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Bucks retool for fall season

St. Paul attempting to replace a talented 2012 class while maintaining its tradition as a 1A football powerhouse


by: PHIL HAWKINS - Much as in previous years, the St. Paul Buckaroos will build their offense around a power running game and play action passes.After losing nine all-league players to graduation or transfer, the St. Paul football team has a lot of talented players to replace coming into the 2013 fall season. The Buckaroos advanced to their third state final in four years last season thanks to the dedicated play of seniors like Cole Weisz, Danny Drescher, Parker Schibel, Garrett Merten and a host of others who were marked among the best players in Special District 1 last year.

“That hasn’t been normal,” said St. Paul head coach Tony Smith. “This has been the first year in several years where we’ve had to replace so many guys.”

For most teams, finding new athletes to replace such talent while maintaining a high level of play would be nearly impossible. But St. Paul is not like most teams.

“We’re replacing them with kids who have been our St. Paul football program since sixth grade,” said Smith. “For the most part, those kids are being replaced by juniors and seniors, and I think that makes a huge difference.”

The team’s ability to replace starters with an assembly line-like efficiency means the Bucks will likely resume their place among the top teams in 1A football this year. The Bucks return senior Cody Southerland, who was a First Team selection last year playing defensive back and will take the starting quarterback role left vacant by Drescher.

St. Paul also brings back Zach Adams, after the senior was a Second Team selection as an offensive guard.

“Those two are definitely kids that we expect to have a great senior season,” Smith said about Southerland and Adams. He also pointed to players like running back/defensive back Chris Petrjanos, and linemen Keenan Wood and Max Coleman who could have breakout seasons this fall.

Regardless of who gets the bulk of the playing time, the Bucks will hammer teams through a power running game and play action passes, a combination that has guided the team to six league titles in the last seven years.

by: PHIL HAWKINS - St. Paul head coach Tony Smith directs the Buckaroos practice. Smith is seeking to bring the Bucks back to the state title game for a fourth time in five years.“That’s been a goal of ours the entire time,” said Smith. “Some plays may be emphasized more from year to year, but the plays really don’t change.”

Standing in the way of the Bucks and a fifth straight league title is the perennial rival Perrydale Pirates and little else. Special District 1 features just five teams this year, and Alsea, Falls City and Jewell will have a difficult time matching the Buckaroos and Pirates for the district’s two playoff spots this year.

“For us, it doesn’t matter who we play, our league or any of those teams,” said Smith. “We just try to stay focused on that opponent that week. I know that’s a cliché, but we do constantly talk to our kids about that.”

Outside of league play, the Bucks face a daunting schedule of 1A powers, including a rematch of last year’s title game against Camas Valley to open the season at the annual Dufur Eight Man Classic on Aug. 30.

The Bucks also have dates with Powder Valley, Lowell, Imbler, Ione and Dufur before hitting the league schedule in October.

“I’m guessing that within that non-league schedule, we’re going to be playing four league champions,” said Smith, who wants his team to keep from looking ahead on the schedule and focused on whichever opponent they are playing in a given week.

“We play Camas in our first game and we just want to be 1-0 against them. Then we play Powder Valley, and we just want to be 1-0 against them.”

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Although St. Paul is a team that is built around running the football, the Bucks are not afraid to air it out to catch opposing defenses off guard.St. Paul will play its first two games of the season on the road. The Bucks’ home-opener is scheduled for Sept. 13 against Lowell, a team they beat 88-40 in last year’s semifinals.