With the football season less than two months away, the Wildcats are already training on home turf

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - The offensive line drills its assignments and reads against a practice squads. With the heat of the summer sun beating down on Oregon, sweat is readily flowing from athletes putting in work in the offseason. Among those dedicated student athletes are members of the Wilsonville football team.

Practicing in the late hours of the day, linemen at 8 p.m. and offensive backs at 9 p.m., the team is working to install its base offense before the start of the season. They are hoping get ready for the challenges of regular season play.

"The kids that are out here, those are the kids we're going to coach up," head football coach Adam Guenther said. "When they're out here, we want effort, we want them to be ready to go, and we want them to hit the ground running come the beginning of the year like it's the playoffs. Once we hit the playoffs, then it's the championship. We take summer as an opportunity to get better and hit the ground running come doubles so we're not starting from square one."

SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - The wide receiving core runs its routes and works on its hands while catching passes from starting quarterback Nathan Overholt. Part of the summer workout and practice sessions are to assess who will be stepping up to fill the shoes of seniors recently graduated. On the offensive and defensive lines, there are only a few holes to plug, but they are big. Among the graduated seniors are Fernando Salazar and Draco Bynum, two starting big men. Guenther says their talents will be missed, but he is excited about the returning players and their opportunities.

"We return eight on offense and eight on defense," Guenther said. Granted, the guys we lost were pretty good football players, but we got a lot coming up. Our expectations are high for this group. If they were low, then we wouldn't be doing them justice. Guys like Kalei Kauhi over here will be a leader on the line, and we're looking at Kody Gray, and Cole Douglas and David Fukofuka. We're going to have a bunch of guys that are ready to play. It's next guy up."

One of the things that is difficult to navigate is the demand on the athletes to come to practice from one sport or the other. Several sports, including baseball, lacrosse, basketball, and soccer have summer practices or games that draw starting football players to them. It's one of the reasons that the team starts its practices so late in the evening.

"I think every coach wants their kids out as much as possible," Guenther said. "It's a universal thing, it really is. We realize that the kids are getting pulled in all different kinds of directions nowadays. So, we've got to respect that. It's one of the reasons we practice at 9 o'clock at night. We see some kids come rolling in from baseball games that just got over at 8 o'clock at Gresham and they have to bus them in over here. Are they going to be tired? Sure, but they're young and they'll be OK."

With just eight summer practices before daily doubles start up, Guenther and his coaching staff have their work cut out for them, but they are confident they can get it done. The goal is to replicate the success they had last season and push even further into the post season. At the end of the 2017-2018 the Wildcats were 7-0 in the Northwest Oregon Conference (NWOC), and 10-2 overall. They had avenged a post season loss to Lebanon from the season before, and made it all the way to the state semi-finals before losing to eventual state champions Hermiston.

There will be some changes to the program's offense from last year, according to Guenther, just based on the personnel that will be returning. SPOKESMAN PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Starting quarterback and returning senior Nathan Overholt is one of the offensive weapons that Wilsonville brings back from last year.

"You have to tweak things every year to do things a little different," Guenther said. "We're a high school program, and you get who you get. The most successful offenses and programs are able to adjust to the caliber and the talents of the kids that they have coming in. So, is it going to be the same? I think our philosophy stays the same, and I think some of the concepts are going to change just a little bit."

"We have to put the best players out on the field that we can get," Guenther added. "If we have four or five receivers, then so be it. If it means we have two, and three running backs, so be it. We'll have to wait and see. It's a puzzle."

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