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New faces hope to lead the Heat to new places

If anything, program sales stand to increase tonight at the Inferno.

In a seemingly never-ending search to add to Southern Oregon's talent pool, the Heat renovated its roster Wednesday with seven new players - most hailing from the University of Oregon and Oregon State.

The roster moves come on the heels of a slight overhaul last week, with four former Portland State stars joining the Heat.

I think we're going to get a lot better in a hurry, Heat co-head coach Eric VanderWegen says of Wednesday's transactions. We've signed some quality ballplayers.

They'll take some of the pressure off of us. When you surround guys with quality athletes, it brings up their level of play.

Co-head coach Larry Jobe has spent most of his two weeks in Southern Oregon practically attached to a telephone, working to help the Heat improve on a 1-5 record in the National Indoor Football League.

And he may not be done yet.

We're going to keep trying on shoes until one of them fits, says Jobe.

Joining the Heat lineup for tonight's home game at 7 p.m. against the Wyoming Cavalry (4-2) will be newcomers Jermaine Hanspard, Brian Johnson, Gary Barker, Robert Sykes, Jason White, Chad Guthrie and Ryan McNiven.

Hanspard, Johnson and Barker each were part of Oregon's Pac-10 co-championship squad last season in the defensive secondary. Sykes (6-foot-5, 330 pounds) and White (6-6, 325) secured the left side of the Beavers' offensive line for the past few years, with Sykes part of OSU's Pac-10 co-championship squad last year.

Guthrie wrapped up his career at SOU ranked second to Dan Miles in passing yardage (6,099), touchdowns (48), pass attempts (867) and completions (456). McNiven, a 6-3, 220-pound quarterback, attended College of the Siskiyous but did not play a down for the Eagles, according to athletic director Phil Maas.

I think the fact that we've made these changes should send a message to the community that we're willing to do whatever we can to put a winner on the field for Southern Oregon, says Jobe.

If last week's transactions are any indication, Heat fans are in store for a marked turnaround on both sides of the ball. Southern Oregon received immediate results from Portland State standouts Rochell Atkins, Darrin Collins, Tino Retamoza and DeAngelo Hunter in last week's 45-26 loss to the Ohio Valley Greyhounds.

The majority of Jobe's maneuvers have been to shore up a Heat defense decimated by injuries. Despite the short break-in period, that side of the ball provides an easier adjustment than incoming offensive players.

This isn't a hard game to pick up, says Jobe. This brand of football is not as complex as 11-man football. And from a defensive perspective it's a lot easier to make adjustments and go out and play a game.

Providing a large first obstacle for the Heat's new lineup will be a Wyoming Cavalry team once again firing on all cylinders. After starting the season 3-0, the Cavalry slipped a little until last week's 48-8 rout of the Yakima Shockwave.

Wyoming boasts former arenafootball2 quarterback Richard Fuentes, who passed for five first-half TDs and six overall in his return to the Cavalry last week. Fuentes led the Casper, Wyo., team to a playoff berth in the Indoor Football League last season.

Fuentes hooked up with receivers Duane Monlux and Darcel Sharp for three touchdowns apiece last week, and will be the primary focal point for players like Hanspard, Johnson and Barker.

I think Hanspard is going to bring to us the kind of hard-hitting, punishing corner that we've needed, says Jobe. At the same time, he's going to have a positive impact on the balance of our football team. All these guys know how to win and our used to winning. When you get guys like that it can become infectious.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail