Running backs on the Cascade Christian High School football team know the three-letter term VTF.
It stands for value the football. It’s more a philosophy than anything. There’s reward in carrying it out, but there’s also repercussions. Any Cougar running back who fails to uphold VTF will likely find himself on the sidelines.
“It means don’t ever let go” of the ball, Robert Terhune said. “No matter what happens. And if by chance you do fumble, then you better be getting it back.”
It’s the unwritten law that senior running backs Terhune and Riley Ramos live by when they carry the ball. It’s what goes through Ramos’ head before the beginning of every play. It’s what hampered the Cougars’ chances of making it to the state championship game last season.
“It’s going to be a very important thing for our offense this year,” Ramos said. “It’s a big emphasis going into this next season because our last game, last season, we had a couple fumbles.”
One of those fumbles was by Ramos in the Cougars’ 31-28 overtime loss to Mount Baker in the Class 1A state semifinals last season. The other was by Hunter Austin, Cascade Christian’s leading rusher last year who has since graduated. Both turnovers resulted in touchdowns for the Mountaineers
The Cougars are making sure they don’t let an opportunity like that slip this year.
“Protect the football. We preach on that all the time,” Cougars coach Randy Davis said. “You got to value that football. That’s the key thing we took away from that game.”
The fumble was a tough pill to swallow for Ramos, who was Austin’s backup in 2013 and will split reps in the backfield with Terhune this season. He said his teammates didn’t even remember who fumbled the ball that day. But he does.
“The only time I think about (the fumble) is for motivation in the training room and for this next season, to give more effort for my teammates,” Ramos said. “As far as negative, it’s all out of my way. We’re all good on that.”
If anyone on the Cougars’ team has worked to eliminate fumbles from the equation, it’s Terhune. He and about 24 others have been in the weight room at 6 a.m. every morning since the Mount Baker loss, Davis said, and Terhune is a member of the Cougars’ 1,000-pound club.
In other words, unless someone is stronger than him, his chances of fumbling are slim. But his work ethic in the weight room has more significance than just increased strength.
Davis said Terhune arrived as a bit of a prima donna his freshman year, and that he was in Davis’ doghouse several times because of it. He said it took until his junior year for Terhune to shift his mindset toward helping the team first rather than thinking of himself.
“I believe I just kind of proved to them that I’m not what I look like,” Terhune said. “I’m a different person than what it looks like on the outside. My hard work and dedication, I think, showed them.”
The Cougars’ mindset isn’t on winning a state championship. Their goals are to stay united as a team and to keep playing as long as possible.
“The most important thing for us is to play as long as we can, together, and that would take us to the state championship,” Ramos said. “But that’s not what we’re focused on right now. We’re focused on getting better each and every day. The end result would be that. We all have that in the back of our mind. Obviously we have to get ready for Sehome. That’s what we’re doing right now.”