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Local teams gear up for season with jamboree action

Vikings, Braves, Greyhounds to test the waters later this week

You could call them the games before the games.

High school football season openers are not officially scheduled until next week, but all three local teams will get their first taste of game action later this week. That’s because all three expect to play in jamborees, which coaches say are a useful tool as the season gets started.

“It’s definitely something we need to do,” Gaston coach Paul Roher said earlier this week.

That’s perhaps especially true for the Greyhounds, who have a new head coach in Roher this fall and are thus installing a completely new offense and defense.

But even for a team like Banks —which returns longtime head coach Ben Buchanan and a slew of veteran players — a jamboree can be a useful warmup. After all, it will mark the first time since the fall season officially began last Monday for football teams to measure themselves against actual opponents.

In another plus, nothing goes on anyone’s season record, making a jamboree a nice measuring stick without a need to worry about results.

“For us, you don’t really go into it looking at wins and losses. You’re just going in to kind of see personnel,” Buchanan said. “And then you also see what you need to work on, obviously. That is kind of the most value you get out of jamborees, just those things.”

The Braves will test the waters Friday when they take part in a jamboree at Gladstone, the reigning Class 4A state champion. Class 3A power Dayton will also be there, as will Class 5A Putnam.

Even though the games don’t count, the Braves are still excited to play.

“The kids get juiced up for it,” Buchanan said. “You’re not going against your own teammates. You’re seeing some different looks, so it’s good in that aspect because when you’re practicing against your own team, you’re looking at scout team — not necessarily top-notch quality, especially at a small school.

“So it’s good to see them go against other varsity guys.”

The Vikings, who are once again under the leadership of Dwight Jensen, won’t have to travel far for their jamboree. They are scheduled to participate in one on Friday evening at Hillsboro Stadium. That event includes Lakeridge, former Pacific foe Century and fellow Hillsboro school Liberty, which is thought to be a contender in Class 5A this fall.

Gaston has been slated to take part in a Northwest League jamboree on Saturday evening at Nestucca. Early in the week, that looked as though it might fall through.

If so, Roher said he would reach out to some coaching contacts to see if his Greyhounds could play elsewhere.

Roher brings more than three decades of coaching experience in Kentucky and Florida to Gaston. Most recently, he served for two years as the defensive coordinator at Molalla, where he helped the Indians go 7-3 in 2014 and make the Class 4A playoffs.

His team has hit the ground running this summer, playing for the first time in a 7-on-7 league in Woodburn, where Roher said the Greyhounds posted a 12-8 record against larger programs.

But the summer league is two-hand touch without pads, so a jamboree represents Roher’s first chance to see his squad in full-game mode ahead of next week’s season opener at home against Reedsport.

“The longer that I’m here, the kids have just really been working hard,” he said. “They’re excited about all the new stuff that we’re going to do.”

Banks will also open at home next Friday, against North Marion, while Forest Grove will travel to Portland to take on David Douglas, also its first opponent in 2014.