September 05, 2001 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

With 13 freshmen on the football practice field, the Joseph Eagles have a good future in front of them.

Those freshmen may have to perform in the present, however, should injuries cut away at an already young lineup.

Were young up front, coach Rusty Eschler said.

Joseph starts the season Friday night at Pilot Rock.

Joseph has just five seniors with experience, plus a couple of first-year seniors. Thirteen players return from last years team, including honorable mention all-Wapiti League quarterback Marcus Wells. Wells, one of those seniors, had more than 1,000 yards passing and 11 touchdowns last season.

The Eagles do have their top five rushers from last season. Wells led the team with 485 yards on the ground and he scored 13 touchdowns. Junior Dusty Witherrite scored seven touchdowns and sophomore Randal Eschler, another honorable mention all-leaguer, ran for six touchdowns.

Seniors Cody Lathrop (325 yards, three TDs) and Jeremy Dalton (91 yards, two TDs) will also run out of the backfield, as will juniors Chris Garrett and Eric Butterfield.

Senior Tyler Nall will lead the receiving corps; he had 10 catches and a touchdown last year. Sophomore Cole Lathrop will play tight end.

Senior center Joel Lewis is the only experienced senior on the offensive line. First-year senior Levi Stubblefield will start on the line, and first-year senior Willie Borgerding will come off the bench. Other linemen include juniors Christian Zollman and Cody Vaughn and sophomore Sterling Shetler.

One of the freshmen who could make an impact is lineman Mike Marks, who is 6-foot-2, 215 pounds and will probably start at guard, coach Eschler said.

Josephs strength is its defensive backfield. Nall was a second-team all-leaguer and Witherrite received honorable mention there. Eschler, Dalton, Wells, and Butterfield will play there, too.

Lewis is a first-team all-league linebacker and will be joined by Garrett, Cody Lathrop and freshman Mike Gamboa.

Zollman, Cole Lathrop, Shetler and Vaughn will play on the defensive line, as will Stubblefield, Borgerding and freshman Clayton Lowe.

Rusty Eschler likes his team speed, but as always, depth will be a problem in the small program.

Its the same thing every year for us, he said.