No Salem-Keizer area school has been more dominant in recent years than the West Salem Titans. Head coach Shawn Stanley’s squad has gone a combined 15-2 in the 2021 spring and fall seasons.
But they won’t have many guys that played key roles in any of those wins.
The Titans graduated 11 of 11 starters on offense, and return only three starters on defense.
However, it would seem that the Titans have the talent to quickly reload the roster.
“We’ve had really successful J.V. programs and kids that bought into getting to play on Thursdays and developing experience and confidence on a Thursday night, waiting their turn and knowing it’s going to pay off when they play on Friday nights,” Stanley said. “I’ve had years like this, never this much inexperience, but our kids always seem to respond, our coaches respond.”
The West Salem J.V. team had 19 juniors on it last season, so youth is not a problem for Stanley despite their lack of experience on Fridays.
The Titans bring in a big piece from outside as well with the transfer of senior Braiden Copeland from McNary. Copeland, a 6-foot-2-inch, 200 pound receiver, was considered one of the top talents in the area, and his interest in the EMT program offered at West Salem brings his talents over to Stanley and the Titans.
Copeland spent three years in the McNary system, and has two completely different schemes to learn at West Salem.
“The defense is a lot more complicated, offense is nice, developed,” Copeland said. “It’s taken some time to get used to, but I’m liking it.”
While Copeland is the biggest, the West Salem receiving corp boasts a slew of tall, athletic targets for sophomore quarterback Kaden Martirano to use. While he may be young, Stanley is excited and impressed by his new quarterback.
“Just his maturity, decision making,” Stanley said. “He’s going to be something special for us.”
One of those other receiving options for Martirano is Ugochukwu Odoemelam, a junior. Stanley said he was impressed with Odoemelam’s development over the summer, something Odoemelam credits to his time playing seven-on-sevens with Team Alpha. He said he really focused on his attention to detail.
Even if he can reload all the talent last, Stanley knows this season has its challenges ahead of it. Mainly, the new conference and the new set of opponents that comes with it.
“The conference brings in some other tough competitors for sure,” Stanley said. “In our own league, yeah, we lose the Bend schools, but I think North Salem is much improved, has a lot of talent. The southern Oregon schools have traditionally been pretty good. Sheldon is one of the most successful programs in the state. North Medford on the rise, Roseburg traditionally strong. Our league gets tougher, not just because there’s 10 schools.”
And things won’t start easy for Stanley and the Titans. They open the season with a tough stretch. The season opens at Sherwood in a rematch of the second round playoff matchup that WesT Salem lost last season, then up to Lake Oswego before North Medford comes to town, followed by a trip down to Grants Pass.
“Not to slight the rest of our schedule which has its definite challenges, but that starting stretch, for a team that’s inexperienced, is definitely a challenge,” Stanley said.