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Powerhouses start season with bang

Black Tornado will be without a top lineman who recently left team

North Medford will face perhaps the best opponent on its football schedule tonight, but it will do so without one of its best players.

Senior offensive tackle Brian Heil, a first-team all-Southern Oregon Conference selection last year, left the team shortly after the start of daily double practices.

He won't be on hand when the Black Tornado visits Jesuit in Portland for a 7:30 p.m. contest that has the makings of a state-championship matchup.

North is expected to be ranked No. — and Jesuit No. 2 when The Oregonian releases its online Class 4A state poll today. The Associated Press and coaches polls have not yet come out.

— Heil, who was expected to be an integral part of one of Oregon's biggest and best offensive lines, told coach John Beck he had lost interest in playing football.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder was being recruited by Ivy League schools, says Beck, who adds that Heil's decision is a sad deal from a personal and team standpoint.

The silver lining is that it opens the door for sophomore Tim Endecott (6-0, 215), who might have otherwise been stashed on the junior varsity for a year.

He's up to the challenge, says Beck. He's a very, very tough, physical kid. He'll hold his own.

North returns five starters on both offense and defense from a team that went 9-2 last year after losing in the second round of the state playoffs to Hermiston, 16-13.

The Tornado finished second in the SOC.

Similarly, Jesuit was 9-2, lost in the second round to Central Catholic, 42-35, and was runner-up in the Metro League.

The Crusaders return six starters on offense but only two on defense.

The game kicks off the high school season with a bang. Most teams don't start play until next week, but there are some in action during what is known as zero week.

We're excited, says Beck. This game will tell us exactly where we're at to start the season. We're playing probably one of the most talented teams in the state, and it'll tell us what we have to work on to get through the SOC and into the playoffs.

The game came about after Central Catholic, Jesuit's traditional season-opening opponent, decided against scheduling the Crusaders, says Jesuit coach Ken Potter.

He in turn sought a strong team to fill the void in order to serve as a measuring stick.

Enter the Tornado.

Potter pooh-poohs the notion of polls at this stage.

I'm sure there will be rumblings and all kinds of stuff like that, says Potter, who has been the Jesuit coach since 1987. But you and I both know the first poll has 10 teams on it, and maybe one or two will be there at the end of the year. The way we're looking at it, we're playing an extremely talented and very good football team from a great football program. It'll allow us to see our kids in a tough, competitive situation.

North is led by lineman David Faaeteete, a senior whom Potter knows as one of the best linemen on the West Coast and maybe in the nation.

The 6-3, 275-pounder will anchor the offensive and defensive lines. He'll be joined on the offensive front by sophomore center Johnny Vaigafa (6-1, 294), junior guard Lorenzo Arenas (6-2, 262), senior tackle Frank Clifton (6-2, 225) and Endecott.

Returning quarterback Beau Hovland directs the offense. Last year, he completed 97 of 162 passes for 1,639 yards and 21 touchdowns with only four interceptions.

Senior tailback Rob Folsom, formerly the fullback, will key the ground game.

North's defense will have to contend with one of the state's best running backs and other gifted skill players.

But Jesuit is sending out junior quarterback John Breuer for his first varsity start.

Beck and Potter are familiar with each other's playing styles. Beck was an assistant coach at Barlow of Gresham in the early to mid-1990s.

He knows our package, says Beck. He knows we like to bring a lot of pressure. They'll try to take some of the heat off their quarterback by cutting down on their splits for max protection and using short drops and play-action passes. We understand they will try to control the ball and hit for big plays to their skill kids. I think we have a plan that will match up with that pretty well.

Breuer figures to hand the ball often to running back Mike Jones.

Jones, who has committed to Oregon State, is a 6-0, 220-pounder with speed and strength.

He broke a bone in his leg in the middle of last year and played only six games, including both playoff contests, gaining 952 yards and scoring 14 touchdowns. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry.

Jones has added 15 pounds to his frame from last year.

He looks good, says Potter. His pant size went down, and his weight went up. That's what you want.

Another Crusader, 6-5 wide receiver Zach Tarver, has also chosen to play for Oregon State.

Linemen Kevin Clarke (6-1, 230) and Alex Brantley (6-2, 245) also return.

Our goals are set pretty high this year, says Beck, and this is one of our challenges. If we win, great, but no matter whether we win or lose, we'll come out of this game knowing what we need to work on to keep improving.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail