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Friday, July 23, 2021

Tough tests await Tigers with 2019 Friday Night kickoff set

Trenton Hall Lincoln City
Trenton Hall

A brutal schedule is nothing new to the Taft High football team — but playoff aspirations are — and confidence abounds as the Tigers prepare to open the season Friday at Voris Field against perennial power Harrisburg.

“Even though our schedule is loaded with playoff teams from last season, we feel we have gotten better and are in a position to make a bid for the playoffs,” head coach Jake Tolan said. “Our main goal is to make the playoffs.”

Head coach Jake Tolan
Head coach Jake Tolan

Class 3A Special District 1 West member Taft was outscored 42-19 on average last season while going 1-8 without a league victory but faced seven State playoff teams. This year’s schedule mimics last season’s, but Tolan insists the Tigers “look forward to competing against those schools again and testing who we are as a team.”

The examination will take little time to get started for the Tigers with a 7 p.m. kickoff against the Class 3A SD2 Eagles, who defeated seven opponents by an average of 37-23 last season and made the 16-team State playoffs. Harrisburg, which defeated Taft 60-29 at home, fell to Cascade Christian in the first round to finish 7-3, while the SD2 South champion Challengers marched all the way to the State title game before falling to SD1 West winner Rainier.

Junior wide receiver FCO Ramos

Besides Harrisburg and defending State champion Rainier, Taft will face semifinalist Amity, quarterfinalist Clatskanie, State qualifier Sutherlin, play-in representative Willamina, Class 2A power Knappa, Dayton — another traditionally strong program — and Yamhill-Carlton, which dropped from 4A to 3A just two seasons ago.

“We are very excited about the upcoming season,” Tolan said. “We have a strong group of leaders who are really buying into our concept of ‘team-first’ football.”

Foremost among the returners are running back/linebackers Logan Gilleo, Trenton Hall and JJ French, alongside wide receiver/defensive backs Fco Ramos and Darius Smith. They will be joined by “experienced” newcomers Jordan Hall and Trenton Fisher, who played as freshmen, but haven’t played since.

“Both have put in a lot of work this summer and both will start as receivers and on defense,” Tolan said. “They give us more depth, maturity and versatility on both sides of the ball.”

The 6-foot, 195-pound Gilleo, in particular, could be a major presence in Taft’s new-look three-back offense.

Logan Gilleo

“There’s not going to be many teams we face that have a running back like Logan,” Tolan said. “He’s spent the entire offseason in the weight room getting stronger. That’s going to be an asset for him.”

Complemented by the speed, agility and elusiveness of Hall and French, Taft hopes to use the power-running Gilleo to take advantage of the clock, Tolan said.

“Mixing in Trenton and JJ, who was a second-team all-leaguer at running back last year, that three-person rotation will give us fresh legs in there,” he said. “It will help us on the defensive side by keeping fresh bodies out there.”

Assistant coach Tracey Taylor concurs.

“It’s a different mentality,” he said. “I think we’re going to surprise some people with a lot more runs than in the past. We’re running with the three backs swing. We got Gilleo, JJ and Trenton, and all three are going to see a lot of playing time and will be running hard. It’s going to be run-first, setting up the pass.

“That’s a little bit different mentality — smash-mouth football — than Taft’s had in the past. Our mentality is we’re going to run right down some people’s throats. No timid pass-happy here. It’s going to shock some people. We’re going to manage the clock. We’re going to run down your throat. We’re going to use our power runners to set up our passes.”

Throwing the ball will be junior Antonio Suarez, who played a spot role at quarterback last year when senior starter David Jin was injured. Tolan said Saurez could target as many as six or seven teammates in Friday’s opener, including Jordan and Trenton Hall, Trenton Fisher, Ramos, Smith, Kaden Hindman and Tristan Beach.

“Antonio fits well in the offensive system we run as a dual threat, both running and throwing the ball,” Tolan said. “Offensively, we feel our strength will be our running game behind three quality running backs in Logan, Trenton and JJ, as well as having a quarterback who is also a threat to run.

“I think it’ll be a nice system. As long as our line continues to develop and open up holes for us, we’re going to run. That’s going to be an element in our offense we haven’t had in several years.”

That’s a little bit different mentality — smash-mouth football — than Taft’s had in the past. Our mentality is we’re going to run right down some people’s throats. No timid pass-happy here. It’s going to shock some people. We’re going to manage the clock. We’re going to run down your throat. We’re going to use our power runners to set up our passes.

Coaches are also optimistic about the improvement they’ve seen on defense.

“Defensively, we will look to improve on our inability last year to stop the run and tackle better,” Tolan said. “Our defensive end play has to be better from a year ago.”

Look for Tony Garcia (5-11, 260) and Elin Fitch (6-4, 185) to “hold the edge,” on the line, Tolan said. “Defensively, we’re solid with a couple of guys that have gotten much better at defensive end.”

Tolan said he is also optimistic about improved play at linebacker. Gilleo and Trenton Hall will play on the inside, with French and Jordan Hall as bookends.

“Our linebacker group this year could be our greatest defensive strength, with three of them being selected all-league last year,” he said. “We’ve got some really good returning linebackers.”

Tolan said the secondary is expected to be improved with Smith’s return to the backfield.

Darius Smith

“We feel that having Darius back at safety will help our defense tremendously against the pass and the run,” he said. “His job is to play back and read the quarterback, fly up and make plays, which is going to be nice.”

The Tigers also appear improved in the place-kicking department on special teams with soccer star William Calderon a threat from long distance, “which is something we haven’t had,” Tolan said.

“He also has the potential on kickoffs to put the ball in the end zone, and that’s big at the high school level. Their team gets it at the 20 and it forces them 80 yards every time. It’s an element we haven’t had, so it will be a nice addition.”

Taft also appears to better in the numbers game with a deeper squad to send into the trenches against much of the State’s best opposition.

“We have more depth than in past seasons and feel like we are further along as a team,” Tolan said. “Our kids are working hard and are ready for the challenge in taking on such a challenging schedule.”

Gilleo confirmed his coach’s suspicions.

“I think we have a lot more potential than we’ve had before,” he said. “We’ve got better leadership. There’s a better mindset with everyone buying into the team.”

Class 3A Special District 1 West Standings

League Overall PS PA Rank
Amity
Clatskanie
Dayton
Rainier
Taft
Willamina

PS=Points Scored; PA=Points Against

Schedule

Friday, Sept. 6 vs. Harrisburg, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 13 @ Sutherlin, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 20 vs. Knappa, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 27 @ Yamhill-Carlton, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 4 @ *Amity, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 11 vs. *Clatskanie, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 18 vs. *Willamina, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 25 @ *Dayton, 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 1 @ *Rainier, 7 p.m.

  • denotes league game

Roster

Coach: Jake Tolan

No. Name Position Grade Height Weight
Colby Helms RB/LB 11 5-10 190
William Calderon K/DB 11 5-7 150
1 Cayden Edmonds WR/DB 10 5-8 130
2 Jordan Hall WR/LB 12 5-11 165
3 Kaden Hindman WR/S 10 5-10 170
4 Trenton Fisher WR/DB 12 5-11 135
5 Brendan Welch WR/LB 11 5-10 175
6 Austin Winters WR/LB 10 5-10 140
7 Sam Allan WR/DB 9 6-0 140
8 Josh Ruiz RB/DE 10 6-1 200
10 Braxton Brockett RB/LB 9 5-7 130
11 Fco Ramos WR/S 11 5-9 160
12 Gavin Koceja QB/DB 9 5-10 140
13 Bear Reyes WR/LB 9 5-7 150
14 Tristan Beach WR/LB 12 6-0 165
15 Haden Chavez WR/LB 9 5-8 165
16 Darius Smith WR/DB 11 5-9 170
17 Afton Dean WR/LB 10 6-0 200
19 Antonio Suarez QB/LB 11 5-10 175
20 JJ French RB/LB 11 5-10 175
21 Alex Carrasco RB/LB 9 5-4 160
23 Roman Pena WR/DB 9 5-9 135
24 Trenton Hall RB/LB 12 5-11 175
26 Devin Evjen RB/LB 9 5-8 180
28 Logan Gilleo RB/LB 12 6-0 195
44 Alec Bosworth OL/DL 12 6-1 235
51 Dylan Rodriquez OL/DE 10 5-9 160
52 Jose Magallanes OL/DL 9 5-4 150
53 Micah Davis RB/DE 12 5-11 180
55 Elin Fitch OL/DE 12 6-4 185
56 Jesse Carrillo OL/DL 10 5-10 220
57 Jace Phippen OL/DL 12 5-11 230
62 Damian Hill OL/DL 9 6-0 250
66 Tyrese Hellman OL/DL 12 6-2 240
69 Raiden Hansen OL/DL 9 6-4 290
70 Oscar Sanchez OL/DL 9 5-10 225
74 Bash Welch OL/DL 11 5-10 305
77 Dakotah Steen OL/DL 10 6-4 350
99 Tony Garcia OL/DE 12 5-11 260
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Jim Fossumhttp://SilverandBlackToday.com
Homepage Executive Editor and former longtime Sports Editor of the near-200,000 circulation Las Vegas Review-Journal, Fossum brings 40 years of award-winning experience covering virtually every facet of print and digital journalism to Lincoln City Homepage. The former longtime reporter for the Newport News-Times and Lincoln City News Guard is also Editor-in-Chief and Senior Columnist for SilverandBlackToday.com, which covers the NFL's Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders.

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