BUTTE FALLS — Some Butte Falls players are whispering state championship. Others are talking league title. Still others are suggesting the Loggers are at least a state playoff team.

BUTTE FALLS — Some Butte Falls players are whispering state championship. Others are talking league title. Still others are suggesting the Loggers are at least a state playoff team.

Hold the instant messaging, cautions head coach Randy Stephenson.

"We can't get too cocky," Stephenson says, "but this is by far the best team I've had at Butte Falls. We'll be right in the thick of things."

The Loggers, who last won a state title in 1986 but haven't advanced to the playoffs since 1993, are stacked with talent and loaded with experience as the eight-man team welcomes back 14 of 16 starting positions from a year ago.

Leading both the offense and defense will be running back/linebacker Joey Knighton. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior skirted for more than 1,000 yards and scored 23 touchdowns last season when Butte Falls posted a winning season for the first time in four years.

"Joey is a great open-field runner," Stephenson says. "He has good moves, great vision and excellent speed."

Junior Josh Dyck also returns to the backfield in the Loggers' single-wing attack. He backed up Knighton with more than 800 yards in 2006.

"Dyck is more of a power runner," Stephenson says. "Joey and Josh are the perfect outside-inside combination."

The two backs figure to find plenty of operating room running behind an experienced line headlined by center Dakota Kinyon, guard Josh Sutfin and ends Josh McGonagle and Codey Myers.

Stephenson also boasts a secret weapon this fall in Crater transfer T.J. Wilson, a 6-2, 240-pound senior who will line up at guard but also could see time in the backfield. Stephenson says Wilson has the potential to fill the void left by the graduation of Michael McLauchlan, a first-team all-conference lineman on both sides of the ball.

"We'll need him up front, but we'll put him in the backfield at times and see what he can do," says Stephenson of Wilson. "He runs low and hard, he's mobile, and he's a smart kid. And he picked up our offense right away."

Defensively, Knighton figures to lead the Loggers in tackling for the second straight year. Stephenson will move him from linebacker to end to deep back, depending on down and distance, to get the most out of his talents.

"He's really aggressive and reads the plays very well," Stephenson says. "His best position is probably inside linebacker, but he's probably our best cover guy."

The Loggers have been running and lifting weights all summer, Stephenson says, in anticipation of what could be the school's best team in more than a decade.

"We've got seven or eight kids who didn't miss a workout all summer," Stephenson says. "They're ready to go."

Butte Falls has a 10-game regular-season schedule for the first time in school history, beginning Saturday at home against Prospect. Kickoff is 1 p.m.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail dhunt@mailtribune.com