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Butte Falls hopes to plug holes left by graduation

One of Randy Stephenson's top former players is helping ensure Butte Falls' future football presence.

Joey Knighton, who was the District 2 player of the year in 2007, has installed at the Butte Falls middle school program the same single-wing offense that Stephenson has valued since he took over as head coach of the varsity squad.

Knighton's efforts come as a relief to Stephenson, who said it makes the transition from programs faster and smoother. And right now, the future can't come fast enough for the Loggers, a perennial District 2 power who find themselves short on returning starters.

"Right now, we'll take what we can get and do the best with what we have," Stephenson said.

That said, he's not about to pull out the white flag.

"We are down but not out," Stephenson added.

Butte Falls will have 17 players, including six freshmen. The Loggers lost six offensive starters to graduation, including standouts Harley Casillas and Chase Ellis. The team returns five players who have at least some experience starting on both offense and defense: Moe Gower, Adam Lehman, Cody Retherford, Richard Garote and Scott Goodman.

New addition Wade Cool played in middle school, but never on the high school squad.

"I watched him grow up," Stephenson said of Cool, who is a running back. "Every coach in every sport has been trying to get him to play. ... He'll bring speed and toughness."

Also new to the program is freshman Cameron Marley, one of Butte Falls' other running backs. Gower and Cool will both throw the ball at times in Stephenson's offense.

With his group of athletes, Stephenson said he is hammering home execution — that was the recipe during the Loggers' 22-game league winning streak, which ended late last year against Triad.

"With so many new kids, it will take a while to get the hang of it," he said.

But Stephenson, who is 35-14 at Butte Falls, is optimistic that his team can still hang with anyone in the league. He said there may just not be as many blowout victories this season. Last year, the Loggers averaged 54 points per game and finished 8-2, ultimately falling to Mohawk in the first round of the state playoffs.

"My expectation is to finish in the top two in the league," he said. "Whether we will make it or not, time will tell. We won't be as dominating this year as in past years. ... We used to score 60 or 70 points a game. I think it's going to be a lot tighter this year."

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

Wade Cool takes the snap before diving through the line during a Butte Falls practice. - Andy Atkinson