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Rogue River pins hopes on returners

ROGUE RIVER — With last season’s key contributors a year older and wiser, the Rogue River football team looks to wrangle its first win since 2013.

In his second season at the helm, coach Ryan Riggle will lean on seniors to steer the Chieftains back to the winning path, led by versatile quarterback Jaden Bliven and 270-pound offensive and defensive tackle Dylan Mathews.

Bliven, however, may be on the shelf when the season opens tonight at Myrtle Point with an injured thumb, which has limited his ability to throw and grip the football throughout the summer.

If that is the case, Rogue River’s featured sophomore running back, Derek Nelson, would take snaps under center and Bliven would showcase his speed and elusiveness at wide receiver or slotback in Riggle’s multi-look offense, which will feature the veer option as well as a spread offense.

“We’ll kind of move him around out there,” said Riggle of Bliven. “It gives us a little more of a dynamic offense being able to throw Jaden in there at receiver or slotback. He’s fast and very elusive as well, and we set up plays for him quite a bit.”

No matter who’s manning the huddle, he’ll be well protected by Mathews and junior center Gabe Echaide and will hand the ball off to junior fullback Jacob Tambellini, a powerful inside runner.

Nelson was one of nine freshmen to start at one point last season. Most of this season’s sophomores will fill similar roles to what they did a year ago.

Sophomore receivers Cameron Hooker, Sebastian Poston and Tristen Spaeth will look to build on their rookie campaigns. Also returning are tight end Ethan Canoe, fullback Jose Chavez and offensive lineman Caleb Barnwell.

Many of the same players will be featured on defense, led by Mathews, Blivens at defensive back, Tambellini at linebacker/defensive end and linebackers Nelson and Canoe. Junior Chance Smith should see time at linebacker while Hooker and Poston will join Bliven in the secondary.

"I’m happy with all of the work they’ve put in and I know they’re enthusiastic about the season starting," said Riggle.

Reach reporter Warren Blenkush at 541-776-4492, or email wblenkush@mailtribune.com

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Rogue River linemen Gabryel Echaide, left, and Dylan Mathews will help clear the path for the Chieftains offense. PHOTO BY LARRY STAUTH JR.
Riggle