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Stephens: I owe the fans something special

Finally eligible, Putnam's wide receiver, and his teammates, predicting big things vs. Sandy


by: KRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Putnam wide receiver DeShawn Stephens has been ineligible for the first two games this season. He can play Friday, but must sit out the first quarter.

Sandy and Rex Putnam were the popular picks by many coaches in the Northwest Oregon Conference to exceed last season's results and be formidable opponents in 2012. After two weeks, both are winless, but that will change on Friday when the Kingsmen host the Pioneers at 7 p.m. at Rex Putnam High School.

Prognosticators thought these teams would open the conference schedule undefeated, however, like Sandy, Putnam fell short against favorable opponents. Its losses have come against Hermiston (a six-point loss) and Crescent Valley, which both flirted with .500 records last season.

And Putnam's struggles on the field might be a result of distractions off the field.

On Monday, head coach Brad Lewman was exonerated by North Clackamas School District official of recruiting and undue influence accusations, which came after senior quarterback Nick Cropley transferred to and then withdrew from Rex Putnam High School after playing in one game.

In addition, several Putnam players have been ineligible for the first two games, including wide receiver DeShawn Stephens, who Sandy coach Greg Barton calls, “possibly one of the best high school football players on the west coast.”

Stephens will play on Friday but has to sit out the first quarter. It'll be his first game this season, and he's already attempting to bait Sandy fans by predicting a memorable performance.

“I owe the fans something special,” he said on Twitter. “You don't wanna miss this game Friday.”

One of his teammates, defensive back Nick Parr, also had a message for Sandy on Twitter.

"If you play receiver for sandy, you're gonna have a baaaaaddddd time," he wrote.

And the tweets just kept on coming, this one from Brady Ederhardt.

“No one in the state has seen (us) at our best,” he said. “They will Friday.”

Stephens was back on Twitter on Thursday, telling The Oregonian “You guys might want someone at Putnam Friday night!”

The Pioneers have said they've had trouble getting pumped up before games this year. With all this chalkboard material, seems like that won't be a problem on Friday.

Stephens had a stellar all-around performance against Sandy last season. After quarterback Max Bailey broke his collarbone on the first play from scrimmage, Stephens moved behind center and accumulated more than 400 total yards in a 53-27 loss to the Pioneers.

Stephens played for Barton's son, Taylor Barton, on a summer league team this off-season. After watching the senior run amok on some of the best players in the Northwest, Taylor had a message for his father.

“My son said, 'Dad, be careful,' ” Greg said.

Sandy has a few issues to sort through before it can get this season on track.

CAN THEY FIX IT?

One of those is its run defense, which has allowed 100-yard rushers in each game this year. The latest was Wilson's Cory Hincks, who scampered for 183 yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts.

That was a byproduct of Sandy's tackling woes.

Missed tackles have been causing the coaching staff ulcers, and it's a problem the Pioneers will need to fix before facing the athletic, strong and fast Kingsmen.

WHO TO WATCH?

Look for wide receiver Karsten Short to play a bigger role this week. He showed glimpses of his potential during last Friday's loss to Wilson, and Greg admitted the coaching staff should have called more plays that went his way.

BIGGEST QUESTION

How will Sandy handle the loss of center Crafton Chamberlain? The freshman injured his knee against Wilson last Friday and will miss, at least, the next six weeks. In the meantime, senior Keven TenEyck, who moved to the offensive line over the summer, will get his first start at center.

Sophomore Peter Limbaugh will take over for TenEyck at left guard.

Greg said the offensive line, which has been Sandy's biggest concern this season, improved from week one and played well enough to win against Wilson. Now it'll try to continue making progress even with the absence of a key member.

BARTON QUOTE

“We have a tough game coming up,” Greg said. “Putnam is really a good team. They're big, strong, fast and might have the best kid in Oregon, for sure.”