The Bucks will shoot for their fifth state title game appearance in five years; the Tigers look to climb the Pacific Conference ladder
After losing nine all-league players to graduation or transfer, the St. Paul football team has a lot of talented players to replace coming into the 2013 season.
The Buckaroos advanced to their third state final in four years last season thanks to the dedicated play of seniors like Cole Weisz, Danny Drescher, Parker Schibel, Garrett Merten and others who were marked among the best players in the Casco League.
Although head coach Tony Smith said he hasnt usually had to replace that many players, St. Paul has shown it can reload just about every year, so the Bucks are a good bet to place among the top teams in 1A football again this year.
St. Paul returns senior Cody Southerland, who was a first team all-league selection last year playing defensive back and will take over the starting quarterback role left vacant by Drescher. The Bucks also brings back Zach Adams after the senior was a second team selection as offensive guard.
Those two are definitely kids that we expect to have a great senior season, said Smith, who also pointed to players like running back/defensive back Chris Petrjanos and linemen Keenan Wood and Max Coleman, who could have breakout seasons this fall.
Just as Smiths team will continue to rely on a power running game to set up its play-action passing attack, the landscape of the league should remain the same: St. Paul and Perrydale at the top and everyone else far below.
Outside of league play, the Bucks face a daunting schedule of 1A powers, including a rematch of last years title game against Camas Valley to open the season at the annual Dufur Eight Man Classic Friday.
The Bucks also have dates with Powder Valley, Lowell, Imbler and Ione before hitting the league schedule in October, which has Smith believing they could play as many as four league champions.
The Tigers are coming off a 2-8 campaign that saw them finish seventh in the Pacific Conference after winning one league game, but head coach T.J. Tomlin has reason to believe the team can improve despite the loss of several impact players.
Quarterback Andrew Reichenbach and prolific fullback Mitch Lemos both graduated, as did defensive stalwarts Erich Van Bergen, Elijah Gonzalez, Dustin Roth, Jake Springer and Dakota Train. Last years backup signal caller, Trevor Danielson, did not return to the team after choosing to focus on his javelin career.
Stepping in to lead the offense will be junior Grayson Oviatt, who has been a running back up until this point, but has impressed Tomlin in preseason camp.
Hes doing very well for a kid whos never played that position before, Tomlin said. Hes doing all the things we need him to do and becoming smarter every day. Im really happy with his progression.
Oviatt will be aided by the return of tailback Andy Tautfest to run behind a sturdy offensive line, which Tomlin believes will be the strength of the team.
Dane Jensen, Jakob Hooker, Dakota Church and Alejandro Cisneros all got regular playing time last year, with Matt Springer and Bryce Schubert rounding out a six-man rotation that is high on upside, but low on depth.
They communicate to each other really well, Tomlin said. Theyre really physical and just have a good togetherness about them that is hard to find sometimes.
Connor Powell and James Conrad will lead the defensive backfield and receive help from junior Tyler Delashmutt, who is versatile enough to not only play at free safety and wide receiver, but several other positions on both sides of the ball.
Newberg opens the season at 7 p.m. Friday versus North Salem, whom the Tigers handled 39-20 in last years season opener.