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The definition of success — or least its measure — is different for the St. Mary's football team.
The Crusaders can not qualify for the state playoffs because of their independent status, but that hasn't dampened anyone's spirit. St. Mary's is aiming high, especially now that it has a collection with some depth and experience.
"Our playoffs is a winning season," third-year head coach Jamie Young said.
Certainly, the Crusaders are tired of losing. The program had to cancel the tail end of its 2010 season because of injuries, but rallied back a year later by fielding an independent team, bouncing back from an 0-3 start and finishing 4-5 overall.
"They have been through a lot the last two years," Young said of his older players. "I remember a couple years ago going out on the practice field and only having 15 guys and not having enough guys to form a scout unit to practice what the opponent runs.
"For them to stick it out, that shows a big part of our leadership."
St. Mary's brings back eight starters on offense and defense and sports around 28 players, including 11 seniors. At the top of the talent list are junior running back Anthony Bonsi and senior fullback Calvin Roberts, who are both no strangers to outings with 100 or more rushing yards, Young said.
Senior Glenn Alvarez should set up well as a rushing and receiving threat in Young's single wing offense. He and junior Jacob Smith will serve often as wingbacks, while junior David Burt and senior Tom Hilton will be tight ends.
Unable to play last season because of a preseason injury, senior Dan Seus will also be eager to make a splash, Young said.
"He'll play a big role," Young said of Seus. "We'll use him at running back and in a variety of situations. We're trying to be a little more diverse while staying true to what we do ... there are other exciting things you can do when you have more experience."
Quarterback Denten Edwards, a sophomore who started eight games last season, returns.
The defense is led by senior defensive end/linebacker Dan Leavens, Seus at free safety and cornerbacks Jake Isola and Jacob Smith.
St. Mary's opens its season at Rogue River — a former league opponent — on Friday.
"To us that is a big one and we get it right out of the gate," Young said. "We've got to come out and execute."
The Crusaders will also take on Glendale, Neah-Kah-Nie, Myrtle Point, Bonanza, Chiloquin, Chemawa, Weed, Calif., and Etna, Calif.
"I think the schedule is a little more challenging than the previous year," Young said. "But I think it's the right schedule for us right now."
Young said it is unclear when, or if, St. Mary's will re-enter the Southern Cascade Hybrid and become postseason eligible. But with each step of progress — like the school recently adding a facility that the football team can use — he said he feels more optimistic.
"We have to look at what we have coming in the coming years," he said. "We certainly want to re-join the league. We just want to be smart."
And more than anything, they just want to be successful.
"Having that winning season," Young said. "The kids want to be a part of that."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org