August 28, 2001 11:00 pm

By C.J. Gish

Observer Staff Writer

ELGIN Victories loomed liked mirages last year for Elgin High School.

The Huskies football team lost five games by eight or fewer points, including the first four of the season, leading to a 1-8 record.

Elgin will enter the battle this season armed with 22 players, including eight freshmen.

Our numbers are pretty thin, second-year Elgin coach Ed Schumacher said. Last year, I felt we turned the program around competitive-wise. We were exciting to watch.

The Huskies will have seven seniors returning who started both ways last year. Plus, they will rely upon a steady offensive and defensive line.

Were just young and inexperienced, Schumacher said.

The veterans on the team include all-Wapiti League tackle T.J. Galloway. At 5-foot-10, 220 pounds, the senior will anchor the offensive and defensive tackle positions.

Seniors Creighton Moore (6-3, 250), Pat Boyd (6-0, 210) and Brian Sanders (5-8, 140), in his first year out, will join Galloway on the line. Moore will be at tackle, Sanders at center and Boyd will be used to fill in where needed.

Junior Donald Love (5-9, 170) and sophomore Chad McDonald (5-10, 185) are slated to start at the guard spots, with sophomores Vance Horn (5-11, 180) and Cotty Horn (6-1, 155) providing depth along the line.

We have good size and are big on the line, Schumacher said.

Senior Jake Williams (6-0, 160) will play tailback in Elgins single-back formation. Williams saw some time last year, rushing for 43 yards.

The wide receivers will be senior Ryan McKone (5-11, 155), sophomores Skyler Payne (5-9, 160), Ricky Foster (6-1, 150) and Nick Martin (6-2, 170), and freshmen Cody Burgess (5-10, 155) and Charlie Schumacher (6-1, 155). Martin is a transfer from Imbler.

Were running a single-back set and were looking to throw a bit, Schumacher said.

Sophomore Blake Eckstein (5-11, 215) will take over at quarterback. Eckstein played on the line last year.

The defense is where things havent come together, yet.

We have as many questions on defense as any place. We have only one starting defensive back returning, Schumacher said. Were really going to have to experiment on defense.

Outside of our linemen, every position is up for grabs.

The defensive ends will be McKone, McDonald and Vance Horn, with Boyd, Sanders, and Galloway at tackle. Moore will rotate into the line, too.

Williams, who started in the secondary last year, may see time at linebacker. Eckstein, Sanders and Payne are tentatively set at linebacker.

The secondary is just as much in the air, with Martin, Burgess and Schumacher expected to start. Williams may also return as the only player with experience.

Outside of Williams, were so young. All of our young kids are in the secondary, Schumacher said.

I think well have plenty of challenges ahead. This year, were so young its hard to say where well finish. If the kids come along and avoid injuries, maybe well be all right.

Elgin opens its season Friday when it hosts Umatilla.