With the forecast calling for temperatures in the 90s this week, the Gladstone Gladiators scheduled practice to run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
"We're doing anything we can to beat the heat," second-year Gladstone coach Wayne Harris said.
When temperatures climbed over 100 degrees last week, the Gladiators moved their workouts indoors with players split into two groups that rotated between the gymnasium and the weight room.
The cramped quarters prevented the Gladiators from scrimmaging offense vs. defense — it was mostly offense vs. stationary trash cans — but the air-conditioned space made for more comfortable practice conditions with the Sept. 1 season opener at Banks less than four weeks away.
"We're going to be pretty special this year," Harris said. "We return a lot of experienced players and I honestly think we're going to be better than last year.
"That might sound crazy, considering we lost one of the best running backs in Gladstone history in Quinn Carl. I just think we have a chance to be pretty special if everything comes together like I think it can."
The Gladiators are coming off a season that saw them go 3-1 in the Tri-Valley Conference and finish 6-3 overall after falling to Astoria in the opening round of the OSAA Class 4A playoffs.
Most of Gladstone's returning talent is in the trenches, starting with junior tackle Jackson Simmons, last season's Tri-Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, and senior center Austin Heywood, named to the all-league, first-team offense as a junior.
"I think that's where our bread and butter is, is up front," Harris said. "Our offensive line is going to be really good. They were young last season, but got a lot of experience, and we have three seniors — Austin Heywood, Derek Lee and Kyle Anderson — to lead us.
"But the key is that all 11 guy we have on the field, whether we're talking about offense or defense, if they weren't starters last year, they were No. 2s and they all saw significant playing time in every game."
Dylan Farris is a prime example of a player who labored in the shadow of Carl, the 2016 Tri-Valley Offensive Player of the Year, yet earned all-league, first-team honors on the strength of his 84 carries for 445 yards and three touchdowns.
Farris and junior Matthew Kuhn are both in line to see more touches this season, although Harris said Gladstone may try to expand its passing game and get away from the relentless and somewhat predictable ground-and-pound atttack that the Gladiators relied on last season.
"We're still going to do what we do best, and that's control the line of scrimmage and manage the clock," Harris said. "Some people are already comparing this team to Gladstone's 2014 state championship team in terms of speed and athleticism.
"Not that we're saying we're going to do what that team did, but ... at least on paper, we have just as much speed as that team did at certain positions."
The Gladstone still have to find a successor to quarterback Logan Saltares, another graduated senior and all-league, first-team player who completed 48 of 106 passes for 785 yards and nine touchdowns.
Sophomore quarterback Hudson Meyer, who stepped in for the injured Saltares as the starter in last year's playoff game at Astoria, is the early front-runner in a three-way competition with senior Josiah Wachlin and sophomore Jackson Jedrykowski for the starting job this season.
What is Harris looking for in a starting quarterback?
"Someone who can limit turnovers and be a vocal leader both on and off the field," Harris said. "When someone makes a mistake, I want our quarterback to be the first guy to help whoever it was that messed up a pass route or missed a blocking assignment."
Beau Gates, who played at Cleveland High School under Harris and later worked on Harris' staff with the Warriors, has joined the Gladstone staff and will serve as co-offensive coordinator with Harris. Harris also promoted assistant Dan Lee from linebacker coach to defensive coordinator, and hired former Hudson's Bay assistant Brett Matasci as his new offensive line coach.
By Jim Beseda
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