Painful loss stokes up Trojans
'Now we're seniors, and it's our year,' QB Sean Setzer says Overhead deck 5/30/1: Wilson aims to win its way through PIL and last longer in state playoffs
The Wilson Trojans have been waiting nearly a year to get back on the football field as a team and erase the memory of last year.
Not the part where they went 9-0 and won the Portland Interscholastic League title for the first time in eight years. The part where they went 0-1 and lost to Pendleton 27-21 in overtime in the first round of the state playoffs.
'People are always talking to us when we're in stores,' senior quarterback Sean Setzer says. 'I think they're real excited about this season.'
'They're excited about the encore to last year,' says senior tailback Kacy Fairfax. 'They've seen how good we can be, and they want more.
'We want more, too. We want to win the PIL title and then win in the playoffs. It's all part of our pyramid of success.'
Prep teams began practice Monday. Wilson opens Sept. 5 at home against McMinnville, another playoff team last year.
The Trojans, who also reached the playoffs in 2001, are the PIL favorite because of Setzer, Fairfax and senior lineman Joe Bozikovich, three all-league players as juniors.
Setzer was the PIL player of the year on offense after throwing for 2,021 yards and 28 touchdowns. Bozikovich was the player of the year on defense.
Setzer says the season can't start quickly enough.
'I want to get rid of that playoff game,' he says. 'And it's our senior season. We've been working hard for three years, and now we're seniors and it's our year. We're ready to step up and win in the playoffs.'
Offseason of sweat
Setzer has spent time in the San Francisco Bay Area working with quarterback coach Roger Theder. The former Cal coach has tutored 2003 prep grads Kyle Wright, who is now at Miami, and Sam Keller, now at Michigan. Setzer says he has learned how to quicken his release and read defenses better.
'You always want to learn more about reading defenses and just improving in general,' says the 6-2, 195-pound Setzer, who played on Wilson's American Legion baseball team as well. 'Spending time in the Bay Area helped me a lot.'
Setzer has been working with weights and has been contacted by several schools in the Pacific-10 Conference. With a solid senior season, he's at least a Big Sky Conference-caliber recruit.
Wilson returns a pair of strong receivers in Travis and Spencer Arn, brothers who are 6-1 seniors.
Fairfax could be a key receiver, too. He spent the summer working on his quickness with local speed guru Matt James. He says his speed in the 40-yard dash was about 4.6 seconds the last time he checked.
Fairfax, 5-10 and 195, skipped the Legion season to focus on his football skills. He ran for nearly 1,000 yards as a junior. For the Trojans to be successful in the playoffs, they'll need better production from his position.
'I don't worry about my size,' Fairfax says. 'I think my desire and passion for the game will be what carries me. No one has more passion for football than I do.'
One player with equal passion for football is Bozikovich, who had a spectacular junior season at defensive tackle and got noticed by the football empires at Michigan and Notre Dame.
He returns to the offensive line as well, along with senior Joe Zagunis, a second-team all-league pick at tackle.
Bozikovich, 6-1 and 275, was a fixture in the backfield of opposing teams last season and a regular at making key plays. Fairfax, who also plays defensive back, says the Trojans routinely inspired Bozikovich to excel.
'We'd say, 'Joe, we need you now,' and he would come through,' Fairfax says. 'He's a big-time player.'
The challenges ahead
Wilson's biggest summer challenge was to adjust to new coach Dane Iverson, an assistant at Tualatin last year who played at Roseburg High.
Eight Wilson seniors attended a Roseburg conditioning camp last week, and Roseburg coaches were at a Wilson minicamp earlier in the summer.
'We saw how they run their practices down there, and nobody walks,' Bozikovich says. 'That's something we need to bring to our team; that's the level we want to be at.'
Fairfax says the Trojans have moved past the loss of coach Steve Pyne, who took the job at Central Catholic.
'I took it personally at first because we had made a lot of plans together,' Fairfax says. 'But after a few days, I calmed down and looked at things from his perspective.
'But I would love to play Central Catholic in the playoffs.'
Interestingly, the PIL champion is host to the No. 4 team from the Mount Hood Conference, Central Catholic's league, in the first round of the state playoffs.
The Trojans face a key nonleague test at David Douglas on Sept. 12 before moving into their PIL schedule. The PIL looks to be an improved league from top to bottom, which should help the Trojans prepare for the playoffs, where a PIL team hasn't won two straight games and reached the quarterfinals in 14 years.
'First, we have to stay focused on winning the PIL title,' Fairfax says. 'But that's just the first step. Then it's win in the playoffs, one game at a time. We want people to remember this team.'