A three-year starter at quarterback, strong play at the line of scrimmage and some talented skill-position veterans have Corvallis hopeful that it can put together a winning season this fall.
After watching his team perform at the Stayton jamboree last week, coach Chris McGowan says the strength of his group will be the front four of the defense, led by senior Weston Tucker, now a third-year starter, listed at 6-foot-2 and 270 pounds.
Joining Tucker on the defensive line are seniors Deegan Copeland (6-3, 230) and Edgar Crump (5-10, 220) and junior Caden McGowan (6-1, 220), the coach’s son.
“We’ve got some guys who can play up front, and that hasn’t always been the case for us,” coach McGowan said.
All of those aforementioned players also play along the offensive line, where they will run block and protect senior quarterback Carter Steeves. His coach says he’s become stronger, sharper, more comfortable with the offense and more poised since the Spartans went 3-2 in a truncated spring season.
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“I think I know pretty much everything that we do,” Steeves said. “I can probably do it with my eyes closed, if I’m being honest. I’m basically his second coach.”
Senior tight end/linebacker Nate Thompson said having an experienced quarterback like Steeves is invaluable, and his presence creates a good foundation to start the season from.
“He’s just like a coach on the field with us. We can ask him questions and he’ll know exactly what we need to do,” Thompson said. “A lot of times young guys get in and don’t quite know what to do and he’ll tell them.”
Added coach McGowan: “He understands our offense really well. He has a lot of freedom to check out of plays or run what he wants to run, too. He’s going to be a really good weapon for us on offense.”
Thompson is making the transition from running back to tight end, a position at he played previously and is glad to be returning to this season. He’s credited with being a quality receiver and run blocker.
Also catching passes for the Spartans this season will be a pair of senior wide receivers. Coach McGowan describes Carson Wright as an athletic player who is also a defensive back. Peyton Silbernagel will have an increased offensive role this fall. He plays linebacker on defense.
Junior Toby Worsch will be the team’s primary running back. At 5-10, 205, he’s a “big, physical running back” who got more carries toward the end of the spring season, coach McGowan said.
Steeves says Worsch shows no fear and that he’s ready to get the job done.
“Toby’s the kind of kid that hits the hole hard and doesn’t really care about the contact. He just keeps driving his feet and gets as many yards as he can and he does it over and over again. He does everything you ask him to,” Steeves said.
Coach McGowan said he expects to have a pretty balanced offense, with an ability to run the ball and execute in the passing game as well. It’s a veteran team, with 14 seniors compared to four last year, but one without a lot of depth.
“I think we have a lot of older guys this year and good leadership, and everybody really wants it,” Thompson said.
Simple goals are to improve each week and play for each other.
“To win that first one is a goal and then go to Week 2, just taking it a step at a time,” coach McGowan said.
Corvallis begins its season Friday at home against 6A Sprague. The Spartans’ coach calls it a “big test.”
“I do think it will be a good measuring stick,” Steeves said. “It will be a challenge, but if we put together all the work that we’ve done we’ve got a good chance.”
The Spartans travel to Redmond for another nonleague game next week before opening Mid-Willamette Conference (5A Special District 3) play Sept. 17 at rival Crescent Valley.
Jesse Sowa can be reached via email at email@example.com or on Twitter, @JesseSowaGT.