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A new challenge

Winning is nothing new to the Cascade Christian football team. Since 2008, the program has gone 29-8 with three straight appearances in the state semifinal round.

Second-year head coach Jon Gettman, his staff and his players are hoping to keep their streak of success alive this fall.

"With the senior class leading the way, I think we have the talent to get some things done on the field and I am excited for the year," says Gettman, who has 14 seniors on his roster. "We expect to be in the playoff hunt and compete with any team in the state. Our senior class has only known that and that is our expectation."

The Challengers, who finished 10-3 overall and 4-0 in the Southern Cascade Hybrid in 2010, graduated several top-notch talents, but return several key players. They were the unanimous favorites to win the conference in the coaches' preseason poll.

Junior quarterback Daniel Scottow, one of Cascade Christian's top returners, helped guide the Challengers to nine straight victories last season as a first-year starter, including two state playoff victories.

"Last year he didn't get to work with the varsity guys much at all," Gettman says of Scottow, who emerged as the squad's best signal caller during the season as a sophomore. "We needed him in the fourth game, he came in and he played quite a bit. He just stepped up and was going on adrenaline. Now he understands what he needs to do and has more confidence and has been in the weight room. He looks good."

Up front, Cascade Christian sports four tough and experienced seniors whom Gettman says have been vital to the program. Those players are Dustin Polan (tackle), Dillon Huntley (tackle), Daniel Bohn (guard) and Daniel Killiam (center).

Huntley and Polan were both second-team all-state selections last season.

"They have been in the program for four years and they certainly know our system," Gettman says. "They are on the same page. When things get tough, they bond together."

Says Scottow: "They are just fantastic blockers. They work hard, they have a heart for the game and they are all really good guys. Having that returning senior line just gives you a ton of confidence just because you know that they know what it takes and they know how much it takes to win a game."

Trenton Greisen and Dane Scott have been competing for the spot at left tackle.

Scottow may be missing a few of his old teammates this season, though: outstanding running backs Tyler Stickler, Tyler Beard and Garrett Banks all graduated, along with guard/defensive end Brock Scott and tight end Wyatt Sosey.

Stickler, Beard and Scott all made the first-team all-state list last year.

"Losing those guys changes our offense a little bit," Gettman says. "We'll attack the edges of the defense with our guys more. Before we have been more of a power team, now maybe we'll go more outside."

In the backfield this fall will be Brandon Williams, a junior, and senior Andrew Sha, along with Dillon Combs and Jordan Hamasu.

The fast and dangerous Williams took on a larger role last season when Stickler suffered an early season concussion.

Scottow's receiving corps includes Eric Morse, an outstanding basketball player who is playing high school football for the first time, and Tyler Barlow, a little-used senior whom Gettman says showed great promise during a summer passing league at Southern Oregon University.

"Those two guys are great targets," Gettman says of the 6-foot-4 athletes.

Troy Thompson and Reid Worthington play tight end.

The team's already steady coaching staff got a nice boost with the addition of Jeff Olson, who stepped down as the head coach at North Medford High following last season. The former SOU head coach has been working with the linebackers and tight ends. He is one of several experienced coaches, along with former North offensive coordinator Steve Furst, who is now the Challengers' QB coach.

Last year, Cascade Christian advanced to the Class 3A state semifinals, where it lost 42-23 to Santiam Christian. After the Challengers open their season with road games against Brookings-Harbor and North Valley, they will get their shot at revenge by hosting the Eagles on Sept. 17 at Spiegelberg Stadium.

Much was learned in 2010, Gettman says.

"I would say the biggest thing from last year, I think as a crew they realized the importance of playing together," says Gettman, who had the interim coaching tag lifted from his title this year after he replaced Andy Maurer prior to the 2010 campaign. "Doing their job and not trying to necessarily be the best player but being the best as a team."

Other offensive players to watch include senior Justin Cheney, a three-sport athlete who played at Cascade Christian his freshman and sophomore seasons before moving to Idaho.

Junior Levi Girardot, who transferred from Rogue River, played quarterback and linebacker last season for the Chieftains.

"He came in and just is a great athlete," Gettman says of Girardot. "He'll definitely be playing some backer for us. Offensively, he could be a quarterback, wing back or tight end."

Riley Williams, a sophomore, is the team's placekicker and replaces Beard. Josh Brite, a junior running back/linebacker, will miss at least four weeks after undergoing hernia surgery.

As usual, the Challengers loaded up their nonconference schedule with bigger schools and strong opponents, including 4A Crook County, Hidden Valley and North Valley and 3A Santiam Christian.

The top two teams from the SCH advance to the Class 3A state playoffs.

"We want the kids to be knocking heads with good teams," Gettman says.

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

Cascade Christian head coach Jon Gettman, right, goes over a play with his team during a recent practice.