Van Soderberg considers his piano lesson from Aug. 5 one of the best he’s ever had — not because of music, but because of football.
An hour before the senior kicker from Capital High School sat down to work on a Bach and Rachmaninoff piece for an upcoming winter recital, he fielded a phone call from University of Washington coach Chris Petersen.
“I talked to Coach Petersen and he said he wanted to give me a scholarship to play, and I was on board,” Soderberg said. “He said to think it over, but I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Soderberg said UW was his No. 1 choice to continue his football career. He attended the program’s junior day in February, camp in June and a workout with Petersen and special teams coordinator Jeff Choate before committing to the program.
“UW was kind of the school he really targeted and wanted to go to,” Capital coach J.D. Johnson said. “We knew it was a special situation when Coach Petersen met with him himself.”
A 2014 Olympian All-Area offense selection, Soderberg was 7 for 9 on field goal attempts last season — including a career-long 38-yarder against Tumwater. He made all but one extra point attempt, and hammered 32 of 45 kickoffs for touchbacks. He’s also the team’s punter.
Soderberg may have to shift his attention at UW, though. Placekicking will likely take a back seat as last year’s mainstay, all-Pac-12 honorable mention selection Cameron Van Winkle, is only a junior.
“They said they would like me to come in and punt, hopefully my freshman year,” Soderberg said. “That’s what I’m going to focus on to start.”
His start will come early. Soderberg, who carries a 3.9 GPA, is in line to “green shirt” with the Huskies — he will graduate early and forego his spring semester at Capital to enroll at UW in January so he can attend spring practices.
“It would be a lot to come in right after high school to compete for a starting spot,” Soderberg said. “I think the extra months are definitely going to pay off.”
But high school isn’t quite over yet, and Soderberg said he is primed for his final season at Capital.
“I’ve been with this program for four years, and without them I wouldn’t be in the position I am,” Soderberg said. “So I definitely want to give back to the program as much as I can.”
Soderberg is one piece of a strong returning core for the Cougars this season. Capital has 17 seniors on the roster — up from seven last year — and brings back 13 starters.
Capital also returns Johnson, who enters his ninth season at the head of the program. In March, Johnson resigned from the position to focus on family matters. He rescinded the resignation in April, conceding he felt out of place.
“I didn’t feel a part of the community, and I need that in my life,” Johnson said.
He then returned to his players.
“I stood before them and said, ‘I’m going to humble myself and say, hey, we all make choices sometimes that we later on regret, and I would love to still be your head coach,’” Johnson said. “And they were like, ‘Let’s go.’”
With multiple weapons on offense, and a familiar returning defense, the Cougars seem ready to go — and further than last season. Capital finished second in the Class 3A Narrows League last season at 7-3 before losing 14-7 to Mountlake Terrace in the district playoffs.
This season, Johnson is opting to open up the offense with a platoon of running backs and receivers.
“I think we’re actually really well balanced for the first time in a long time,” third-year senior quarterback Cody Jenkins said. “We can both throw and run the ball, and I think it’s really helping out.”
Capital meets Tumwater for its season opener at 7 p.m. Friday at Ingersoll Stadium. Tumwater advanced to the semifinals of the Class 2A state playoffs last season.
“It’s going to be a battle, it’s going to be a shootout,” Johnson said.
Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473