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Rogue River gets ready to run

Christian Reyes and Rogue Burman have been friends since the second grade. The Rogue River football players are practically like brothers.

This summer, the seniors watched in delight as the entire Chieftain program grew into what they call one big family.

The Class 3A school faced several 4A squads, including North Bend, Sutherlin and Phoenix, at a football camp at North Bend High. The week-long clinic proved highly advantageous for the Chieftains, giving them a chance to work together, build trust and gain a better understanding of one another.

"I know this year we are closer as a team because of that," said Burman, one of eight returning starters. "Everyone has everyone's back. It is way more of a family."

With many of its key players back, Rogue River is eager to put its summer bonding to the test this fall. The Chieftains' ultimate goal is a grand one.

"I think a lot of people were thinking pie in the sky last year when I said our goal was to have a winning season," third-year head coach Marvin Grover said. "This year's goal is to win the conference."

Reyes, one of the top running backs at the Class 3A level, said he feels healthy and strong. The successful multi-sport athlete, who has dealt with knee and shoulder injuries, averaged 8.7 yards per carry and rushed for 1,803 yards and 20 touchdowns on 207 carries in a prolific 2009 campaign. He also made 60 tackles.

During the offseason, Reyes said he increased his quickness by training with a speed parachute.

"To me, he is the best player in the 3A by far," Grover said of Reyes. "He's gotten stronger. He'll be a big key to what we do. I think when we have an athlete that is that strong, you want to play off his strengths. That is what we will continue to do."

Grover said he received some positive feedback during the summer camp.

"All the coaches were impressed by how fast we were," he said. "What I told the kids is that now it's about taking what we did up there and continuing it through the season. We are really good right now, but we have to continue that."

And Reyes, too, said he likes the additional camaraderie that the coastal camp cultivated.

"It gave us a lot of momentum," the 5-10, 205-pound Reyes said. "We pretty much think we can play with anyone at the 3A level."

Sophomore Levi Girardot takes over at quarterback, allowing Burman — the primary signal caller last fall — to operate as a rushing and receiving threat in motion and sweep plays.

Dylan Gomez and Andy Valencia are two other receivers. Meanwhile, Daniel Varela has come on strong at fullback, Grover added.

"Our offense is going to be a lot more deadly," Burman said.

Junior Doug Francis, a 6-foot-5, 310-pound tackle, transferred from North Medford after his freshman year. He heads a strong and experienced core of linemen who have adjusted well without defensive end Christian Johnson, who graduated.

Reyes plays middle linebacker and Burman is a safety.

One item of importance to Reyes is proving to others that Rogue River is on the rise. The Chieftains went 0-9 in 2008 during Grover's first year, but won six games last season.

"Football season is really big," said Reyes. "I have a lot to prove and I hope my team wants it just as bad as I do ... and I'm sure they do."

Reach sports reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or e-mail djones@mailtribune.com

Rogue River running back Christian Reyes blasts through a hole during practice on Tuesday. - Andrew Kemp