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FOOTBALL '19: Crusader veterans back for more

Fans may best remember Tre Foster as the game-changing defensive end at St. Mary’s last fall.

The Far West League defensive lineman of the year generated interest from both Oregon and Oregon State, along with a handful of other NCAA Division I programs.

And as impressive as he looked last year as a junior, just wait until you see him now, St. Mary’s head coach Jamie Young said. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Foster is one of nine seniors for the Crusaders, who lost their first two games last year before rattling off six straight wins and securing the program’s second state playoff berth in 24 years.

Foster will remain a linchpin of the St. Mary’s defense, and he should be a centerpiece at receiver after first-team all-league wideout Alex Heycke graduated.

“Tre is a special talent,” Young said. “He has a genuine love for practicing, for playing in games, for preparation. He loves to go out and compete. He was also the defensive player of the year in basketball and was the (Mail Tribune) all-star game MVP. The kid is a competitor. He wants the ball in his hands and can elevate.

“Defensively, he was just tough for opponents to deal with last year. He brought a lot of different skill sets. It’s tough to find anybody who goes as hard as he does play after play. ... When I say he’s a special athlete, it’s the truth. We’ve had OSU on campus and he took a visit to Oregon. His work ethic is tremendous. He’s exciting.”

Foster will look to build on his rapport with senior quarterback Aliiloa Kaeo-Wailehua, who started a portion of his sophomore season and all of last year (he was a second-team conference signal-caller).

They helped the Crusaders to a 6-4 overall record and a 4-1 mark in the Far West League, finishing second to Cascade Christian. St. Mary’s fell in the first round of the state playoffs to Scio, 50-35.

“(Kaeo-Wailehua) is a tremendous competitor,” said Young, adding that the QB will also serve as placekicker. “Toughness is one of his strongest points. He’s very creative as an athlete and has really evolved over the last three years. He’s just an exciting player who can run the ball well and (who is) a really good passer. We feel great about him leading our offense.”

Seniors Nate Thickett (a first-team all-league selection), Connor Walker and John Beattie and junior Lance Parrish all return starting experience to the offensive line.

“I really would say as a coaching staff this year we are excited about the experience and toughness and reliability of the offensive line,” Young said. “These guys have a lot of varsity experience. Just a real strong group and a very close-knit group.”

Senior tight end Cobey Aldrich (6-1, 235) is back after earning a spot on the first-team all-league offensive list.

“He’s a playmaker,” Young said. “We asked him to be a relentless blocker and he’s got great hands and is incredibly smart and knows our offense. Like the rest of our seniors, he’s a tremendous competitor.”

Senior Josh Covington should be a weapon at slot receiver, Young added. Senior Brady Eiler and junior Will Heycke will get plenty of repetitions at running back after first-team standout Gavin Rajagopal graduated. The Crusaders will also have to adjust to life without two-way first-teamer Aiden Young (offensive lineman/linebacker). Aldrich and younger brother Cayden Aldrich (sophomore) will help shore up linebacker duties.

Eiler and Walker were two leaders in the weight room during the offseason, Young said.

“We’ve got a great situation (with Eiler and Heycke),” the coach said. “Will is very fluid and gets north and south quick. He’s patient. And Brady had some incredible games for us last year.”

Freshman Jaden Foster (6-1, 170) has stood out at free safety, Young added.

The Crusaders exceeded expectations last year, the coach said.

“We played for the league championship against Cascade Christian,” said Young. “This is our second consecutive year with a senior class of nine. That always bodes well. All of these seniors have extensive varsity experience and playoff experience. They made it to state their freshman and junior seasons. We are in a good place with our leadership.”

Depth is an issue, Young said, but so far the group has risen to any challenges.

“We don’t have a tremendous amount of depth,” he said. “But we went to the Astoria team camp in July and competed really well against a lot of bigger schools. If it wasn’t for our younger guys, our program wouldn’t be where it is today. Right now we are really pleased with where we are at and believe we can be a good football team.”

CRUSADERS GLANCE

HEAD COACH

Jamie Young (10th year, 43-40).

The Crusaders won six straight games last season and earned their second state playoff berth in 24 years.

GENERAL INFORMATION

ASSISTANTS: Josh Aldrich (offensive coordinator), Adam Peterson (defensive line/tight ends), Steve Thomas (wide receivers/linebackers), Ben Young (defensive backs/running backs), Tanny Flowers (wingbacks), Mike Robinson (offensive line/safety).

2018 LEAGUE RECORD: 4-1 (second, Dist. 2 South).

2018 OVERALL RECORD: 6-4.

PREDICTED FINISH THIS YEAR: Third.

2018 RESULTS

St. Mary’s Opponents

7Amity 51

24Lost River 33

55Regis 6

49Gold Beach/Pacific 6

48Douglas 8

34Hidden Valley 16

49Brookings-Harbor 7

56South Umpqua 24

13Cascade Christian 61

State Playoffs

35Scio 50

RETURNING STARTERS

OFFENSE (9): Quarterback Aliiloa Kaeo-Wailehua (5-10, 170, sr.), lineman Nate Thickett (6-1, 250, sr.), lineman Connor Walker (6-0, 210, sr.), lineman Lance Parrish (5-10, 175, jr.), lineman John Beattie (6-2, 185, sr.), tight end Cobey Aldrich (6-1, 235, sr.), wide receiver Tre Foster (6-5, 225, sr.), wide receiver Josh Covington (5-9, 165, sr.), running back Brady Eiler (6-0, 205, sr.).

DEFENSE (7): Linebacker Cobey Aldrich, lineman Nate Thickett, lineman Connor Walker, defensive end Tre Foster, free safety Aliiloa Kaeo-Wailehua, strong safety Brady Eiler, lineman Sean Snyder (6-2, 185, sr.).

OTHER NOTABLES: Running back/safety Will Heycke (6-0, 180, jr.), receiver/free safety Jaden Foster (6-1, 170, fr.), linebacker Cayden Aldrich (5-9, 200, so.).

2019 SCHEDULE

Sept. 6at Amity, 7 p.m.

Sept. 13LOST RIVER, 7 p.m.

Sept. 20 REGIS, 7 p.m.

Sept. 27at Gold Beach, 7 p.m.

Oct. 4at Douglas, 7 p.m.

Oct. 11at Hidden Valley, 7 p.m.

Oct. 18BROOKINGS-HARBOR, 7 p.m.

Oct. 25SOUTH UMPQUA, 7 p.m.

Nov. 1at Cascade Christian, 7 p.m.

Reach freelance writer Dan Jones at dljcards@gmail.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneSt Mary’s Tre Foster brings in a pass for a TD during a jamboree at North Valley High School in Grants Pass Friday.