Nyssa’s Bulldogs do calisthenic workouts at a recent practice in the school gymnasium. (The Enterprise/Carolyn Agrimis)
NYSSA – The Nyssa football team will start this season with eight returning starters from a squad that finished 5-0 in league play and made it deep into the playoffs last year.
The Bulldogs gained valuable postseason experience in 2017 as they reached the quarterfinals before losing a home stand to Rainier. That experience coupled with domination of the Eastern Oregon League means this is not a team searching for an identity.
“I am pleased about the attitude of our program. We have really fun kids really working hard,” said Coach Lee Long.
He said practices are going well and his attitude is: so far, so good.
“We are farther ahead at this point than we have been in a few years,” he said.
Long is impressed with his team’s dedication.
“Our kids really committed this summer,” said Long.
The Bulldogs open the 2018 gridiron campaign by hosting a jamboree at 6 p.m. Friday.
Their season begins without a key starter from last year. Quarterback Boston Thompson, who graduated last spring, guided the offense for two seasons.
Long’s pick to replace Thompson – senior Ethan Draper – has game experience although not much at the varsity level.
Long said Draper’s lone start in 2017 showed promise.
“He managed well enough and we won,” Long said of the Parma game.
The Bulldogs have senior linebacker JoJo Sanchez back this year. Sanchez – a first-team, all-state pick in 2017 – also will see plenty of playing time on offense, said Long.
Sanchez brings positives to any game, said Long, with his athletic ability and football know-how.
“He is doing quite well. He fits the mold. He does well in school and is coachable. He will play some defensive end for us as well. Offensively he is universal,” said Long.
Sanchez will also anchor Nyssa’s linebackers, a group Long said is solid.
“They are not only good, but they are athletic, play multiple sports and the lowest GPA with them is 3.9,” said Long.
Long said knowing his linebackers will bend but not break is encouraging.
“Any one of those guys can manage a situation,” said Long.
He also believes his receiving corps will be strong.
“We have a couple of really good receivers,” said Long.
Long said the league will shape up this year much as it did in 2017 where each game can be crucial. League play, he said, is a challenge every week because each team fields a unique offense.
But that can be an advantage in the postseason, said Long.
“The part I like in preparing for all of that is if we do well, we are familiar with almost anything you can see,” said Long.
He voiced only one concern.
“I worry about what every guy our size worries about – staying healthy. At this level you are an injury or two away from trying to survive,” said Long.
Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.