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Shea Little returns as head coach for Culver Bulldog football after short period away from program.

STEELE HAUGEN - Athletic Director Shea Little takes over the Culver football program. Little was the varsity football coach from 2012-16 before having to stop coaching due to health problems.Shea Little is back as the head coach for the Culver Bulldogs football team. Little is the current athletic Director at Culver High School.

He was the varsity football coach from 2012-16 until he had to stop coaching due to health reasons. Little is taking the program back over for Jesus Retano, who coached the Bulldogs the last two seasons.

"These guys are doing a great job," Little said. "They are working hard, coming together as a family, which was a big push this year. Taking care of each other on and off the field, creating lots of team bonding activities. We went out paint balling with the National Guard this season and we are doing team dinners, focusing on the family atmosphere. We are going hard and intense on the field, shortening practices up a bit, focusing on working hard when they cross that line."

"They have really bought into that as far as work ethic," he said. "I think that goes for the majority of Culver kids, they work hard. We are going back to fundamentals, going back to the basics. We are doing a lot of reteaching, taking baby steps. For a varsity team, we don't have a lot of varsity plays or defensive schemes in yet. They are grasping concepts well, learning and putting on those thinking caps and doing a good job."

Little and the Bulldogs didn't waste any time starting the season this year. Practices were able to start on Aug. 19 and the Bulldogs were on the football field at 12:00 a.m. that day. Coaches, players and parents woke up Sunday night to drop their kids off for a very early Monday morning practice.

"Midnight Madness," Little said. "No team is going to beat us on the field. There is one thing you can beat teams in and it doesn't matter how talented you are, you can always outwork teams. Be the first team on the field, first team to be successful and get better in the game of football. We turned the lights on, got kids excited and told them we are going to give everything we got and we are not going to let a team outwork us."

Last season the Bulldogs finished with a 3-6 overall record, but lost two very close games to start the season. This year the team is focused early.

"We are hoping the key to success this year is fundamentals and technique," Little said. "We need to go back to that and I think any successful program has a base and knowledge of that. I have a great coaching staff this year. They have all played in college sports, have knowledge and are bringing a lot of expertise."

"I have some alumni helping out and they know the system under me, the intensity, fly around attitude, work when we're there and have fun when we are off," he said. "They are helping the coaches that do not know me or my coaching style, but the staff I have all have great knowledge."

"We are all preaching being a class act, academics, improvement, and fun on the field," said Little. "We are not just talking about football, but talking about life. How to be successful and win in all aspects of life, so the kids come out, not just a better football player, but a better human and that is a really big focus."

Three 2A-Special District 2 league opponents made the postseason last year —Sheridan, Santiam and Kennedy. Kennedy beat Santiam in the 2A state championships 31-20. The Bulldogs went 2-4 in league play during the season.

"We have the returning state champs (Kennedy) and they didn't lose a lot of kids, so they have a good chance to win it again," Little said. "Santiam was in the top four, Sheridan was rolling right before playoffs ... it will be a tough, solid league. I think all the programs in the league are just focusing on getting after it and getting back to fundamentals. It will be interesting to see how things turn out."

The Bulldogs lost captains Joe Russo and Kyler Cox due to graduation, but still have plenty of talent returning on the football field. Justyce Loredo is returning for his senior year after earning second-team honors as running back. He had 485 rushing yards, and four touchdowns on offense, while also recording 44 tackles on defense as a safety.

"Success will come through how tight we are," Loredo said. "The last couple years we weren't very tight, but this year, we are brothers and we can go far. I feel like we can take most of the league. A lot of teams lost players and we have a lot of new guys. We can really take the league by storm. The offense is big and fast. We finally have a line that can take on other linemen and other schools."

Cord Gomes is also returning after earning honorable mention on defense, recording 40 tackles, four sacks and one safety. Jordan VanAlstyne earned both honorable mention honors on offense and defense, recording 195 rushing yards, 217 receiving yards on offense and 36 tackles on defense.

"We have a lot of young guys out and I am looking forward to the season," Gomes said. "A lot of young bloods and I am ready for some fun and start hitting people. We have a new recruit in Hunter Augusovich and he is fast. We need to stop the run this year. Nothing up the middle and lay some hat."

The Bulldogs start the season with two road games. They play at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at Illinois Valley for their first game of the season. They also play at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13 at Rogue River.

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