Editor's note: This is the second in a series of eight feature stories on Mid-Columbia Conference 3A-4A football players that will kick off the 2012 high school season. The Tri-City Herald will present one story a day until its prep football preview Aug. 31.
It is perfectly natural for football players taking the field for the first time under those Friday night lights to get a major case of the nerves.
If the new crop of Kennewick Lions start feeling the pressure when they make the road trip to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, next week for the season opener with Lake City, they need look no further than a couple of their teammates for inspiration.
After all, they simply can't be feeling any bigger butterflies than what Devven Ramos experienced in his first varsity game.
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Qwest Field will do that to a guy.
"It was a pretty nerve-wracking first game," Ramos remembered of stepping on the field for the Emerald City Kickoff Classic as a freshman receiver in 2009, treading the same turf as NFL stars. "It was pretty scary, pretty crazy. I had to shake the nerves out. But once I got it under control, I finished pretty well."
Bodie Simpson's debut, on the other hand, was nerve-wracking for the other guys. In his first varsity quarter as a sophomore receiver in 2010, he turned in one of the team's plays of the year with a 63-yard catch-and-run that made the home crowd howl at Lampson Stadium.
"That first varsity game, I was a little nervous," said Simpson, who finished with 91 yards on five catches with two touchdowns in that initial effort. "After that, I told myself I know how to play football. I just get excited now."
Qwest has since changed to CenturyLink, Ramos has transformed from nervous freshman to savvy senior, and Simpson has proven himself a multi-threat, two-way talent.
"The thing I enjoy most about them is they are hard-working kids," Kennewick coach Bill Templeton said of his two veterans who between them have five seasons' varsity experience coming into the fall.
"Both have had good summers. They've shown up, done the tedious things, and they're expecting good things this fall."
Simpson and Ramos haven't been just taking up space over the years. As sophomores, they were among the top receivers in a league that included the likes of Tim White and Tyler Holle at Kamiakin, Brandon Search at Pasco and AJ Henderson at Southridge.
Simpson's 41 catches were third in the CBBN 3A, and he racked up 415 yards and seven TDs on his way to second-team all-league. Ramos was an honorable mention after his 31 catches for 364 yards and three TDs ranked in the top 10.
Simpson repeated his second-team selection last season, though his numbers fell off (28-302, 2 TDs) as the Lions went to the ground game and his primary responsibility was blocking downfield.
"Last year was a different kind of season," said Simpson, who also was an honorable mention pick at defensive back. "My sophomore year, I got a lot of catches. Last year was more of a team effort, and I was really focused on the blocking game more."
Last year was different for Ramos as well. Expected to split time at running back and be one of the team's most dynamic linebackers, he instead broke his collarbone in the first game of the season -- after returning a fumble he forced on a sack 50 yards for a TD and also scoring on a 57-yard run.
"That was tough," he said of the injury that cost him half the season and kept him off the defensive side all year. "It was the first time I ever had a sports injury. When it hit me -- 'Dang, that's my whole season.'
"I knew I had to put in even more work over the summer."
Ramos, who was an honorable mention at running back last year, will take over full-time rushing duties this season as well as start at outside linebacker. Simpson will continue to provide the Lions with run and pass options as a hybrid receiver/running back to go along with heading up the secondary.
Both players are determined about one thing: not letting the program backslide after going 7-3 and 10-2 the last two seasons.
"As sophomores, we got that first taste of winning," Simpson said. "Then last year, we were so close (to the state semifinals). We want to keep going. Every year we progress better than the last season. Hopefully this year will be even better."
* Kevin Anthony: 509-582-1403; firstname.lastname@example.org