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After graduating nine seniors and leadership on the squad, the Bulldogs will need new personnel to grab the reins

Earlier this year, the Woodburn football team put together a 2-4 record to tie for second in the Special District 3. Despite winning just two games the team ran up 115 points, the second-highest scoring total in the district.

PMG FILE PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - Receiver Tomas Veliz earned second team all-offense recognition and will be one of the leaders returning.

The team will have to grow back into that kind of offensive firepower again though. Nine members of last year's team graduated and, according to Woodburn head football coach Ken Mace, others will have to step up.

"Offensively and defensively, we have some holes to fill with the seniors who graduated," Mace said. "They were all quality players and even better young men. We have some guys that are going to have to step up. If they're not ready, they'll need to get ready. But with our player development programs and offseason training, I think that we are heading in the right direction."

While Mace and the coaching staff evaluates players during the lead up to the first game of the season, he already has identified some players who have been putting in the extra effort during the offseason. Seniors Santiago Roque, Austin Ramirez and Tomas Veliz, and juniors Ty Beyer and Kaleb Robles already have caught the eye of the coaches.

"They have been working tirelessly through the offseason to develop themselves and bring their teammates along," Mace said. "They attack each task with relentless effort. They are students of the game. Most importantly, they build up those around them."

The season will have its challenges as Woodburn hopes to lay claim to a league title. The league formerly known as the Oregon West League has stalwart opposition in Sweet Home, Stayton and Cascade. Newport will be the wild card in the picture as the team only got to compete in three full football games last year. Mace believes that despite challenges all teams present, Cascade is the team to beat.

"I really do think this league is going to be a fun challenge and evaluation tool to see where our training is and where it can improve," Mace said. "I think that Cascade has to be the favorite to win the league. With what they have returning, only graduating one player, and what they did to the teams in our league in the spring, I think that the chase is on to catch them."

After a jamboree against Philomath on Aug. 26, the Bulldogs begin the nine-game season against Klamath Union in a nonleague contest Friday, Sept. 3. The team won't meet a league opponent until Friday, Oct. 1, when they head to Cascade High School.


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