On a recent Friday evening, 16 players turned out at Burghardt Stadium to work on agility and other conditioning drills.

by: JIM BESEDA/MOLALLA PIONEER - Isaiah Ganz was among the Molalla High football players who took part in recent summer workouts at Burghardt Stadium.Molalla High School’s Coop Early is serious about summer football workouts.

When the schedule calls for players to show up at Burghardt Stadium at 6 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday for voluntary conditioning drills, Early -- a 6-foot, 240-pound senior lineman -- is usually among the first to arrive and the last to leave.

The number of others who show up fluctuates.

On the third Friday in July, there were 16 players on the field, including Early. He considered the turnout decent.

“These are the kids who want to put in extra work and like to work,” Early said. “Everyone that’s here is going to get more looks and they’re going to get a better chance to play, because the coaches can already see what they have.

“So, the more you’re out here, the more the coaches are going to look and the more playing time you’re likely to get.”

As Early spoke, a summer league baseball game was underway on the adjacent field, and at least four of the players there are expected to turn out for football this fall.

Add those players to the workout mix, and the Indians are looking at a solid core group of about 20 players — a number that is expected to double before the OSAA’s “official” Aug. 18 start of fall sports practices.

This week is the OSAA’s Moratorium Week, when there is to be no contact between coaches and athletes or any use of high school athletic facilities.

Molalla coach Kaleb MitchellOnce the moratorium ends Sunday, most fall sports teams will increase their off-season training activities (OTAs), essentially moving the start of fall practice up two weeks to this coming Monday.

“You don’t just roll out the ball Aug. 18 and say, ‘Let’s get after it. We’re going to be good.’ You’ve got to work just like everybody else is working,” said Molalla coach Kaleb Mitchell, who is beginning his seventh season with the Indians and sixth as head coach.

“We still call them OTAs, but it’s essentially the start of practice statewide. You can’t make it mandatory, you can’t call it practice, but you have to call it something.

“From Aug. 4 on, we’ll be going. We’ll start to install everything, so that when we actually get to put the pads on, we’re not still on the walk-through stage.”

Running back Isaiah Bilbrey and wide receiver Austin Salley return after earning first-team, all-Tri-Valley Conference honors last season on a junior-dominated team that finished 4-5 and missed the Class 4A state playoffs for the second consecutive season.

“I have a really good feeling about this fall, especially with the way the Class 4A has been reorganized with the new divisions,” Mitchell said. “The teams that have led the way in the past are all 5A now, so the conference race should be wide open and should include us, if we can get our heads on straight.”

Mitchell said this group reminds him of Molalla’s playoff teams from 2006 and 2011.

“The quality that those kids had was that when bad things happened, they didn’t drop their heads to extreme levels,” Mitchell said. “I think I have another squad now with tough-minded kids. If they can get past that first layer of adversity and not have it blow their minds and just play on, we’ll be fine.”

Early agreed that the attitude appears to have improved from a year ago.

“Last year, we had a lot of ups and downs, but we also had people with bad attitudes who are no longer here,” Early said. “This year, I don’t see any bad attitudes. This year should be good.

“I feel we’re going to be in better condition, too. People on this team want to work harder than last year. We have a lot of skill positions, because people want the ball. That’s how people are. But we’re slowly developing more linemen and … I think we’ll be OK.”

The Tri-Valley Conference has changed with the addition of the Corbett Cardinals and the Crook County Cowboys of Prineville, plus the departure of La Salle Prep to the Class 5A Northwest Oregon Conference and North Marion to the Class 4A Oregon West Conference.

Molalla will join Crook County and Corbett on Aug. 29 for a pre-season jamboree at Cottage Grove High School before opening the regular season Sept. 5 with a non-conference road game against Class 5A The Dalles-Wahtonka of the Columbia River Conference.

-- Jim Beseda / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

(503) 829-2301

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