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After dropping into the 5A classification, Viks won six games and qualified for the state playoffs.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Forest Grove's Jarod Miller fights off a tackle during a game versus Putnam last season. Miller will be a three-year starter for the Vikings at quarterback this season.What a difference a year makes.

Twelve months ago, the Forest Grove Vikings football team was reeling from back-to-back seasons that garnered just a single win. But thanks in part to a step down to the 5A classification in an effort to infuse life back into a struggling program, last year's Viks tallied six wins and qualified for the state playoffs. As a result, they bring a fresh and invigorated attitude to this year's season.

"The good thing about these kids is, you don't have to convince 'em," said Forest Grove head coach Perry Herbst. "They're football players and they take a lot of pride and respect in what they did last year and what they want to do, and they work hard.

"Can we get better? Heck yeah, but the kids are working hard and they want to taste more success."

Herbst added that while he'd like more, his numbers and participation were good during Forest Grove's summer program. He noted the thirst to win, but also said he and his team prefer to focus on the work in an effort to create the outcome they know will manifest itself come game time — something he appreciates with this group of kids.

"The kids are growing and they're focusing on getting better, and that makes me happy," Herbst said. "Outcomes are byproducts. I'm just really enjoying the journey with these guys."

It hasn't all been good, however, as the Vikings lost a key contributor, Seth Peterson, to a freak ankle injury prior to camp. But despite the running back/linebacker's absence, along with the loss of additional all-league players to graduation, Forest Grove still has its share of talent returning.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Forest Grove head coach Perry Herbst works with his team during a preseason practice at Forest Grove High School.Herbst said the Vikings return seven starters on defense and six more on the offensive side of the ball. Of those returners, he pointed to lineman Noah Reasoner, outside linebacker Caleb Silva and receivers Dylan Straughan and Cameron Ulloa, along with running backs Chris Doyle and Isaiah Ahmad, as keys to this year's success. He also mentioned senior tight end and defensive lineman Cameron Bennett as a vital piece of the 2019 team.

"That dude is special," Herbst said. "He's tough and one of the best out there. I have a lot of good things to say about that kid. He's a hard worker and he loves his teammates."

Not to be forgotten is third-year starting quarterback Jarod Miller, who the coach said has really worked hard on his craft. The quiet but determined signal-caller was a second team all-league honoree last season, and Herbst was quick to point to his strong desire to lead and get better.

"Miller's worked really hard," said the coach. "He doesn't miss a weightlifting session, has been at everything, has gone to some extra quarterback camps and has really worked at it. His work ethic is second to none."

In addition to the returning talent, Herbst pointed at some relative newcomers, including linebacker and guard Trevor Brenner — who played and got hurt last year — and sophomore offensive tackle Gavin Hale as guys to keep an eye on.

When pressed about the strength of his team, Herbst said without hesitation that it was the senior class and their attitude that has and will continue to dictate their success on the field.

"This group of seniors have been big," Herbst said. "They bought in and led by example. We spent a lot of time building character, and that starts to take care of itself. But ultimately we just need to take it one play at a time, and they know that."

Forest Grove opens their season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6, at Putnam, and hosts Scappoose in their home opener Sept. 13 at Forest Grove High School.

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