Most of the starters on this falls standout team were underclassmen

by: DAVID BLAIR - Gladstone junior running back Handsome Smith (15), the 2013 Tri-Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year, slips a tackle after taking a handoff from quarterback Austin Galvin (10) in this years game with North Marion. The Gladiators will be the team to beat in the Tri-Valley Conference and perhaps in the state next fall, with nine returning starters on offense and seven on defense, including Smith, who starts on both sides of the football.If experience means anything, next year should be the “Year of the Gladiators” in Oregon Class 4A high school football.

Gladstone has advanced to the state quarterfinals the past two seasons. The Gladiators next fall will return nine players on offense and seven on defense who started in this year’s quarterfinal loss to top-ranked Philomath. And the returning starters will be pushed next year by a number of talented players up from a jayvee team that went 8-0 this fall.

“The future looks bright, and the future starts now,” said Gladstone coach Jon Wolf. “We have a lot of work to do, with weight workouts, playing in other sports, and working hard on class work. But this could be a very special group.”

Players who started at Philomath expected back on offense include: junior Handsome Smith at tailback, junior Zach Smith at fullback, juniors Vinny Rininger and Justice Fridell at wide receiver, juniors Hunter Zivney and Trask Telesmanich at tackle, junior Austin Krieger at center, junior Colton Anderson at guard, and sophomore Deione Fields at guard.

Smith, a two-time first-team all-conference player on both sides of the football, was the 2013 Tri-Valley Conference “Offensive Player of the Year.” The 5-8, 165-pound speedster has been the Gladiators’ leading rusher the past two seasons, averaging 10.2 yards a rush this fall, with 152 carries for 1,550 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Anderson and Krieger were also first-team all-conference selections on offense.

Zach Smith made second-team all-league on offense, with 52 carries for 230 yards and five touchdowns, and 11 receptions for 224 yards and two touchdowns.

The Gladiators also have an up-and-coming running back in 5-10, 170-pound junior Cooper Nelson, who this year averaged 6.8 yards a carry, rushing 70 times for 476 yards and three touchdowns.

Fridell (13 receptions/166 yards), Zivney and Telesmanich were also second-team conference all-stars this fall.

The Gladiators also return an experienced tight end in junior Sean Williams, who garnered second-team all-star recognition as a punter; and a veteran offensive lineman in Dylan Wallace.

Players who started in this year’s quarterfinal expected to return on defense include: Telesmanich and Wallace at defensive end, Zach Smith and junior Sterling Berks at linebacker, Handsome Smith at free safety, and juniors E.J. Penn and Eric Prom at cornerback.

Wallace, Berks and Penn were all second-team all-league selections on defense, while Zach Smith and Handsome Smith were named to the first defensive team.

The biggest hole on offense next fall will be at quarterback, where the Gladiators will need to find a replacement for first-team all-conference QB Austin Galvin. Galvin this year passed for 981 yards and 15 touchdowns, and rushed for 585 yards and eight touchdowns.

It will also be tough to replace senior linebacker/wide receiver Trevor Browning, who was the TVC “Defensive Player of the Year,” as well as a second-team all-conference pick on offense.

First-team all-conference noseguard Sam Twigger also graduates, along with starting linebackers Kyle Wou and Andrew Conway.

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