READY TO POUNCE
G rant Union head football coach Monty Nash is the first to point out that this early in the season trying to evaluate his team's prospects is, at most, a precarious guessing game.
"You just don't know much at this time of year," said Nash, in his eighth season at the helm for the Prospectors. "The thing we focus on right now is preparing the offense and defense to play a good, clean game.
"That means we eliminate mistakes like fumbles and penalties, do the things that will help us later on in the year."
Grant Union will open 2005 Friday at Community Stadium against La Grande High School, and Nash, for all the guessing, isn't leaving much to chance when it comes to the Tigers.
Meaning: he's done his homework on a team that could be one of the tops in the Greater Oregon League.
"With La Grande having a new coach, you never know what you're going to get," Nash said. "But I know their players from watching last year's film, and I know they've got some talent at the skill positions, and (Tad) Fox is a legitimate, big-time football player."
Nash thinks La Grande's speed may cause problems for the Prospectors.
"With the Lanman kid, (Trent) Evins, (Zac) Wilmarth and (Landon) Weaver, they've got some nice speed," Nash said. "All those kids can really play."
For all of Nash's hyperbolic speech, Grant Union has some nice players of its own, led by all-Wapitii running back Chance Johns and all-Wapiti linebacker Bryce Bartlett.
Both players return after leading Grant Union to a runner-up finish in the Wapiti League in 2004, going 8-3 and losing to Vernonia 35-20 in the second round of the 2A state playoffs.
Johns will be expected to carry more of a load with the Prospectors losing Wapiti offensive player of the year Toby Thomas to graduation.
Thomas made first team all-Wapiti last year as a running back, defensive back, kicker, punter, kick returner and punt returner.
"We lost some great players," Nash said. "We felt like last year's senior class was a special bunch of kids."
Nash will look for help on the offensive and defensive front from senior Adrian Reed (6-foot-2, 235 pounds), the Prospectors lone returning lineman.
"Monty knows his stuff," Tiger head coach Lance Lovitt said. "He's won pretty much everywhere he's been which means he's been doing something right."
For La Grande, starting quarterback Weaver sustained an injury to his throwing arm and is a game-time decision.
If unable to play, Evins will get the start at quarterback.
Both Evins and Weaver spent parts of 2004 as the Tiger quarterback.
"With Landon, there's some soreness there, and we'll have to decide on Friday if he's going to play or not," Lovitt said. "But we feel like we don't lose anything with Trent back there."
Game time is 8 p.m. and is part of a football doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. with the EOU-Carroll College game.