Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
If Klamath Union is to defend the Skyline Conference championship it won in 2011, it is starting from a strong position.
The Pelicans (8-3, 5-0 Skyline in 2011) have a senior-laden team — 20 in all — and return nine starters on offense and seven on defense, said coach Tom Smith.
"It allows us to move on a little bit faster," he said. "We work on the basics, but we're able to move on to team time faster versus individual time. That's one of the struggles as a head coach. How much individual work do you have to do to get to the team stuff."
His conference brethren like KU's position as well, predicting it to finish second to North Valley. Hidden Valley and Henley are tabbed co-third, followed by Mazama and Phoenix.
Smith expects his team to be in the mix of contenders, but realizes a lot of teams have more veterans than they did a year ago.
"Last year, the league was pretty young," he said. "Every team has a lot of guys who played varsity. It'll be a slugfest to the finish."
Junior Ben Mitchell takes over quarterbacking duty after the graduation of Alex Stork. Mitchell is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and both runs and throws well, said Smith, who uses a spread offense.
"We're looking for him to do a lot," said the coach.
He'll hand off often to Jonathan Munoz, starting for the first year at running back but a player with next-level ability, said Smith. Munoz also plays outside linebacker.
Center Kiel Repose (5-10, 230) is a rock in the middle of the line, and receiver Jack Bell brings three years of experience.
Defensive ends Will Ruiz (5-10, 190) and Isa Diabes (5-10, 220) and middle linebacker Mitch Mirande (5-11, 200), who also plays tight end, lead the stop unit.
"I honestly think having all those leaders will allow us to be pretty balanced on offense and defense," said Smith. "I have high hopes for these guys."