TIGARD — For the Tigard High School football team, it just might be about finding the right mix this season.
And, the Tigers think they have it.
Tigard, with a strong combination of proven veterans, as well as some promising younger newcomers, is looking for everything to click during the 2017 campaign.
"We have a very, very nice mix of good, talented players," Tigard coach Craig Ruecker said. "We're returning quite a few outstanding players from last year, but, at the same time, we graduated 30 seniors. But we're very pleased. The junior class has some outstanding players, and a couple of sophomores have earned starting spots
"Last year was a senior-dominated team. This year, we have a wonderful blend of sophomores, juniors and seniors."
The Tiger program also looks to have tradition on its side. Last year's Tigard team went 10-3 on the season, and reached the semifinal round of the Class 6A state playoffs, where it was edged 35-34, in double overtime, by Central Catholic.
That contest marked the fourth time in the past five years that the Tigers have reached the semifinal round in the state playoffs.
The Tigard offense boasts one of the fastest weapons in the state in senior receiver Braden Lenzy (6-foot-1, 177 pounds).
Last year, Lenzy had 45 catches for 850 yards and six touchdowns, when he was named an All-Three Rivers League first team selection on both offense and defense (at cornerback).
Lenzy, who also is a two-time defending state track and field champion in the 400-meter dash, also has a very unique distinction.
"In my 41 years as a head coach, he's the only kid who has played all four years on the varsity for me," Ruecker said. "He was our shut-down cornerback as a freshman."
Also at receiver, the Tigers will have senior Jakob Harrold (6-1, 173), junior Jazz Ross (6-0, 175), senior Brent Flores (5-8, 162), junior Luke Ness (6-1, 163) and sophomore Max Lenzy (5-9, 152).
"We have a handful of good receivers," Ruecker said.
At quarterback, the Tigers will have senior Michael Quintana (5-10, 165) and senior Nick Heinke (6-3, 188). While Quintana is strictly a quarterback, Heinke will also see action at receiver, in addition to playing in the defensive backfield.
"It's a good competition," Ruecker said of the battle at quarterback.
As usual, Tigard will utilize more than one running back.
"I like to have three guys who can carry the football," Ruecker said.
Senior Spencer Smith (5-10, 175) will be in his third year in the Tigard running back rotation. Last year, Smith ran for 379 yards and 10 touchdowns on 75 carries, as he earned honorable-mention all-league accolades. Senior running back/fullback Jake Leavitt (6-0, 200) and junior running back Malcolm Stockdale (5-8, 165) will both also see plenty of carries.
Tigard's offensive line will be anchored by a pair of starters in senior Burke Albaugh (6-4, 310), who will be at right guard, and senior Laytan Tanuvasa (6-2, 270), who will be at left guard. Albaugh was an honorable-mention all-league pick on the offensive line a year ago.
Senior Sean Ryan (6-0, 282), who saw plenty of action on defense last year, will be at center.
Senior Jaran White (6-1, 225), who was a back-up center last year, will be at right tackle. Junior Isaia Porter (6-0, 240) will be at left tackle.
"He's an outstanding junior," Ruecker said. "He has all kinds of skills, and quite a motor."
Juniors Noah Jackman (6-2, 219) and Mitchell Cross (6-0, 188) will play at tight end.
"We've got good experience in the middle, with both guards and our center," Ruecker said. "We need to get our tackles, and our tight ends, some experience."
When it comes to defense, speed is a big thing for Tigard. The Tigers proved how effective its swarming defense could be during last year's state playoffs, when they beat Sheldon 27-0 in the quarterfinals, handing the Irish its first shutout since 2008.
This year's Tigard defense will feature multiple fronts in the defensive line.
That means that, depending on the front, Jackman, White, Ryan, junior Hayden McDonald (6-2, 205), Tanuvasa (an honorable-mention all-league pick on defense last year), Albaugh and Porter could all see action.
At linebacker, the Tigers will have Cross and junior Carter Dennis (5-10, 202). Senior Jacob Beck (5-8, 200), a wrestling standout who didn't play football last year, will be at inside linebacker.
At outside linebacker, the Tigers will have Leavitt and senior Trevor Moler (5-7, 174).
In the secondary, Braden Lenzy moves from cornerback to safety this year, although, he'll occasionally see play at cornerback. Smith and Heinke both return at safety.
At cornerback, the Tigers will have Max Lenzy, sophomore Tyler Penn (5-10, 167), senior Micah O'Donnell (5-7, 161) and senior Skylar Holloway (5-11, 163).
"I'm anxious to see how fast this group will play," Ruecker said. "We've hung our hat on speed and good tackling."
Sophomore Jackson Cleaver (6-0, 185) will be the place-kicker, Heinke will do the punting and Albaugh will be the long snapper.