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Grants Pass searching for cure to inept offense

With no skill position players returning to his starting lineup, Grants Pass High football coach Jeff Weiss figured his team would struggle to gain yards and score points this season.

It has.

The Cavemen rank last in the Southern Oregon Conference in total offense and are averaging just 12.7 points per game as they prepare to meet Eagle Point in their league opener Friday night at Eagle Stadium.

In other games involving SOC teams, third-ranked North Medford (3-1 overall, 1-0 SOC) travels to Crater (0-3, 0-1), Roseburg (3-1, 1-0) journeys to Ashland (2-1, 0-1) and South Medford (2-1, 1-0) plays host to Service High of Anchorage, Alaska.

— We're down at the bottom of the pack offensively ' you've got to average more than 200 yards a game to beat the better teams in this conference, says Weiss, whose Cavemen enter the game with a 1-2 record. It's time that some of our kids step up and make some plays.

Led by second-team all-conference guard Jameson Davis and tackles Ryan Hoefer and Troy Wagerle, the Caveman feature one of the better offensive lines in the SOC.

But the team's inexperienced skill players have often stumbled, bumbled and fumbled behind it.

It didn't help the Cavemen that they started the season against third-ranked Willamette and ninth-ranked Central Catholic. Those teams routed the Cavemen by scores of 26-0 and 47-19 before GP broke into the win column with a 19-8 win over Mountain View on Sept. 12.

Grants Pass had a bye last week, and Weiss used the extra time to polish handoffs, fine-tune running plays and work on the passing game.

The bye came at a perfect time, Weiss says. It allowed us to focus on fundamentals, and it gave us two weeks to prepare (for Eagle Point).

The Cavemen start eight juniors on offense, including quarterback Nolan Morgan, tailback Pat Allen and wide receivers Jake Dastrup and Jason Geith.

Weiss has been searching for production at running back and may have found it in Allen, a 5-foot-9, 165-pound speedster who ran for 71 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the win over Mountain View.

Junior Mike Ditty and senior Spencer Holland are also expected to log carries Friday.

Allen has good feet and good speed, and he hits the hole quickly, Weiss says. He's a little bit more of a natural scatback than the other two.

Weiss knows his team is no lock to beat Eagle Point, which has gotten off to a 2-1 start, 0-1 in the SOC. Never mind that the Eagles suffered seven turnovers during a 50-22 loss to Roseburg last Friday.

The score against Roseburg wasn't indicative of how good they are, Weiss says.

The Eagles lead the SOC in total defense at 231 yards per game, and they're averaging a respectable 332 yards offensively.

However, the Eagles could be without one of their two quarterbacks, Jered McClellan, who injured the thumb on his throwing hand against Roseburg.

Eagle Point tailback Nate Idrogo is the SOC's third-leading rusher with 208 yards and two touchdowns.

NORTH MEDFORD AT CRATER ' Senior tailback Cody Ponder returned to practice this week following a one-game suspension for disciplinary reasons, but Crater has been hit by the injury bug.

Ron Lee gained 71 yards on 21 carries in Ponder's absence last week but played most of the game on a broken foot. He's likely out for the season, coach Rich Cable says.

Standout wide receiver/defensive back Dan Whitehead is also ailing with a hip flexor, and backup quarterback Gary Gomes has a sore back.

The Comets would feel much better if they could find a way to upset the Black Tornado, but Cable admits that's a tall order.

We're making too many mental mistakes right now to beat a good team, and we haven't done a good job of overcoming adversity, he says. We spent a lot of time in practice this week on perfect-play situations ' running plays over and over until they're done perfectly.

North Medford was also less than perfect in its 42-7 win over Ashland last Friday, but the Tornado used its physically superior talent to win going away.

ROSEBURG AT ASHLAND '

Roseburg may have set a school record by returning four interceptions for touchdowns in its 50-22 win over Eagle Point last Friday.

I can't remember any of my other teams doing that, says Roseburg coach Thurman Bell, now in his 33rd season guiding the Indians.

Indians linebacker Kerry Hall, who returned one of the interceptions 50 yards for a touchdown and another 34 yards to pay dirt, might be playing as well as any defensive player in the SOC.

He played safety last year, and it's amazing how fast he's adjusted to linebacker, says Bell of Hall, a 6-foot, 195-pound senior.

Ashland will be without star wide receiver David Morris, who suffered a concussion against North Medford. The head injury was Morris' second in two years.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail