HERMISTON — As Hermiston’s starting quarterback for the past two seasons, Andrew James preferred to lead by example.
Even playing the most high-profile spot on the offense, James was an underclassmen in a sea of talented seniors with championship rings and all-state pedigrees above him for those seasons, such as Kaden Caldwell, Vaemu Ena and Joey Gutierrez among others. The abundance of leadership allowed the quiet-mannered James to lead with his abilities on the field, instead.
But as James heads into his senior season for the Bulldogs in 2018, he’ll need to expand his leadership to a level he’s not used to. Most of that leadership group from last season’s state championship team graduated in the spring, and the Bulldogs have only a handful of returners with varsity experience.
“I hope to be a leader of everyone,” James said after a recent practice. “Even some of the seniors haven’t seen a varsity field yet. So I just have to be a leader and stay positive no matter what, and make sure everyone is having a good time, because that’s what we’re all here for.”
James knew that a bigger workload was coming this fall, and he spent the summer working tirelessly to prepare himself. Faaeteete said James made Hermiston’s weight room his second home — his chiseled biceps show the results — and led workouts with teammates at Kennison Field, trying to develop some chemistry with his newest group of running backs, receivers and linemen.
“He’s going to be the glue that holds everybody together,” Hermiston coach David Faaeteete said after a recent practice. “I hate to put that kind of pressure on a kid, but as a quarterback you kind of inherit that pressure. Last year there were a lot of senior characters that could carry the load, and this year pretty much everybody is new, so they’re going to rely on him.”
For his career, James has thrown for 4,307 yards and ran for 1,766 more with a combined 65 touchdowns. He earned a first team all-state selection last year with more than 2,300 passing yards and 1,100 rushing yards with 40 touchdowns and only six turnovers. Though of the nine players that caught passes from James last season, only Jordan Ramirez and his 10 catches for 163 yards and two touchdowns returns to the lineup next season.
“He’s going to rely a lot on Jordan,” Faaeteete said. “It’s going to be a little different for him, but he’s grown as a young athlete, as a young adult, and it’s exciting to watch him. ... He has a lot of big dreams and we hope we can help him accomplish those.”
And Hermiston will need James to repeat the production from last season as the team ventures into new territory in the WIAA and Mid-Columbia Conference to compete against the likes of Richland, Kamiakin, Chiawana and Walla Walla on a weekly basis. For James, of course he wants to win and make more history this season. But for now, he’s focused on enjoying his last season in the Bulldogs uniform.
“I just want to have a good senior season,” James said. “You see some kids go 0-12 and have bad senior seasons, but I just want to go out and have a blast with these guys.”
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