St. Helens gears up for opener at home
For the second year in a row, it'll be a cat fight of sorts when the St. Helens Lions kick off their 2019 football season.
The Lions will be at home Friday night for a 7 p.m. game against the Redmond Panthers.
The Lions and Panthers met in Redmond last year, with the Panthers winning 44-21 for a 1-0 start.
Redmond has a new coach this season. Seth Womack, who coached Eagle Point to a 23-33 record in six seasons, also was athletic director there before getting the nod to replace Brent Wasche at Redmond.
Cory Young is back with an experienced staff at St. Helens, which went 4-5 overall in 2018. The Lions went on a 4-2 run that put them into a nonleague tournament finale against Parkrose.
St. Helens has decent experience coming back this season from a corps of varsity players, notably in the offensive and defensive lines.
The line play predictably stood out last Friday, when St. Helens went to Astoria for a jamboree that provided the Lions with some live action against Astoria, Seaside and Tillamook.
"We learned a lot from that and from the film," Young said. "We did some things right, some things wrong. Our offensive line blocked pretty well, but as a team we've still got to work on our physicality and on defense we still need all 11 guys finding the football.
"We had too many mental mistakes that put us in bad possessions, but part of that is just from rust."
The goal this week, starting with practice on Monday, has been to get into the routine of a game week.
Come Friday night, the coaches hope to get contributions from a large number of Lions as they come together fully as a team for the first time.
"It's always fun to have that first home game, that first week of school," Young said.
Depth could be a concern for the Lions.
"We'd like to have a few more numbers," Young said.
But the turnover overall was good for football this year, and in many spots, including at quarterback, the Lions have players on board for the future as well.
"In the jamboree, we had three freshmen quarterbacks take snaps," Young said of those in reserve behind junior Jakob Robbins, who started on varsity much of the time last season.
"I would like to see the game slow down for him," Young said. "He has a real good understanding of where we want to go with the ball and why. He's made improvements there."
The ground game at St. Helens goes as the blocking is able to coordinate with some tough running.
"The timing, the blocking, the angles, some misdirection, some run-pass option stuff on the edges — that's all really important for us," Young said.
The St. Helens players have voted for season captains, choosing three seniors — linemen Caden Willaby and Jayden Smith and wide receiver/linebacker Cody Woodruff.
A fourth captain, who will join them for the pregame coin toss, most likely will be selected on a game-by-game basis, Young said.
The Lions have 12 seniors on their initial varsity roster: Canon Beisley, Alden Finch, Justin Garcia, Max Jones, Jeremy O'Meara, Kyle Parnell, Juan Quiroz, Dylan Shierk, Jayden Smith, Austin Waite, Caden Willaby and Cody Woodruff.
On offense, the running game should lead the way again for St. Helens, but Young said fans can expect to see "a few tweaks here and there. They say a good coach changes 10 percent of his playbook every year. We adjust for talent. There were things last year because of talent we focused on, as we do each and every year. ... There will be some things we can do this year moving guys around, some wildcat stuff and some things Coach (Jared) Phillips has been playing with. ... But for the most part it'll be pretty much the same."
Wasche was 2-7 in his only year at the helm of Panthers football; he took a job teaching in Port Angeles, Washington.
Womack, 39, has been in coaching for 15 years, with a couple of small-college assistant jobs included, along with one year with a team in Germany. He played in the National Indoor Football League and in Austria.
He got the Panthers job about a month and a half ago, with not a lot of time to put things in place.
He'll be Redmond's fourth coach in as many years. He's also the new dean of student success at the high school.
At Eagle Point, his 2018 team went 6-3 in 5A, beating Redmond 40-8.
Womack plans to use both a spread offense and run-oriented attack. The Panthers have 34 sophomores, seven juniors and 14 seniors this season on their roster.
The list of seniors includes several likely key contributors, such as running backs Colt Folston and Brendan Powell, wideout Henry Chambers, quarterback Cooper Browning, two-way lineman Dylan Moss and linebacker Jack McKenzie.
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