so we should expect a huge leap next year for the 2024 season, with teamwork between offense, defense, and coaches once again taking precedence and helping them dominate.


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About the Contributor
Khoi Le
Khoi Le, Staff Writer
Khoi is a junior at CHHS, and this is his first year on The Heights Herald. He is also a student-athlete participating in football in the fall and track in the spring. He loves watching the NFL, and his favorite team is the Dallas Cowboys. In his free time, he likes sleeping, gaming, hanging out with friends and he loves spending time with his girlfriend. He is a pretty chill/mature person and doesn't really like chaos.