Scappoose football left no doubt last season.
"We showed everybody we can play at the 5A level," coach Sean McNabb said.
In their first year up from Class 4A, the Indians made the state playoffs, beat North Bend 20-14 in the first round and finished 8-3, with all three losses to 5A powers (two to Pendleton, one to Wilsonville).
Now the question is, can Scappoose contend minus another McNabb — all-purpose star Connor, who graduated after earning all-district honors on offense, defense and special teams and leading the Indians in touchdowns?
Yes, said Coach McNabb.
"We have the opportunity to be just as good or better than last year," he said.
No doubt the points will come more by committee this season, but Coach McNabb said the offensive philosophy should be much the same. And the Indians will have good depth at the skill positions along with a bunch of experienced linemen with some size and a hard-nosed returning quarterback.
"I feel good about where we're at," Coach McNabb said.
The season kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday in Astoria, with a nonleague renewal of an old 4A Cowapa League rivalry.
Then the Indians begin a seven-game Special District 1 season with a Sept. 13 trip to Forest Grove.
The home opener — and one of only three regular-season home games — is Sept. 20 versus Hillsboro.
But Scappoose will end the season at home against Wilson on Oct. 18 and Cleveland on Oct. 25 — two teams they beat handily a year ago.
"We're hoping to get two more home games after that," McNabb said, meaning 5A postseason games, if things go well and Scappoose ranks high enough to get those dates.
"A lot of things have to happen — we have to practice hard and improve every day, and practice with a purpose — but I like our chances," McNabb said.
Scappoose ended last season ranked sixth in 5A, and in this year's preseason poll they were ranked ninth (Wilsonville was No. 2, Pendleton No. 8). Wilsonville and Scappoose went 1-2 in the Special District 1 West Division last season. The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the state before settling for second place after a 30-27 loss, their only defeat, to Thurston in the state final.
The Indians will battle this year with a long list of returning players that includes senior QB/safety Jakobi Kessi.
"He runs the offense really well, understands it, is physical, loves football and has improved his passing accuracy," McNabb said.
Sophomore Luke McNabb gives the Indians "one of the better backup quarterbacks in the state," Coach McNabb said.
The running back stable includes a transfer from Vernonia, Josh Rice, and senior Kawika Napaa, who is back in the program after a year's absence. Senior Connor Maclachlan has moved from slot to running back, and junior Deacon Smith could be back before midseason after suffering a broken leg in spring.
Receiver candidates include seniors Drake Kramer, Colton Frates, Blake Morkert, Thomas Greiner and Ben Anicker; juniors Logan Johnson and Dominic Lite; and sophomore Colin Stoddard.
Setting the table for everything on offense will be the line, led by senior center Jerico Archer, senior guard Tommy McKedy and junior guard Cutter Sandstrom.
"Having those three back is huge. They're bigger, faster and stronger," McNabb said.
And they'll have good players around them, with seniors Slater Smiens and Blake Carlascio and junior Bobby Vanek top choices to replace graduated tackles Terrence Lewis and Liam McMullen. Robert Guajardo, a senior, also will get time up front.
"Our offensive line will be just fine," McNabb said.
Most of those guys can play on the defensive line as well, though McNabb said "the goal is keep them from having to go both ways all the time."
One other injury hurt the potential lineup, as senior defensive lineman Cole Hill was lost for the season with a knee injury.
The linebacking corps returns junior Slater Smiens and includes senior Conner Havlik and juniors Riyle Kauffman and Brett Krieger.
Kramer is a deep safety, Maclachlan and Rice are strong safeties, Kessi will be back defensively as the "bandit," and Anicker can go in at any of the three safety spots.
The cornerback contingent includes Greiner, Frates, Lite and Morkert.
Still to be determined is who replaces Connor McNabb as the primary return man, and whether Kessi continues as the Indians' chief punter.
The place-kicking game offers some options as returnee Cade McDonald, a junior, goes up against competition from seniors Tyler Holcomb and Braedon Adler, both former full-time soccer players.
The leadership and spark Connor McNabb provided will have to be replaced, but Kessi will figure strongly into that.
"Jakobi's a guy who will get the party started, for sure," Coach McNabb said.
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