By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
South Salem head coach Scott Dufault is pleased with his starting lineup.
But if the Saxons are going to improve on last season’s mark, when they finished 4-6 and where eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, they are going to have to develop more depth.
“I think the more that we get closer to having a solid two-deep the better we’re going to be and at this level you’ve got to be able to have that,” Dufault said. “We think we have some answers. They’re just young.”
The strength of the Saxons should be their defensive front seven, which returns six varsity players, including three-year starters Josh Raynak at middle linebacker and Ashton Adams on the line.
Adams, a First Team All-Greater Valley Conference selection at offensive tackle last season, has Division-I offers from Air Force, Utah State, Nevada, Portland State, Georgetown and Idaho.
Brock Hale and Diego Fuimaono return at defensive end. Both will also start at tight end.
“The two tight ends (Hale and Fuimaono) are really good and we’ll try to utilize them at the same time a fair amount,” Dufault said.
Morgan Bice, a three-year starter at safety, will lead a young secondary.
On offense, senior Elijah Enomoto-Haole returns at quarterback in his third season.
He’ll be protected by Adams as well as center Sangato Letisi and guard Colin Bartolome, who also both started last year.
The Saxons will use a committee approach at running back with junior Ryan Rickman getting the bulk of carries. Rickman will also play linebacker, where he started last year.
“I think he’s going to have a breakout year,” Dufault said of Rickman.
Parker Johnson is another junior linebacker who got varsity action last year, including 10 tackles in the playoff lost to Central Catholic.
Raynak, who has primarily played on defense, will also get carries for South Salem. Jamal Bailey is another player who can run the ball.
Like their secondary, the Saxons are inexperienced at wide receiver but have options in senior Brayden Neuharth and sophomore Gabe Johnson, whose father Dave won a bronze medal in the decathlon during the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.
“We’re pretty young at wide receiver but more athletic than we’ve been in awhile,” Dufault said. “We’ve got to stay healthy and develop some depth but if we can do those two things by the time we hit midseason and get into the conference schedule, I think we’ll be alright.”