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North, Roseburg kick off year

If ever there was a time to face the Roseburg Indians, this is it.

The two-time defending Class 4A state football champions, winners of28 straight games, open the season Friday night against North Medford atSpiegelberg Stadium.

It's not a bad way to prepare for the season ­ preparing forthe best team right out of the blocks, says North Medford coach RodRumrey as he embarks on his 10th season.

We've been looking at that challenge since we started, pushinghard, and we have the players' attention.

Even though sixth-ranked Roseburg lost 38 seniors, including 19 of 22starters off last year's team that defeated the Black Tornado 50-0 at FinlayField, veteran Indians coach Thurman Bell is lapel-high in talent.

We know Roseburg lost a lot of starters, and if there is a goodtime to play them, it's right at the very beginning, Rumrey says.It's always been a program that shows progress from the start.

Both teams got their pads adjusted last week in jamborees: Roseburg limitedCrescent Valley and Lebanon to three first downs, while North warmed upagainst Crater, Yreka and North Valley.

With so many young kids, we got to practice how to play on theroad, Bell says. Learning to play on the road is major, sincewe're playing on the road right off the bat.

Although Bell says he hasn't named a starting quarterback, chances arethat junior Thys Kuitert ­ Jake Cookus' chief backup last fall ­will guide the veer-option offense when Roseburg's offense takes the field.Senior Matt Zurcher and sophomore Kevin Linderman both appeared in lastweek's jamboree as well.

It's the biggest headache I've got right now, Bell says.I try not to look at it as who's a sophomore, junior or senior, butwho is the best quarterback and ignore what grade he's in.

There's no such guesswork at tailback, where converted wide receiverMike Cory distinguished himself by scoring three touchdowns in last week'sjamboree and rushing for more than 100 yards.

It's not a program that has to rebuild, Rumrey says. Itjust reloads. There are a lot of new faces, but those guys haven't had awhole lot of defeats (at the sub-varsity level). Their JV program was undefeatedlast year.

For the second August in a row, North's big question going into its jamboreewas the health of quarterback K.C. Rumrey, the coach's son.

Last season, it was the durability of a surgically repaired knee. Lastweek, it was how well he could grip and throw the ball with his left hand.The southpaw's passing hand was ripped open when he got spiked sliding intothird base during the American Legion Northwest Regional baseball tournament.

That night (of the jamboree) was the first live snaps he had taken(since he injured his hand Aug. 17), coach Rumrey says. He didOK, and every day since then he's shown steady improvement.

But the third-year starter, who threw for 1,734 yards and 13 touchdownslast year, had some rough edges.

K.C. looked at the film and saw a lot of things he needed to improveon, the coach notes. I don't think K.C. was pleased with theway he threw the ball.

George Wheeler has staked his claim at fullback. The tailback spot ­manned by 1,000-yard rusher Nate Philo the past two years ­ is stillundecided but came into better focus during the jamboree.

Steve DeClerck, Evan Gordon and Luke Buchstaber are all in the running,but none has won the job outright.

It would be nice if one of the tailbacks stepped forward and showedthey could do all of the things we need, Rumrey says. The guyshave different strengths. One is a harder inside runner and one may knowthe offense better. We're trying to use them according to their strengths.

Missed tackles and turnovers last year allowed Roseburg to zip to a 21-0advantage before the Tornado knew what hit.

The next 29 minutes we played them 0-0, Rumrey recalls. Inthat 29 minutes our program played some of its best football in 1996. Thereal key in this game is to play a full 48 minutes. If we play like we didin that 29-minute stretch, it's going to be a very good game.