Kennedy preps for 2013 with challenging non-conference schedule

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Ty Sawyer (front) is one of 16 returning starters from last years Kennedy football team that won the Tri-River Conference title in 2012 and advanced to the 2A quarterfinals.Since Coach Randy Traeger took over the Kennedy football program in 2006, the Trojans have become known for playing a brutally difficult non-conference schedule.

Last year alone, Kennedy played against four different 3A teams that went on to finish the season ranked in the top 10, including eventual 3A state champion Dayton.

The Trojans went 1-3 in those games, but the challenging schedule has helped Kennedy prepare for the regular season and beyond. Since 2007, the Trojans have finished the season ranked among the top five 2A teams five times. The team played in the state championship in 2009 and has reached the quarterfinals of the state playoffs each of the last four years.

This fall’s Trojans appear to be no different.

A year after winning the Tri-River Conference championship and bowing out of the playoffs after a disappointing 6-0 loss to the league rival Central Linn Cobras, Kennedy is back with 16 returning starters and will once again be a threat to advance deep into the state tournament.

The Trojans kick off the season with road games against Rainier and Dayton, last year’s No. 6 and No. 1 teams at the 3A level. Kennedy’s home opener is Sept. 13 against Horizon Christian before the team dives into its conference schedule for the final six games of the season.

The Tri-River will likely be decided on Oct. 4 when the Trojans travel to Central Linn, though the Regis Rams or Waldport Irish loom as potential upsets if the Cobras or Trojans falter down the road.

New to the conference will be the Toledo Boomers, who drop down to the 2A level after spending years playing within the 3A PacWest Conference. Although the Boomers could become a threat in the Tri-River as one of the conference’s larger schools, the team has won just three games in the past two seasons and may not be ready to challenge for the conference title just yet.

Junior quarterback Noah Giberson and senior running back Ty Sawyer will lead the Trojan offense this season, with returning offensive linemen Daniel Glaede and Max Jaeger helping to pave the way for them.

Blake Traeger and Sam Moreno will share duties at tight end, giving the Trojans a pair of large athletic players with a dual threat of staying inside to help block or moving into open space when Kennedy airs it out.

On defense, Wyatt Rodriguez and Blake Traeger will give the Trojans senior experience as defensive backs, while Sawyer, Moreno and Kevin Delgado will help contain opposing offenses from the linebacker position.

Sophomore Jacob Lopez will move to outside linebacker this year after spending his freshman season playing defensive end.

Glaede will help disrupt opposing teams as the team’s only returning defensive lineman after the graduation of Nathan Bielenberg and Lopez’s positional change.

As for the season outlook, the Trojans may not win their first game until the fourth week of the season when they start league play against Regis, but there’s no doubt that Kennedy will once again be among the top teams at the 2A level in 2013.

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