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Lofty expectations for Greyhounds

Gaston sets its sights on a league title and playoff redemption


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Gaston senior running  back Austin Morey sprints past a diving Willamina defender during last Friday's non-league football game. In three years at Gaston, football coach Reeve Woodward has taken the Greyhounds from being the cupcake that everybody wants on their schedule to the type of team that nobody wants to play.

Fresh off a six-win season and the program’s third straight trip to the Class 2A state playoffs, Gaston is playing up a class against two of its four non-league opponents — Amity and Willamina — and the team also faced a Toledo squad that recently dropped down from 3A.

“None of the teams that played us the last few years wanted to schedule us again,” Woodward said with a chuckle. “So we went out and scheduled anybody that would play us. They just happened to be some really good football teams.”

As recently as 2005, Gaston’s struggling football program competed as an independent, and in the four subsequent seasons after rejoining the Northwest League, the Greyhounds won a total of eight games.

That all changed in 2010, when Woodward arrived and the Hounds went 8-2 and earned their first state playoff berth since 1992. One year later, Gaston won a league title and a school-record nine games, and last season the team tied for first in the league.

The one thing that has been missing in all of that success, however, is a playoff victory. The Hounds have gone 0-3 in their three most recent postseason appearances, including a 34-14 loss to Central Linn last year.

“We’ve had some bad luck and some things that haven’t gone our way. The last couple years have left a bad taste in our mouths with the way the playoffs ended,” Woodward said.

That trend could reverse this season, with a defense that returns 10 starters, plus an offense that features a slew of talented skill players and a bruising offensive line.

“We have the typical expectations,” Woodward said. “We want to be in every game and we want to make some noise when we get the opportunity.

“We may not win them all, but people are going to know that they played us. We’re tough and we’re very physical.”

Gaston’s identity begins up front, with a versatile offensive line that can steamroll opponents in the trenches or get out and block in space.

“We run a whatever-it-takes-to-beat-you kind of offense,” Woodward joked. “But that’s an easy thing to do when you have a great offensive line. This group is the best we’ve ever had — they’re big, they’re strong and they can run.”

Running behind that line will be senior Austin Morey, a three-year starter coming off an 18-touchdown season and all-league honors. He will be joined in the backfield by sophomore Ian Mann, who takes over at fullback, and junior Nate Lewis, who will start at quarterback.

Gaston’s top receiving threats will be a quartet of juniors — wideouts Ryan Sweet and Dylan Clark, plus tight ends Alex Sweet and Cole Waibel.

As good as Gaston’s offense may be, Woodward said defense will be the team’s bedrock.

“Our front eight is as good as anyone in the state,” he said.

Defensive tackle Wyatt Losey, a 6-foot-3, 260-pound wrecking ball, is “going to be an animal. He’s just unstoppable right now,” Woodward said.

Losey will pair with Jordan DeLay at defensive tackle, with two-year starter Joey Marquardt back at nose guard. Other returning starters include Trevor Reynolds and Austin Waibel at defensive end, Morey and Clark at safety, Lewis and Alex Sweet at cornerback, and Ryan Sweet at linebacker. In fact, Mann and Cole Waibel are the only non-returners on defense.

“With our schedule, if we get through five games and we’re 5-0, then we’re a pretty good team,” Woodward said. “But we could go 3-2 and still be a pretty good team. That’s how tough our schedule is.”



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