North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
The good news for Southern Cascade Hybrid football teams is that Brandon Williams has finally graduated.
The bad news is that unanimous league favorite Cascade Christian didn't pack up and go to college with the running back.
The Challengers have plenty of other guys ready to give headaches.
Head coach Jon Gettman must now figure out how to distribute all the offense that Williams — who is a freshman at NCAA Division III Rhodes College — claimed. He shattered every major career and individual-season rushing record while at Cascade Christian.
Gettman is also missing long-time starting quarterback Daniel Scottow and several other graduated seniors who were major contributors.
The comfort that those athletes provided with their productivity — particularly Williams, who ran a statistical monopoly during his prep days — is gone.
"Last year we had a lot of one- and two-play drives because of (Williams') explosiveness," Gettman said. "We won't have that one-play explosiveness. Our explosive plays will have to be because of execution. A lot of guys will have to step up."
The squad takes solace in the fact that it returns five offensive and defensive players who started in the 2012 Class 3A state championship, which Dayton won, 34-28.
Cascade Christian has 13 seniors, a core of experienced linemen and a collection of other running backs, Gettman said.
"We have some great, big kids," said Gettman, whose team has advanced to the state semifinals in each of the past five seasons. "We have a good strong senior class and we're expecting them to take hold and lead them and step up.
"Offensively we will change some things up, but we have the same philosophy. We will have to execute and go from there."
The Challengers will pass more than in the past but will still rely heavily on the ground attack. Senior Seth Knox (6-foot-5, 170 pounds) and junior Alek Furst (5-8, 155) are both competing for the starting signal caller job, Gettman said.
A running back committee will include Jake Brown (5-10, 170, sr.), Chase Wager (5-9, 165, so.), Treyson Robbins (5-11, 175, jr.) and Cody Parker (5-9, 150, sr.).
"To me that will be the biggest thing, rotating those four kids in," Gettman said. "We are going to look to have a dominant backfield rotation."
The versatile David Sellers (6-5, 210, sr.) and Tanner Parker (6-0, 210, sr.) will be asked to block, pass protect and run receiving routes.
Other receivers will include Cody Parker and Cooper Clark (5-10, 175, sr.).
Up front are senior linemen TJ Alvarez (6-0, 210, sr.), Trace Walker (6-2, 225, sr.) and Levi Clark (5-9, 210, sr.). Lineman Tristan Jones, who was slotted as a starter before a knee injury derailed his season, is also back.
The hogs up front will determine much of the squad's potential, Gettman said.
"That is always where we want to start," he said.
The defense will be strengthened by defensive end Sellers, linebacker Dante Olson (6-0, 175, jr.), cornerback Cody Parker and safety Cooper Clark, Gettman said.
Cascade Christian finished 13-1 overall and 3-0 in SCH play last year. The Challengers — who play at U.S. Cellular Community Park — open the regular season by hosting Santiam Christian on Friday. They'll begin the league season at Rogue River on Oct. 4.
The top two teams in the SCH automatically qualify for the OSAA's 16-team bracket.
"I am just excited with the growth in the program and to see how the players step into their roles," Gettman said. "We have gotten to where we have expectations of playing well. ... Our focus is on the process and not the result."
Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email firstname.lastname@example.org