EASTERN FOOTBALL GEARS UP FOR 2003
By Raenelle Kwock
Observer Staff Writer
New faces and returning leaders on offense and defense dot the Eastern Oregon Mountaineer football team.
Eastern, coming off a 1-9 season that saw several close games slip away in the fourth quarter, is facing a tough schedule this season, including NAIA national champion Carroll College (in Helena, Mont. on Oct. 25). Eastern will be playing in a refurbished Community Stadium and will be facing a new opponent this year in Menlo College, an NCAA Div. III school in the San Francisco Bay Area.
On the offensive side are returnees Aaron Hazel and Scott Jensen at quarterback.
"Those guys are doing well," Eastern second-year coach Jim Fenwick said.
Jensen, one of three quarterbacks used by Fenwick last season, completed 53.6 percent of his passes in 2002. He threw for 833 yards and eight touchdowns.
On the offensive line are returners Jon Liepold, Keith Young and Travis Holbrook.
Brett Richards returns at tight end and so does Matt Hamlin at wide receiver.
Damien Johnson and Major Caldwell return as the running backs. Caldwell averaged 52.4 yards per game rushing. Johnson scored seven touchdowns last season to lead the Mountaineers with 42 points.
"Obviously, a year under the same terminology and system, we hope to build up some confidence," Fenwick said.
He said the Mountaineers need to build confidence and not get conservative on offense.
He added that the Mountaineers need to produce longer drives.
Modesto Junior College in central California is providing a number of transfer players for the Mountaineers this season.
Two of the new faces on offense are cousins Rico and TaShawn Dickerson, both of whom transferred from Modesto Junior College. They will play wide receiver.
James Bylow also transferred from Modesto will add depth at the quarterback position.
Another Modesto transfer, Ryan Teicheira, gives the Mountaineers some depth at fullback.
Luke Orlando and Jose Caywood are another pair of transfers who will provide depth on the offensive line.
The defensive line features many returnees.
Defensive tackle Scott Young, defensive lineman Pat Birkby, defensive end Jason Flowers, defensive end Eli Thornley, defensive end Patrick Roskowick and defensive end Drew Storm return.
"That's where the strength lies ¬ó the defensive line," Fenwick said.
Other returners on defense are inside linebacker Tom Neill and defensive back Cam Christensen.
Neill was the second leading tackler last season with 77. Christensen was the sixth leading tackler with 49.
Nick Hannah is moving from the defensive backfield to inside linebacker this season. Hannah led the Mountaineers in tackles last season with 81.
Fenwick said he recruited players that want to compete like defensive back Jesse Lau and defensive back Stephen Stokes.
"I expect big things out of those guys," Fenwick said.
Other new faces are defensive back Shane Olesen, defensive back Joshua Johnson, outside linebacker Mark Persche and linebacker Joey Laporte.
"We added depth and are faster," Fenwick said. "They should have a better understanding and confidence."
Punter Josh Clark returns. Carlos Gil from Connell, Wash., will kick.
"(Gil) is a real talented freshman kicker," Fenwick said.
The Mountaineers will continue fall camp up until their first game Sept. 6 against Montana-Western in Dillon, Mont.
"Well, continued improvement right now," Fenwick said about what he expects from the team.
He said the team lost a lot of close games last season and he hopes that changes this season.
"I hope we have the strength and show improvement and win those close games," Fenwick said.
The Mountaineers' first home game is Sept. 13 against Menlo College.