New offense will be tested in the season opener with Cleveland

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Starting Quarterback Gage Bumgardner looks to pass during practice. Bumgardner will have more flexibility this season as quarterback under new head coach Jared Phillips, and will make more plays with his legs, if progress so far is any sign.The opener for the Lions is filled with question marks. Cleveland isn’t the kind of powerhouse program that St. Helens will face later on in the season, but a new more versatile offensive scheme and returning skill players show that the Lions have potential for success, and that potential will be put to the test on Friday night.

Cleveland went 4-5 last season in the Portland Interscholastic League, and hasn’t been to the playoffs in five seasons. They account for the only win St. Helens had in their 2012 campaign, a 36-22 victory in the first game of the season. Like the Lions, Cleveland has a new head coach in Wayne Harris who will look to turn Cleveland into a respectable football program after going 7-20 in the last three seasons.

The Warriors feature two big guns, one on each side of the ball. Junior defensive back Jonathan Weaver, a “lockdown corner” according to Cleveland head coach Wayne Harris, was second team-all league last year, and his talents vary widely. In the secondary, Weaver showed a good nose for the ball last season, and is an interception threat when the Lions decide to go down the field. On offense, Weaver had success as a wide receiver. At 6’2,” he’s a big target for junior quarterback Scott Brant, and was difficult to bring down last fall. Brant, too is dangerous.

“He’s a gunslinger,” said Harris.

For St. Helens, last season’s matchup was a little too close for comfort. The Lions led 29-0 at halftime and took a 36-0 lead early in the second half before deciding to rest the starters. A first half filled with highlights from Tanner Long on offense and Jacob Zartman on defense was quickly turned on its head by a 22-point run by Cleveland to climb back into contention.

This season St. Helens has many of their weapons back, which opens up opportunities for success on the offensive side of the ball, especially. A year of added experience for Gage Bumgardner and increased chances to run make him a vital part of the attack, and the successful work on changing up the offense will be on display, whether for good or evil.

A game like this is a good way to start the season for a fresh team like St. Helens, and for a victory they should rest on their veterans Long on the ground and Bumgardner, whose playbook should open up a little, through the air. If Zartman can create havoc on the offensive and defensive lines, the Lions have a solid chance at starting off 2013 on a good note.

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