A strong senior class could spell success for Oregon City

OREGON CITY - The Oregon City Pioneers hope to rally around a new coach and a spread offense to a successful football season in 2011.

The Pioneers sport a senior-dominated lineup with a good nucleus of returning players, and those returnees believe that Oregon City can improve upon last year, when the Pioneers went 4-7 and had their eighth straight losing season.

They also lost to West Linn for the eighth consecutive year in 2010, and they aim to change the outcome of that rivalry when they go head-to-head with the Lions in this Friday's Three Rivers League opener, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Oregon City.

'I think our chances are pretty darn good,' said Oregon City senior co-captain Darien Ward. 'I feel if we continue to work hard, we will succeed in beating West Linn and having a winning season.'

'I feel that this year we have the best chance [of the four years that I've been here],' said team co-captain Jared Groner. 'We've been a lot more focused this year and we've practiced a lot harder. We've been a lot more emotional - not just going through the motions, but putting the heart into it.'

Ward and Groner are part of an Oregon City senior class that was highly successful in youth football, winning their league championship as eighth graders.

The Pioneers have had their share of success in preseason. After a rough start in their season-opener with seventh-ranked Roseburg, the Pioneers put together solid games in wins over David Douglas (35-17), Southridge (37-22) and Redmond (42-14), piling up over 400 yard in offense in all three contests.

They've been especially tough in the second half of games, outscoring David Douglas 21-10 after the intermission, Southridge 20-15, and Redmond 21-0.

'We've just got to get started sooner,' said Ward. 'Come out strong in the first quarter, which we know we can do now.'

Oregon City senior Landon Martinez (5-11, 175) has come into his own as a passing quarterback. He passed for 806 yards and 12 touchdowns in the Pioneers' first three games, going 14-for-23, and passing for 274 yards against Southridge.

Martinez has completed better than 50 percent of his passes, and he's thrown only one interception in Oregon City's last three games.

Veteran Trevor Dye has been a force on the receiving end. The 6-2, 190-pound senior had 10 catches for 327 yards and six touchdowns in the Pioneers' first three games.

'Landon and Trevor work together all the time,' said Groner. 'They practiced together all spring and summer.'

The Pioneers return four other senior starters on offense: wide receivers Adam Genskay (5-10, 175) and Jonathan Reece (5-10, 165), Groner (6-2, 190) at tackle, and center Brady Stroh (5-10, 210).

Rounding out the starting offensive lineup against Southridge were: senior Cameron Hoodenpyle (5-7, 190) at guard; juniors Mitch Thompson (5-7, 155) at tailback, Justin Cornejo (6-8, 150) at receiver and Jeremy Hagler (6-1, 250) at tackle, along with sophomore Josh Miller (6-1, 260) at guard.

Thompson has had three impressive games in the backfield, rushing 21 times for 157 yards against David Douglas, 20 times for 111 yards in the Southridge game, and eight times for 148 yards at Redmond.

Ten seniors have been starting for the Pioneers on defense, including returning starters Ward (6-1, 180, cornerback), Austin Smith (6-2, 220, linebacker), Louis Wolf (5-10, 185 linebacker), Luke Morris (6-2, 200, linebacker) and Colton Aronson (6-3, 250, tackle).

Oregon City coach Kevin Strasser says of Ward: 'Devin is a major college prospect at cornerback. He has 4.55 speed, he is long, rangy and strong all at the same time, and he works hard on his craft….

'He also returns punts and kickoffs, and is a true threat.'

Ward isn't the only player Strasser likes for his speed.

'I have been pleasantly surprised by our overall team speed,' Strasser said. 'We have four kids that are running 4.6 40's, which is great for high school.'

The Pioneer grid boss said that Dye, Genskay and Cornejo, like Ward, are all lightning quick.

Other defensive starters in the Southridge game included: seniors Garrett Johnston (6-1, 170), Mitch Beck (6-2, 170, free safety), Marc Morris (6-1, 205, strong safety), Grant Torgerson (6-3, 230, defensive end) and Andrew Simons (6-1, 190, defensive end). Junior Michael McCoy (6-0, 210) started at defensive tackle.

'Our strength as a team is our work ethic,' said Strasser. 'These kids work hard, and football means something to them.'

He said that the team still has plenty of room for improvement.

'We need to continue to work on limiting big plays on defense and being more consistent on offense, in terms of assignments and execution,' he said.

'I honestly believe this is the year Oregon City will make that 180-degree turnaround, and be successful,' said Ward.

'We want to give Oregon City something to build on this year,' said Groner. 'Not only for the team, but for the community. I hope people come out and support us.'

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