Byline: The Register-Guard
A TEAM-BY-TEAM LOOK AT THE 5A MIDWESTERN LEAGUE
Coach: Justin Starck, fourth season.
Last year's record: 8-3 overall, 6-2 in Midwestern League, tied for second. Defeated Centennial (42-21) in first round of playoffs and lost to Lincoln in the second round (40-16).
Outlook: The Colts feature a couple of all-league linebackers who are two-way standouts in senior Chris Cassell and junior Travis Newman. Cassell was a second-team all-league selection on defense while Newman earned honorable mention. Michael Seifert and Levi Binford help make the linebackers a strength on the defense. The Colts will again lean heavily on their running game behind Newman, an honorable-mention all-league pick on offense after ranking among the league's top 20 rushers with 238 yards and four touchdowns. Rashawn Jackson provides a speedy alternative in the backfield. Cassell and Michael Akins are the top returning receivers after catching seven balls apiece for an average of more than 20 yards per reception. Binford has moved from the line to tight end while Justin Girard and Danny Urness are the H-backs. Junior Jonny Wymore and sophomore Tym Pearson are battling for the starting quarterback spot behind an offensive line that returns no starters.
Quotable: Starck: "I'm seeing a bunch of hard-working kids in very good shape. The attitude is good and the energy level is high. We're optimistic."
Coach: Kent Wigle, 19th season.
Last year's record: 6-4, 5-3 in league, fourth place.
Outlook: The Pirates return a lot of skill players including quarterback Rayce Stacey, an honorable-mention all-league selection last season when he threw for 760 yards and eight touchdowns. He could split time with junior Brogan Oswald, and both Stacey and Oswald can line up at wide receiver when not behind center. The backfield includes senior running back Andrew Simpson, who battled a sprained ankle last year but rushed for 189 yards and three touchdowns. Shane Rose can play fullback or tailback while Jesse Fox is a fullback. Junior tight end John Parrish is a tall target at 6-feet-5 while Riley Stacey returns at wide receiver along with Alexz Elletson and Shane Truman. Tyler West is a returning starter on the offensive line along with Aaron Draper, who missed most of last season with a knee injury. Riley Stacey and Rose are returning starters in the secondary. Riley Stacey was a first-team all-league punter last year and will also kick.
Quotable: Wigle: "We probably have the best athletes we've had since 1999, but we need to stay healthy because we are a bit thin."
3, North Eugene
Coach: Eric Johannsen, second season.
Last year's record: 5-5, 4-4 in league, fifth place.
Outlook: The Highlanders feature one of the state's top running backs in Dan Winterstein, the league offensive player of the year who ran for 1,428 yards and 20 touchdowns last year. Winterstein suffered a twisted ankle in North Eugene's jamboree Friday, and he may miss a game or two. Senior Joe Axling will step into his place. Junior Brandon Saboe won the battle to be the starting quarterback, and he has some tall targets in 6-2 junior Scott Womack, an honorable-mention all-league selection, and Andrew Hookland, a 6-3 senior who did not play football last season. In addition, Cam Kinkade, who played soccer last year, adds depth to the receiver spot along with Adam James. Chris Hoover, TJ Horton, Chet Parker and Jim Purcell all return on the offensive line. Horton earned all-league honorable mention last year on the defensive line while Hoover and Parker are returning starters as well. Purcell and Axling return to start at linebacker along with Winterstein when he comes back.
Quotable: Johannsen: "Brandon Saboe from the first day of pads to the jamboree completed about 77 percent of his passes, and his ability to run the option for us was key. …