Photo Credit: PHIL HAWKINS - The Cougars should have better odds for a repeat playoff run after leaving the West Valley Conference to join the PacWest Conference this season.


Coach: Duane Riddell

Last year: 2-7 (2-4 in West Valley Conference); lost 49-0 to Harrisburg in the first round of the 3A playoffs.

Key players: Nikita Kalugin, Jordan Milkovich, Henry Fleener, Ben Goumey

Key losses: Adam Jaramillo, Roberto Hernandez, Ricky Diaz, Daniel LaFollette

Outlook: It’s a new beginning for the Gervais football team, which enters its first season in the PacWest Conference a year after breaking a 70-plus year playoff drought. The 2013 Cougars made a surprise run to the postseason last fall despite losing their first six games of the season to extend a streak of 18 straight losses dating back to the 2011 season. Gervais emphatically bucked the streak by winning its final two games to forge a three-way tie for the final West Valley playoff berth that the Cougars won via tiebreaker.

The wins came in large part due to the Cougars’ commitment to running the ball down the throat of their opponents, and the two ball-carriers who saw the most time last season — seniors Nikita Kalugin and Jordan Milkovich — are back for more. Unfortunately, Gervais lost three all-conference linemen to graduation and will have to find suitable replacements to see continued success with their run attack in a new conference.

And the 2014 PacWest Conference should be wide open for Gervais to stake its claim. Three of the top four teams from last year’s PacWest — Harrisburg, Santiam Christian and Pleasant Hill — have been reassigned to different 3A leagues. Gervais brings with it former West Valley rival Colton. Though the Chemawa Braves are technically in the PacWest, the school did not field a football team in 2013 and is unlikely to do so this season.

The Cougars won’t find PacWest holdovers Blanchet Catholic, Salem Academy and Scio to be pushovers by any means, but they’ll likely prove to more favorable opponents than perpetual 3A powers Dayton and Horizon Christian, which remained in the West Valley.

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