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Football frenzy – Foxes, Trojans getting ready for openers

James Day

Silverton was 3-2 in last spring’s shortened football season and the Foxes are hoping for a full nine-game regular season – and perhaps success beyond that point as well, starting with the Sept. 3 home opener against Grant of Portland.

Fifth-year coach Josh Craig noticed a surge of energy, particularly after the state opened up from COVID restrictions June 30.

“By the first or second week of July,” Craig told Our Town, “it’s here we go, we’re rolling. The energy increased, we’re really pushing it, the guys are having fun, getting after it and flying around and the seniors are leading by example.”

Craig has approximately 100 players out and the Foxes will be the only school in the Mid-Willamette Conference that
will field three teams. 

“I take pride in that,” he said. “It says a lot about our commitment.”

The Foxes return senior quarterback Jordan McCarty, who has started since his sophomore year, and David Russell is a more than capable backup. 

McCarty will have four speedy backs to hand off to, Reece Groom, Keegan Walter, Alex Versen and Jackson Pfeifer. Vandon Fessler and Austin Ratliff are solid receivers. Chandler Kuenzi is the tight end.

The offensive line is big and seasoned, led by seniors Orrie Schaffers and Sam Willis. Sam Clements, Sam Schaffers and Elijah Roper also are on hand, and all five also will see time in the defensive line.

Craig loves his linebacking crew, led by Walter, James Toland and Carlos Recendiz. “We just need to figure out where everybody fits,” Craig said.

McCarty, David Russell, Grant Russell, Fessler, Ratliff and Kuenzi will man the secondary.

Josh Craig
Joe Panuke

Silverton drew 6A schools Grant and Tualatin for its nonleague opponents and Craig said they “are arguably our two toughest opponents of the year back to back.”

The eight-team Mid-Willamette Conference is in a bit of a flux, with new coaches at Lebanon and Crescent Valley and a rare co-coaching arrangement at South Albany.

“West Albany is going to be tough as always,” Craig said. The Bulldogs and Foxes both played in the 5A semifinals in 2019, the most recent full season.

Kennedy, meanwhile, was 5-1 in last season’s spring season, losing its opener at Class 3A power Santiam Christian and then running the table, including an emphatic season-ending 47-14 win at previously undefeated Monroe.

The schedule is equally tough this year, with Santiam Christian in week two and perennial Class 2A power Heppner on Sept. 24. 

“We have some pretty tough nonleague games this year and I think the league should be tough again this year,” coach Joe Panuke told Our Town. “A lot of really good players graduated last year so it will be interesting to see who steps up to be the big time player for each team.”

Special District 2 this year includes the Trojans, Colton, Culver, Gervais, Regis, Salem Academy and Santiam. Kennedy opens Sept. 3 vs. Gaston.

Panuke lost a ton of veterans, including Brady Traeger, Cole Boen, David Reyes, Isaiah Basargin and Camryn Biegel, but he has some solid returners, including quarterback Riley Cantu, linemen Briggs Snell and Matt Hopkins and wide receiver Luke Beyer.

Panuke also is expecting good contributions from Elijah Traeger, Owen Bruner, Ethan Kleinschmit, Isaac Berning and William Schaecher.   

Panuke has had a strong turnout, with 38 players working out.

“As a staff we have been very pleased with how our practices are going,” he said. “The guys are working hard and being very coachable.”

Follow me on Twitter.com @jameshday. 

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