Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
Mike Maguire faced his share of adversity in his first campaign as Rogue River's head coach in 2011.
For starters, Maguire was named head coach in late July and didn't finalize his assistants until August, meaning the staff missed many of those pivotal summer days used to develop team chemistry. He opted for the increasingly popular spread offense but saw two starting quarterbacks go down to injuries in the first three weeks of the season.
Staring at a large halftime deficit at Bandon, and the prospect of playing a third-string quarterback, Maguire made a drastic yet seemingly necessary decision: He would scrap the spread offense in favor of a double-wing, run-oriented attack.
"We had no other options," Maguire said, looking back on a season the Chieftains finished 2-8.
Now entering the 2012 season, Maguire and staff own the luxury of an entire year together with a more familiar system, the double-wing.
"Practices are so much smoother," Maguire says. "Last year we didn't have an identity on offense. Now we do. We want to be a running team, a smashmouth team. That just puts us in a better situation."
The ground game will be orchestrated by junior quarterback Kollen Roohr, who is in his first year playing high school football. Coaches prompted Roohr, a standout baseball player, to join the team for spring practices. Roohr enjoyed the experience and his teammates, deciding to commit to football.
"We're not asking him to do a whole heck of a lot, but he's grasping what we do," Maguire says. "He's one of the better athletes in the school."
Roohr will have multiple options in the backfield with the return of two starting running backs, senior Andy Valencia and his brother, sophomore Alex Valencia. Fullback and team captain Andrew Smith is also back for his senior season.
Sophomore running back Dylan Devish and freshman running back Jarrid Hopkins add capable depth. Devish was named the starting quarterback last season before suffering a broken leg in a non-contact drill in a preseason practice. Hopkins is the half-brother of former Rogue River standout Christian Reyes and is likely to be one of two freshman to see playing time, along with tight end/free safety George Byrd.
Five starters return up front for Rogue River with senior tackle Thomas Korsgard, junior center Deandre Harris, sophomore guard Brennan Moody, sophomore tackle Austin Gardner, and sophomore tight end Cody Wright.
Maguire reserved most of his praise for the defensive side of the ball. The Chieftains will rely on a talented linebacker corps featuring senior Brandon Andrews, Wright, Smith and Harris. Multiple players saw action last season along the defensive line, including Moody, Gardner, Korsgard and sophomore Mickey Hall. The Valencia brothers are returning starters at cornerback.
"We didn't win a lot of games last year, and we gave up some points, but a lot of that was because of our offense," Maguire says. "Our defense really comes at you and we mix things up to cause a lot of turnovers. We're going to count on our defense a lot this season."
The defensive unit will need an outstanding effort if the Chieftains are to climb the ranks in the challenging Southern Cascade Hybrid. But in just his second year, Maguire doesn't consider wins and losses as the team's only barometer of success.
"We just need to keep growing as a football program," Maguire says. "I just tell the players, 'Don't listen to what anybody says about you, just practice and prepare the right way and you'll have more success than not.'"