Bottom teams leave the Tri-River, replaced by 1A power St. Paul


Coach: Joe Panuke

Last season: 6-4 (5-1 Tri-River Conference) lost 33-7 to Oakland in first round of 2A state playoffs.

Key players: Noah Giberson, Bishop Mitchell, Jack Suing, Brett Traeger, Jacob Lopez

Key losses: Mark Unrein, Blake Traeger, Ty Sawyer, Daniel Glaede, Cole Galtes, Max Jaeger, Sam Moreno, Wyatt Rodriguez

Outlook: The 2014 season will be a year of transition for the Kennedy. The team must replace a number of talented players who graduated, but the biggest loss came when coach Randy Traeger stepped down to pursue a position with Willamette University.

The Trojans didn’t look far for his replacement, promoting assistant Joe Panuke to the job. This gives the team stability in the locker room and the playbook during a time in which Kennedy will be undergoing a massive overhaul of player personnel.

The Trojans are ready to usher in a new class of players to compete in a much more competitive Tri-River Conference.

Three of last year’s four worst teams — Toledo, Culver and Waldport — have moved on. In their place comes perennial 1A power St. Paul.

The Trojans will attack the new-look Tri-River with a similar face behind quarterback in third-year starting senior Noah Giberson. The veteran passer will be a welcome leader for a Kennedy team that lost 19 players to graduation last year.

In their place will be a new class of talented, but largely unheralded players. Sophomore Bishop Mitchell is ready to make an impact at running back after blossoming as an athlete last season.

Fellow sophomore Jack Suing returns to the defensive line after he garnered all-conference attention as a freshman, and junior Jacob Lopez has the talent to defend the pass and the run in the middle of the field at linebacker. Brett Traeger teams with Giberson at defensive back to give Kennedy a strong pair of players to defend the opposing passers.

With just four opposing league rivals to play against this season, each conference game will have a playoff atmosphere surrounding it. The Trojans had long been a 2A power under Traeger. Whether that excellence continues under Panuke will be the question heading into the 2014 season.

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