By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Jay Minyard is 49-16 in six seasons as the head coach of Sprague High School.
But this season will likely be his toughest job as the Olympians return just three players who started on Friday nights a year ago.
“It’s the youngest team that I’ve had since I’ve been here, without a doubt,” Minyard said. “We’re so young and there’s so many kids that are going to be on the field for us that have not played on a Friday night before that it’s really hard to say what we’re going to look like. I like to think that we’re going to be pretty tough but you just never know.”
The strength of Sprague’s team should be on the line where seniors Eli Larson and Jacob Luna will play on both sides of the ball. Middle linebacker Landon Davis is the only other returning starter.
“Other than that, we are going to be new everywhere and every position is absolutely positively wide open,” Minyard said.
On defense, the Olympians must replace the production of defensive end Teagan Quitoriano, who will be a freshman at Oregon State.
Sprague will also have a new signal caller as Spencer Plant, back-to-back All-Greater Valley Conference First Team quarterback, graduated.
Three players, senior Ethan Flanigan, juniors Elias Polanski and Ethan Johnson, a transfer from West Salem, were competing for the starting job when practice began on Aug. 13.
Flanigan was thrust into action at the end of last season in a 56-7 loss to Jesuit in the second round of the state playoffs after Plant suffered a concussion in the first round. Flanigan completed just 5 of 16 passes for 36 yards in the rout.
“There’s not one that has a leg up on the other one,” Minyard said of the quarterback competition in early August.
Like most programs around the state, Sprague also doesn’t have the depth it’s had in previous seasons, with between 90-100 kids in the program compared to the usual 120-130.
But Minyard likes what he’s seen from the players this summer.
“We had great turnouts in our workouts and they’re excited for football,” he said. “That can do a lot of good things for a team. They’re just awesome to coach. They’re great kids.”
The Olympians will get tested early with games against Liberty, Lakeridge and Central Catholic to open the season. All three were playoff teams a year ago with Central Catholic advancing to the quarterfinals, falling by three points to state champion Clackamas.
“We’ll definitely find out pretty quick how good we are,” Minyard said.