August 29, 2001 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Last years success usually improves next years turnout for high school football, but a large freshman class helps even more.

Enterprise struggled through a 4-5 season a year ago, but coach Randy Morgan has more players out this year than in 1999, the year after he took his team to the state championship game.

When all is said and done, well have 40 kids out, maybe even more, Morgan said. Thats the most weve had in four or five years.

Enterprise High School has 62 students in its freshman class this year, a large number for a school with about 160 students a year ago. Twelve of those freshmen are out for football and though only a few will contribute this year, that bodes well for the future.

Not that Enterprise is down this year. The team returns only six seniors, but that class is small anyway. And Enterprise does have experience at its skill positions.

Morgan has moved senior Kyle Crawford to running back, a change that actually started in the last game of last season. Crawford ran for 176 yards and scored all four of his teams touchdowns in a 31-6 victory over Elgin and he kicked a 31-yard field goal and four extra points to boot.

Junior James Huffman will take over at quarterback; he threw two touchdown passes in limited action last year. Joining Crawford in what Crawford calls a speedy backfield will be junior Zack Harrison, probably the fastest kid we have on the team, according to Crawford, and junior Isaac Gerner, who will double at wide receiver.

Senior Eric Stangel is also penciled in at running back, but at more than 200 pounds, he could also play guard or tight end. Hes going to be on the field playing somewhere, Crawford said.

Huffmans receivers include senior Josh VanderZanden and juniors Marcus Bridges and Kevin Gomes. Juniors Grady Rawls and Tim Gilbert will play at tight end.

Enterprise does have some size on its offensive and defensive lines. Sophomore left tackle Jarod Osborn played a lot as a freshman, and he weighs more than 200 pounds. His older brother Joe, a senior, will play beside him at left guard.

Junior Zach Fisher, 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, will play tackle and junior Kelsey Lukens will be a center and defensive tackle. Senior Dana Vernarsky is a guard/defensive tackle. All tip the scales past 200.

Notice quite a few juniors listed. The majority of the starters will be juniors, Morgan said. They all played quite a bit last year. They were young and theyre a year faster and a year stronger and a year better.

Some of the younger players who could see some playing time this season include sophomore tight end Nathan Slinker, sophomore guard Dustan McElroy, and freshmen twins Tony and Craig Swart. The twins in the junior track meets were 1-2 almost every week in the 100-meter dash, Morgan said.

Morgan knows his charges will have to develop confidence, but the schedule suits Enterprise just fine. Because of field problems, the Waitsburg (Wash.) game has been moved to Enterprise, giving Enterprise three home games to start the season.

The thing thats not perfect about it is weve got to play Union our first league game, the coach said. Union is one of the league favorites this year.

The preseason could be a good time for Enterprise fans to see into the future.

Ive got some good young sophomores who are going to develop into good young linemen, Morgan said.