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Mustangs 'believe' they'll put some points on the scoreboard

Jon Wolf works to build an 'expect-to-win' culture at Milwaukie


Milwaukie has not had a lot of success in football in recent years. But any team that overlooks the Mustangs this fall may be in for a rude awaking.

Photo Credit: JOHN DENNY - Milwaukie team captains (from left) Dre Edwards, Jonathan Snyder, Griffin Johnson, Tui Tuitele, Falcon Piner and River Meyer believe that the Mustangs will be much improved in football this year.Longtime successful Gladstone coach Jon Wolf has taken over the football program at Milwaukie and he’s got the players believing that they can be winners.

“He’s the best coach I’ve had in my four years here,” said one senior on this year’s team.

“I like the new coach a lot,” said Milwaukie senior co-captain Griffin Johnson. “He’s a lot more organized, and he holds everyone accountable for their actions....

“He made everyone make 20 practices over the summer. That’s the first time that’s happened while I’ve been here. In the past, a lot of guys would show up for the first time at daily doubles. This year almost everyone came to summer practices.”

“We haven’t set goals yet, but I know what I want,” said Johnson. “I want a winning record, I want to host a play-in game and I’d like to be practicing on Thanksgiving. I know that’s what coach Wolf wants and I think it’s what most of my teammates want.

“We want to bring back the tradition of Milwaukie being a hard hitting, fast and physical football team, playing with a chip on our shoulders.”

Johnson says that Wolf has re-energized Milwaukie’s summer conditioning program, adding the core body lifts and movement dynamics exercises that helped turn things around at Gladstone.

“I’ve never had [a summer conditioning program] like it,” said Johnson. “I feel like I’ve got better athleticism. Like I can run faster, cut better. I’ve never sweat so much at a workout in my life. These workouts are the toughest I’ve ever had.”

Wolf, who is the fifth head coach at Milwaukie in as many seasons, had plenty of success in his eight seasons at Gladstone. Wolf’s teams won 61 of 91 games, won two league championships (2010 and 2013) and advanced at least as far as the state quarterfinals in five of his eight seasons as head coach (2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2013). In 2010, Gladstone went 12-1 and the Gladiators advanced to a state semifinal for the first time since 1987.

Wolf has his players excited about the upcoming season. Still, it’s unlikely that a turnaround in Milwaukie football will take place over night. Milwaukie varsity football teams have gone 1-8 in three of the past four seasons and last year they were the worst offensive team in the Northwest Oregon Conference, averaging just seven points an outing.

“I knew when I took the job we’d have some work to do,” Wolf says. “But I’m excited about who we have here. We have a core group of guys working as hard as any core group of guys I’ve had. They’ve really bought into it and they’re working their tails off. Unfortunately that core group isn’t a very big group, but we’re working to change that.”

Asked if the Mustangs would continue to struggle on offense this fall, Wolf said, “I believe our offense will move the ball and score points. We’ve got to hold onto the ball, and execute. But I believe we’re headed in the right direction.”

Wolf said he is sticking with the veer offense and stack defense that brought his teams success at Gladstone.

“I’ve got to be myself and do what I know,” he said. “We’re going to hang our hat on running the veer.”

“It’s a completely new offense,” said Johnson. “But we ran it well in our watermelon scrum, and I think it’s going to work. We’re going to score some points.”

Wolf said he has had a turnout of 60 athletes for football.

He’s named seven players as team co-captains: seniors Dre Edwards, Falcon Piner, Garrett Zundel and Johnson; juniors Tui Tuitele and River Meyer; and sophomore Jon Snyder. Johnson received league all-star recognition for his play at inside linebacker last season, but he is the only returning Milwaukie player who received all-star recognition.

Wolf says that senior Aaron Walston and Snyder will likely split time at quarterback, at least early in the season. Both saw varsity action last year, but Walston had his season cut short when he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

“They are both good leaders,” said Wolf. “Aaron can throw the ball; Jon’s strength is running the option.”

Wolf plans to go with Edwards at tailback, with Meyer and junior Cole McPherson as his backups. Johnson, Piner and Meyer will all see action at fullback.

Seniors Jordan Ostrander and Zundel will see action at flanker back, along with sophomore Jake Hickey.

At wide receiver, Wolf says he likes what he’s seen from senior Noah McGowan, juniors Josiah Reed and Top Lohachhaichana, and freshman Donovan Wah.

Sophomore Todd Sjullie has earned the starting nod at center. Other top prospect in the offensive front are: juniors Jason Williamson, Josh Hill and Tuitele, and sophomores Jack Kissane and Michael Bremmer.

Tuitele, Hill and Bremmer have earned the starting nod up front on defense.

Wolf lists six players as top prospects at inside linebacker: Johnson, Sjullie, Ivan Smith, Brent Charron, Kenan Ragan and Patricio Hernandez.

Snyder, Meyer, Piner, McPherson and Ostrander will play outside linebacker.

It’s Walston, Hickey, Zundel and Lohachhaichana at cornerback, and Edwards at free safety.

“I like the team unity,” said Wolf. “The way these kids care for one another. I just like these guys.

“I believe they can be the beginning of a turnaround, returning Milwaukie to the glory days. Back when they were in contention for the league title and in the state playoff hunt. We’ve got work to do, but I’m excited. We’re teaching life skills. These kids have a great work ethic and we’re working to build an expect-to-win culture. You do the right things, and the wins will follow. I’m excited about this program.”

The Mustangs will be darkhorses in the new nine-team Northwest Oregon Conference, which includes teams from Putnam, La Salle, Hillsboro, Liberty, Parkrose, St. Helens, Sandy and Wilsonville.

Liberty, Parkrose and Sandy all return a number of players from teams that were successful in the NWOC last season, and those teams will likely fare well in the league this fall.

Milwaukie begins its league season this Friday, when the Mustangs play La Salle on the road. The Falcons were Class 4A state champions in 2011 and they went 9-3 in 2012. But they struggled last fall, going 1-4 in the Class 4A Tri-Valley Conference and 2-7 overall. However, like Milwaukie, the Falcons have a new coach and a newfound enthusiasm.




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