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Vikings have catching up to do as drills begin

The days of sitting around waiting to make amends for last season are over for Portland State. Spring football drills started Wednesday in the Park Blocks.

The Vikings were poised to reach the Division I-AA playoffs last season until they lost three of their final four games and finished 6-5. Six of their seven Big Sky Conference games were decided by six points or fewer. PSU lost four of those games, including its final two games to Weber State and Montana State.

'There's a lot of us who have a bitter taste in our mouths from losing so many close games,' senior defensive end Josh Ratliff says. 'We've been working extremely hard in the offseason to improve and make sure that doesn't happen again.'

The Vikings will scrimmage on campus the mornings of April 26 and May 3. Their spring game is May 9 at Tigard High.

A year ago, Ratliff was a transfer from Texas Tech who wasn't eligible to participate in spring drills, so he helped the coaches with videotaping. Now he's one of the team leaders.

'I've been palling around with some of the new guys, trying to make them feel like part of the team,' he says. 'When I was new, I felt like I needed to be seen and not heard, so that's what I did. But we need everyone to be part of the team, including the new people.'

Also coming back on the defensive line is Agatupu Sagapolutele. He and Ratliff combined for five sacks last season. Middle linebacker Tolo Tuitele is another important returnee.

The Viking defense stiffened last season, even though it tallied just 19 sacks, recovered 17 of 35 fumbles by opponents and intercepted 11 passes, all less than stellar marks.

Ratliff wants those figures to improve and says effort will be the key. And that's going to be part of his leadership style.

'I'm going to be the guy screaming and yelling from the first play until the last play,' he says. 'This is my senior season, and I want to make the playoffs.'