The Sweet Home Boys football players worked the offseason to better last season’s record of 2-12 overall and 0-10 in the 4A-3 Oregon West Conference.
According to head coach Eric Stutzer, enough players were out for the two-team competition on Monday nights in the summer.
“It really paid big dividends,” he said. “Our conditioning is better, our technical accuracy is better. We’re pretty excited right now. I think we have a really good group. Our technical skill has improved tremendously.”
That group includes senior goaltender Evan Towry, who Stutzer predicts will be one of the best in the league, who received an honorable mention from the OWC last season, and schoolmate Chris Christman, a winner. honorable mention in defence. The two headline an experienced defense that also includes seniors Mason Lopez and Cooper McKinnon.
“It’s a strong look,” Stutzer said, “a lot stronger than what we’ve had on defense for a while. All three defenders are tall, athletic and quick. Their decision-making is pretty good, for the most. If they can play as a cohesive unit, it’s going to be fun to watch.”
On the attacking side, Stutzer said junior forward Colton Savri and his younger brother, Landon, a first-year midfielder, would be players to watch, with the coach calling the latter a “super playmaker”. He viewed the brothers as essential to complementing the Huskies’ already solid defensive presence.
“Part of our goal was to get into the attacking third,” Stutzer said, referring to the third of the pitch closest to the opponents’ goal. “We really struggled to get from the defensive third and midfield to the attacking third, and getting the balls on the frame. We worked all summer to get into that attacking third and take advantage of those opportunities.”
The Huskies have already accomplished that, in a July 10 show against Banks, winning 6-1 in college and 4-3 in junior college.
“It was really good,” Stutzer said of the scrimmage. “I think it’s a good stepping stone for us, to be able to put those kind of numbers in place early on, get into the attacking third, find the frame and not miss opportunities.
“One of the things that has often happened is that we have missed opportunities in the past,” he continued. “But I think this group is starting to settle down and be a bit more confident, so I don’t think there will be as many missed chances, which is really important.”
The Huskies kick off the season with four non-league competitions, taking on Siuslaw and Klamath Union on the road (both August 29) and hosting Elmira (September 7) and East Linn Christian Academy (September 13).
“I think these first four games coming up are well-matched games,” Stutzer said. “They could potentially become wins for us. We have to go out and be competitive. Frankly, we have to win in those first four games. If we can establish a good framework for league play, maybe we have a chance to sneak us on a Cascade or a Newport.”
The OWC has changed slightly from last season as North Marion, who Stutzer called a “wild card,” replaces Sisters, who finished third in the six-team league last year.
“It’s hard to say where we’re going to end up,” he said. “I predict our league is going to be very stacked again. We’re probably going to have a lot of teams in the Top 10. If we can squeak those first four games and get our seed early, that would bode well for some type of play. -in or play-off. I’m confident that if we could get into a playoff series against the right team, we might be able to go a little further than what we’ve done in previous years.
“If we could make some adjustments and get some wins that way, we could end up with a league win or go to a play-in, which would be a really great experience for those kids,” he added. “But we have to start with those first four games.”
Nineteen players are currently on the roster, with four potentially waiting in the wings.
“If we can get to that 23 mark, we could have two teams, which is another of our goals this year,” Stutzer said. “We’re not going to improve if we don’t have two teams. So having two teams would be huge. Even if we have to do a boys and girls co-edition, I think maybe we can flip that. The number of girls is a bit low right now, so maybe having some girls in a program with the boys would really benefit both programs.
Another goal was to restart the junior high curriculum, which Stutzer said is over.
“We’re going to get feeders, which makes a big difference,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement within our group at the moment. If we get the numbers here and get this JV team, it’s going to do really well for development down the road.”
Rounding out the Huskies roster are juniors Ben Tolman and Max Klumph, sophomores Boden Sayer, Conner Stevens, Tison Monahan, Gavind Gardner and Jack Simmons, and freshmen Hayden Smith, Brian Hiner, Benjamin Perry, Cannon Klumph and Elisha Scofield.
In addition to Stutzer, the team is coached by JV assistant coach Chase Lopez.
“I think there will be a lot of potential for good things to happen,” Stutzer said. “But we have to work hard.”