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League-favorite Millers hungry for crown

His name is Trever Watson and — by now — everyone in the Midwestern League knows exactly who he is.

The star quarterback at Springfield has started every game since his freshman year, head coach Dave Heuberger noted, and has racked up many an honor during that span.

“Not too many guys can say that,” Heuberger said of Watson’s starting streak.

The defending MWL offensive player of the year returns for one more season with the Millers, who appear poised to make a deep postseason run.

Quite frankly, Heuberger expects nothing less.

“It would be unfair to the kids to say anything different,” said Heuberger, the returning MWL coach of the year. “I have a lot of confidence in our kids’ ability.”

Springfield was picked by coaches to win the MWL, followed by Marist, Crater, Ashland, Churchill and Eagle Point. The top three teams from the conference automatically qualify for the OSAA’s 16-team bracket. The league features a pair of teams that advanced to last year’s Class 5A state semifinals in Marist and Springfield. Both lost.

The Miller bring back MWL defensive player of the year Nicholas AhSam, one of four returning first-team conference picks along with guard Gabe Mitchell (senior), running back Daniel Wilson (senior) and Watson.

Wilson, who also received state recognition, is a versatile 6-foot-1, 185-pounder who can be a receiving threat.

Braydon Haas is another talented receiver in the mix, and he the others will get plenty of support from a pin of big and experienced hogs in the trenches.

Jordan Henderson, who has squatted 500 pounds, is a guard with a similar build as Mitchell at 285 pounds.

Watson will play safety.

The Millers went 10-2 overall and 5-0 in league league play last fall.

Marist

The Spartans graduated a large collection of all-league talents. Head coach Frank Geske said depth could be an issue for his squad, which went 8-4 overall and 4-1 in league action in 2014.

“If we stay healthy we can be pretty good,” Geske said.

Marist will be led by senior Trae Gould, a two-time all-state defensive back, and senior Dustin Jones, a first-team MWL pick who paced the Spartans in receiving.

Quarterback Justin Kearney started last year until he got hurt. He’s back and healthy.

Jake Shultz and Tyler Gray are two notable linemen with experience.

Churchill

Former Illinois Valley head coach Ray Yarbrough takes over for Darrell Mehl.

Yarbrough had coached in Cave Junction for seven years and is a graduate of the high school, but said he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. A friend, West Albany coach Derek Duman, gave him notification of the gig and Yarbrough jumped on it.

The Lancers are young but experienced, Yarbrough said.

“I’m letting them know it’s OK to expect to win,” he said.

Jacob Brothers returns at quarterback as a junior with familial connections to former University of Oregon and Oregon State QBs.

First-team all-conference lineman Blayne Burnett comes back as a senior guard and Junior Perez, a three-sport athlete and receiver, is another returning standout.

Sam Jackson should play an important role for Churchill at running back. Notable linemen include 6-6, 300-pound Tanner Brody and Jacob Brunson (6-5, 290).

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com. Find him online at twitter.com/danjonesmt