OLD OREGON TRIO UNBEATEN
By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
Two weeks into the season, the three local Old Oregon League football squads are unbeaten and ranked in the top 10.
Powder Valley, considered the power of the league, is 2-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state. The Badgers have already beaten Perrydale, the No. 2-ranked 1A team in Oregon.
Everyone knew coming in to the season that the Badgers would be strong. Joining the Badgers in the ranks of the unbeaten are a couple of local pleasant surprises in speedy Wallowa (2-0) and rebuilding Cove (1-0). Wallowa is ranked No. 10 in the state and Cove No. 9.
This is also the last year of the current alignment of the OOL. Next year, the league will be much different, with Imbler, Pine-Eagle and Joseph joining up. Adrian, Prairie City and Crane may move to the Tri-Co League, though that is still being decided at last report.
Lofty goals for Powder Valley
Powder Valley coach Alan Stanfield acknowledges that the expectations are high for the Badgers, who have gone to the state semifinals two straight years, and lost to St. Paul in both of those games.
The Badgers are heavy with seniors and this season might be the last shot for a while for a state title. Powder Valley's biggest challenge this year might be simply learning to deal with lofty expectations.
"Quietly, underneath it all, they expect to shoot for a title. It's there. It always will be there," said Stanfield.
Stanfield said he stresses each week to his players the need to be focused on that week's opponent.
But, Stan-field said that it's such a good group of kids, they come to play each and every game.
"They're a bunch of kids willing to fly around. They're fun to watch," said Stanfield.
One of Stanfield's biggest challenges has been replacing two all-league linemen, Brad Feik and Rusty Fincher, who graduated. Stanfield said the Badgers might actually have a little better depth on the line, now.
Rick Stephens in the center, while Rylie Wendt is the starting right guard and three players Jacob Brown, Steven Willitts and Lee Hellberg are platooning at left guard.
Back at quarterback is all-world Todd Baxter, who generated more than 4,000 yards of offense last year.
Joining Baxter at the skill positions are Deven Thompson, Cody Taylor and Kaycee Shroyer, all big contributors from last season.
Powder Valley already passed a big test by beating Perrydale in its season-opener. The Badgers will play at Wallowa Sept. 19 and at Cove Sept. 10.
Wallowa has speed
Wallowa returns some track stars on this year's squad.
The Cougars have racked up 94 points in their two wins, with much of the damage being done by speedy backs Jake Redfield and Randy Spaur, and quarterback Patrick Green.
"We're doing all right," said coach Greg Oveson. "I'm pleased so far."
He said last year's 3-5 team was very young. He likes the team's ability this year to balance the run and the pass.
Spaur and Redfield have already churned out 336 and 278 yards of offense, respectively.
Meanwhile, Green, a sophomore, is "doing a good job" under center, according to Oveson.
Oveson said the "biggest difference from last year has been the improvement of our line.
"Our weakness is that we're not very big. The kids on the line are sharp and good students, and are improving," he said.
That line is tight end Brandon Frei, Center Drew Mahon, Guard Patrick Silveira, tackle Jake Goebel, and split end Ryan Harshfield.
Other linemen Oveson said will see playing time are Jeff Bennett, Lewis Lathrop and Jeremy McCulloch.
Wallowa gets a week off this week, then they really get a good test Sept. 19 against Powder Valley. Wallowa plays Cove Sept. 26. Oveson thinks both Cove and Powder will be the teams to beat in the OOL this year. He is hoping Wallowa can sneak into the postseason.
Cove has a "new" head coach this year in Skip Pereira. Pereira coached the Leopards' football team for years in the 1980s and the boys' basketball team in the 1990s.
Pereira said that despite a fast start (Cove won its opener over Crane 50-8), the Leopards are inexperienced and undergoing a lot of changes. Pereira said half the kids on the team don't have varsity experience.
"I'm getting used to them, and they're getting used to me," he said.
But, Pereira said he is already impressed with his team's character. "I really like our kids' work ethic," he said. "This is a good group of kids."
Pereira said his emphasis right now is to instill confidence in the kids, who struggled through a 1-6 season last year.
Part of the reason for Cove's good start was the effort of running back Cody Savage, another track runner playing football. He gained more than 200 yards in his first game of the season.
Pereira said don't expect Savage to carry all the workload all season long. He doesn't think the Leopards are going to depend on one person all season long. "I don't think we have a truly outstanding athlete. We don't have any superstars," he said.
He thinks the Leopards are going to have a balanced attack. Savage's cousin, Nate Savage, is also expected to be a big part of the offense, as is Chris Taylor, Andy Altenburg and Raage Sofe.
New at quarterback will be Josh Pfel, a converted back. Pfel only completed two passes in his first game under center, but he made them count, as they both went for TDs.
Pereira said Pfel is doing an "outstanding" job learning a new, difficult position. "All he wants to do is please you."