Seasoned Eagles will look to soar
EAGLE POINT — The football seasons may be just a few months apart, but Eagle Point head coach Erik Johnson can already tell just how much more confident his team is feeling this fall over the spring.
“There’s a lot more chatter out there,” Johnson said, “and that just feeds off the confidence. We’re looking more confident, we’re looking more comfortable out there with things.”
In the last few months, the Eagles have gone from a young and inexperienced group to one that feels more prepared for a varsity campaign.
The goal is to turn the experience they got in the spring into more success this fall, something that seems more realistic with added maturity and confidence in what needs to be done.
“Every year is a new year no matter what and it has its own personality, but it does feel better in the first year that I’ve been here having experience and upperclassmen,” said Johnson, in his third season at Eagle Point. “That experience is big. Having both of those, finally, we’ll feel a little more comfortable.”
The Eagles went 1-5 during the spring season, losing five straight after winning their opener against Springfield. Two of those losses came to teams Eagle Point will face this season in a return to Midwestern League play, Crater and Willamette, while two others were to 6A schools in South Medford and Grants Pass.
While his team took their lumps in the spring, Johnson said the hope is that it set a foundation for what they will try to accomplish this fall.
“The year under their belts and getting a few months in between for their maturity was big,” said the coach, “but their commitment has changed more than anything. We had summer training and they were there all the time.”
Johnson said he was able to learn plenty about his young football team throughout the spring.
“Each week we competed more and more,” he said. “The experience we gained as individuals and as a team was big.”
As other teams around the MWL replace most of their key players from the spring season, Johnson needs almost all of his fingers and toes to count how many starters he has back on both sides of the ball. Eagle Point returns nine starters on both offense and defense.
Senior Isaiah Hill and junior David Brown will provide a 1-2 punch at running back for the Eagles again this fall and will benefit from running behind an offensive line that returns four starters from the spring.
“I’m really excited about our offensive line,” Johnson said. “(Brown and Hill) feel more comfortable, they feel more confident, so going into practice and still teaching and still coaching like you do, but it’s just different. You’re not having to go over the same things with them. It’s just different for them. It just clicks, and then they start teaching others.”
Brown was a second-team all-SOC selection last year after rushing for nearly 500 yards and eight touchdowns, freeing up Hill to concentrate on linebacker duties to also earn second-team honors there. Hill was the team’s leading rusher in 2019.
Johnson also has plenty of playmakers at the wide receiver position back this fall, led by senior Jimmie Copeland and juniors Wyatt Graves and Josh Jackson.
Who will be throwing them the ball is a three-man race that Johnson described as “neck and neck” entering the final days of preseason camp.
The Eagles have returners who both saw action last season in sophomore Bryton Livingston and junior Dawson Foulon, and added to the mix is 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior Caiden Lacey, a transfer from North Medford who grew up in Eagle Point and played youth football with much of the Eagles’ roster.
“We feel comfortable with all three of them, without question,” Johnson said. “Caiden is the bigger quarterback and he’s got a great arm and does a great job with progressions. Dawson’s accountable and a game manager, and I definitely feel comfortable with him. Bryton I haven’t been able to see (due to injury), but he had that experience from his freshman year on varsity, so we really want to see him and hopefully we get him back.”
Hill returns as the Eagles’ undisputed leader and emotional spark plug on defense at middle linebacker. A three-year starter on defense for the Eagles, Hill has “kind of been doing it on his own and is taking the reins” when it comes to getting the defense prepared before each play, according to Johnson.
Just like on offense, Hill will have plenty of familiar faces around him, with Eagle Point graduating just two seniors from last season’s defensive unit.
The hope is that that much retention on both sides of the ball will help the Eagles pick up a few more wins than they did a few months ago.
They know one thing’s for sure: This Eagle Point football team is more experienced than the last one, and it’s not just because they’re all a few months older and now a grade higher up in high school.
“It’s hard to say where they are with experience until they get out there in Week 1,” Johnson said. “That’s where it’s truly going to show their confidence level and how they compete, but we’re excited for them. We’re really excited just as a whole program.”
Erik Johnson (third year, 3-12)
ASSISTANTS: Trampis Waite (offensive coordinator), Tyson Wolfe (defensive coordinator), Josh Graves (assistant head coach), Nate Helwig (JV head coach), Rick O’Callahan (JV offensive coordinator), Jory Foulon (JV assistant head coach), Rob Cowden (receivers), Joe Meerten (defensive line).
2020-21 OVERALL RECORD: 1-5
PREDICTED FINISH THIS YEAR: Sixth.
Eagle Point Opponents
34 Klamath Union 8
29 Redmond 27
20 Springfield 27
7 Thurston 50
20 South Eugene 56
0 Ashland 48
13 Churchill 44
0 Crater 56
19 North Eugene 42
Eagle Point Opponents
24 Springfield 7
0 Mazama 63
7 South Medford 34
7 Crater 24
24 Grants Pass 49
26 Willamette 34
OFFENSE (9): Lineman David Johnson (6-3, 260, sr.), lineman Ethan Bodenbender (6-0, 230, sr.), lineman Kevin Turcios (5-10, 230, sr.), lineman Luis Uribe (6-0, 220, sr.), running back David Brown (6-0, 160, jr.), running back/receiver Isaiah Hill (5-9, 155, jr.), receiver Jimmie Copeland (6-1, 180, sr.), receiver Wyatt Graves (6-3, 175, jr.), receiver Josh Jackson (6-2, 175, jr.).
DEFENSE (9): Defensive back Alex Smith (5-10, 165, sr.), defensive back Anthony Milian (5-11, 165, sr.), linebacker Ethan Moody (6-0, 170, sr.), safety Triston McGuire (5-10, 165, sr.), lineman Nathan Cordova (6-2, 280 jr.), linebacker Isaiah Hill, defensive back Josh Jackson, linebacker Wyatt Graves.
Quarterback/defensive line Caiden Lacey (6-3, 210, jr.), quarterback Bryton Livingston (5-11, 160, so.), quarterback Dawson Foulon (6-2, 175, jr.), receiver/safety Logan Cardwell (6-0, 155, sr.), placekicker Jeremiah Cordle (5-10, 150, so.).
Sept. 3 at Churchill, 7 p.m.
Sept. 10 SPRINGFIELD, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 at Willamette, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 at Mazama, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 THURSTON, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 CRATER, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Ashland, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 NORTH BEND, 7 p.m.
Reach Danny Penza at 541-776-4469 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.