Sandy takes on Hood River at home Friday night
The wait is over.
The long night of the offseason has ended and high school football has returned. For the Sandy football team, the new season brings with it uncertainty, but also excitement. The Pioneers have a new coach, Joe Polamalu, and a team full of players on the rise.
Last seasons Sandy team limped to a 3-7 finish. The 2012 Pioneers struggled collectively, but had a few individual standouts. Sandy had two first team all-conference players, Justin Adams on offense and Kyle Bateman on defense. Both players graduated and leave big shoes to fill. The Pioneers also lost three second team all-conference players on the offensive side of the football.
With everything Sandy lost from last years team, there are a couple returners who have the potential to fill the void and make an immediate impact.
On offense, running back C.J. McKinnis will be the biggest key to success. Sandy was very much a passing team last year, but with the departure of their quarterback and top two receivers, McKinnis should be the focal point of the offense this season. If he can run the ball effectively, Sandys offense should be competitive enough to stay in games.
Defensively, the Pioneers should be just as good, if not better, than last seasons squad. McKinnis was an honorable mention all-conference linebacker and he is stronger this year. Playing both ways, he could be an impact player constantly.
The Pioneers also bring back second team all-conference defensive lineman Andrew Spenser, who will anchor the defensive front. On special teams, kicker Wyatt Edwards returns following an honorable mention all-conference year.
The question for Sandy is how the returners and newcomers will gel as a unit. Chemistry will be a big deal for this team. Indications coming out of camp are that the Pioneers embracing each other and their new coach.
On Friday night, that unity and new talent will be on display as Sandy plays host to Hood River Valley. These two teams met up in last years opener, with Hood River coming out on top, 35-28. The prospect of revenge gives the Pioneers some added motivation, as if they needed any.
If Sandy is going to have a better year, it will start against Hood River. The Pioneers have made the playoffs just once since the 1990s, but a victory on Friday would be the first step towards making it back to the state tournament.