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Vikings get physical on both sides of ball

Forest Grove will be challenged in a new and tougher league

 - Forest Grove quarterback Taylor Jensen lofts a ball downfield for wideout Cam Kemper during the Vikings' season opener against David Douglas on Friday. Jensen and Kemper played well but the Vikings lost, 21-10.Forest Grove will face a loaded deck this season as a new member of the Greater Valley Conference — which features reigning Class 5A state champion West Albany, plus No. 7 West Salem and perennial powers like Sprague and McNary — but head coach Dwight Jensen has set some simple goals for his squad.

“Across the board it’s going to be a tougher league than the one we were in before, but we just talk about taking one game at a time and trying to improve each week,” Jensen said. “Our goal is to hopefully make the postseason and to just keep working to get better.”

Perhaps nowhere is that mindset more appropriate than on the offensive line, where the Vikings have only one senior starter. If that unit can come together, it will pay dividends not only for this season, but for years to come.

“Our offensive line is really young,” Jensen said. “But that experience is going to be huge coming back next year.”

Jaylin Wilson, a 6-foot, 260-pound senior who started last year before suffering a mid-season injury, returns to anchor the offensive line, as does 6-6, 240-pound junior Ben Godfrey, who also started a year ago. The other three spots will be occupied by new faces — juniors Bobby Taylor (6-2, 210) and Noah Corona (5-11, 205), plus sophomore Austin Brown (6-2, 250).

While the linemen may lack game experience, the Vikings have the luxury of returning their starting quarterback in 6-5, 185-pound junior Taylor Jensen, the head coach’s son.

“He’s doing a great job so far,” Dwight Jensen said. “He leads by example. He’s a competitor like no other and he absolutely hates to lose.”

Jensen passed for 2,300 yards and 17 touchdowns last year, but he lost a lot of his supporting cast. Gone is 1,000-yard rusher Gio Tayetto, plus the team’s two leading receivers in Ethan Thursam (54 catches, 779 yards) and Zac Collins (48 catches, 709 yards).

The offensive slack will be picked up by shifty wideout Cam Kemper, who has stepped into a bigger role this season, plus fellow pass-catchers Cody Fletcher and Mason Childers.

The running back position is still up for grabs, with junior Marcus Estrada and seniors Doug Deleon and Stacy Clayton battling for playing time.

“Running back is kind of up in the air,” Jensen said. “We’re waiting for one of those guys to step up and show that they want it.”

The Vikings have some holes to fill on defense, but both Fletcher and Kemper have some starting experience in the defensive secondary, while Deleon and Keagan Pesenti both saw action at linebacker last season. Jakob Orlowsky is one of the only returners on the defensive line.

While there are still plenty of question marks, Jensen said he’s been pleased with the overall physicality of this year’s Forest Grove team.

“It’s all still a work in progress,” Jensen said. “We’ve got to clean up some stuff, get our pad level lower on both offense and defense. I think the energy the kids played with was really, really good, but we just had too many fundamental breakdowns (against David Douglas).

“Overall, this is probably the most physical we’ve played in the last few years, so I was really pleased with that.”

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