Husky football team very young, but determined

Scott Swanson

Sean McLean

Of The New Era

Last Friday’s face-off with Sisters, considered the top team in the state by many, will be the first of many tough non-conference games and will be good preparation for conference play when it begins in October, according to Younger.

“With our classification and having just four league games, we had to create a very tough non-conference schedule for our guys,” Younger said. “The guys are really challenged since they only take two teams from our league to make the state playoffs, so with the non-conference games it gives them a chance to grow.”

The bottom line is that the Huskies are very young this year, but they’re eager.

“We’re starting eight or nine underclassmen offensively,” Younger said. “Even the seniors that are playing this year don’t have a lot of experience.

“This is a team that’s in its infancy, but because of its work ethic and attitude, it will get nothing but better as the season progresses.

Although the team doesn’t return many starters from last season, the key to making it back to the state playoffs this season will be up front on the offensive line. The Huskies return starting senior guard Kelsey Fisher (5-9, 175), junior tackle Zane Wise (6-2, 265), and junior tight end Josh Riggs (6-2, 240), and will all be a vital part to helping them move the football this season.

Keying the offense will be the group of three running backs who made their presence felt Friday.

With no running back standing out as the legitimate starter, a running back-by-committee approach will be enforced with obtaining the majority of the carries.

“Our main focus will be with the offensive line since that is where we have a lot of experience coming back,” Younger said. “We’ll have a few guys running the ball, so we’ll see how that pans out as well.”

The Huskies have three “quality” tailbacks in senior Nick Pitts (5-11, 175), junior Leif Erickson (5-7, 155) and junior Amos Parmenter (5-10, 200), a transfer from Lebanon.

“They each bring different strengths to the package,” Younger said. “Amos is big and strong, Nick is more of a slasher and Erickson has good quickness and speed. They complement teach other; it’s hard to prepare for them.”

Junior fullback Trevur Byers (6-0, 200), who was looking “extremely good,” is nursing a sprained ankle, but senior Marcus Delong (5-10, 215) has stepped in from the line and carried the load at that position.

Younger predicted they improve over the next few weeks.

“Most of those I mentioned have never been at running back in a varsity game,” he said. “With a few games, some experience, they’ll get nothing but better.”

Junior Ryan Graville has been handed the starting quarterback’s job, though senior Greg Sipe provides a reliable backup, but the coaching staff has decided to have him focus on defense, where he was an all-league second-team defensive back last year, Younger said.

“I think Ryan has kind of stepped to the forefront,” Younger said. “Both quarterbacks are very intelligent.”

Graville made “great” progress on the basketball court last year, as the Huskies made their run to the playoffs, and “I really see that carrying over to football,” Younger said.

“I think he has very strong leadership skills, and he does have a good feel for the offense.”

Graville is working on his passing and completed some nice aerials in the Sisters game.

Younger said his quarterback has good mechanics and “I think he’ll become a good passer over time. He has good size, a good body (for the position).”

But, at least to start, the coach said, the Huskies will emphasize their ground game.

“We’ll really work on our running game, and try and develop a play-action and short pasing game as season progresses,” he said. “I think the strength of this football team is its running game.”

Riggs is part of a group of capable receivers, three “really good” tight ends and four wide receivers, who will help the passing game.

Junior Sam Maclin (5-10, 150), who was a standout among the sprinters in track last spring, “really worked hard in the off-season,” Younger said. He said junior Kevin McGuyre (5-11, 165) will see time at slot, with senior Dustin Horn (5-11, 160) and sophomore Brock Cota ((5-9, 170) backing him up.

In addition to Riggs, junior Marc Callagan (5-11, 205) and sophomore Levi Marchbanks (6-0, 185) will provide depth at tight end.

Pitts also will be a big part on the defensive side of the football, starting at defensive back for the Huskies along with Sipe.

Senior Kyle Gutierrez (5-10, 180) will help anchor the defensive line; he and Pitts both led Sweet Home with four tackles each against Sisters.

Byers, Callagan and Delong will plug up the gaps at linebacker, along with Parmenter.

Riggs will put bring pressure from his defensive end position and senior Theo Mai (6-6, 315) will be a presence to avoid at defensive tackle. Mai is in his second year of organized football, but has made a lot of progress, Younger said.

“This is his time to shine, as a senior,” the coach said. “He had a good off-season, worked real hard.”

Coming off a season that did not meet their expectations, this year’s squad wants to return to the postseason, as has been the norm during Younger’s tenure at Sweet Home. The longtime head coach was pleased that the majority of his team persevered in the off-season to get ready for the 2007 campaign.

It will be a tough run, as Younger sees the league balanced this year. He considers Newport and Central, last year’s league champion and runner-up, the favorites going into the season.

“They return a really good nucleus,” he said.

But Philomath and Taft also are improved, he said.

“On any given Friday, anybody could beat anybody else.”

But he has a motivated team and that can make the difference.

“The seniors really want to win the district championship and make the playoffs again,” Younger said. “They have had a great off-season getting prepared and I think last season served as a lesson to them. It has just made them want it more this season, and they have worked hard this summer.”