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With the football schedule resembling pre-pandemic times, the Bucks are gunning for return to postseason

Just two years ago St. Paul High School's football team ran up a 12-1 record, culminating in a competitive state championship game against Adrian/Jordan Valley. Three years ago they performed the exact same feat, losing then a closely contested battle to Dufur.

In fact, aside from last year's pandemic affected season, you have to go all the way back to the 2015-16 season to find a St. Paul football team that didn't make it into the postseason. That was when the Bucks were still competing at 2A.

PMG FILE PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - St. Paul's Bryce Williams hauls in a catch in the state title game against Adrian. Williams will return as a leader for the 2020-21 team.

Now with a full football schedule of nine games, four league games and five non-league contests, St. Paul has its sights set on once again going for glory.

A couple of big reasons for the team's success in recent years? According to head football coach Tony Smith, it's simple really: consistency and a strong work ethic.

"We've been fortunate to be in a place where we have really great work ethic from our kids because of the types of things that they're doing in the summer," Smith said. "As far as their work and the expectation, you know, working on the farm and the expectation that work and effort is important. I think we have unbelievable community support with our booster club, we have a great tradition, we've had multiple coaches that have been around for 10 to 15 years. We get a great turnout every year, there's just a lot of little things that go into that.

It hasn't just been the hard work of coaches and community. Players coming back to join the roster year in and year out have been crucial to maintaining the team's competitive streak at the 1A level.

Key returners this year will include multiple starters like quarterback Lance Tuck, running back Bryce Williams, running back Clancy Cook, linebacker Brody Schindler, and lineman Andy Izquierdo. Given that last year's squad only graduated three seniors, the experience of the returning players will be crucial to carving out space in a competitive North Special District 1.

St. Paul will be battling it out in league play against Falls City/Kings Valley Charter, Waldport, Perrydale and Mohawk. Last season Waldport posted the best record of the Bucks league competition with a 4-1 record. While the Irish will look to be equally as competitive this year, Smith believes all of St. Paul's league opponents to be equally dangerous.

"Waldport just moved down a couple years ago from 2A to 1A, but all those programs at different times have been very successful," Smith said. "I don't know that any stand out as being the toughest competition."

St. Paul's first football game of the season will be on the road against Lost River at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3. The first home game for the Bucks will be the following week at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10, against Days Creek.


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