The Nyssa Bulldogs at the ready during practice. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

NYSSA – The Nyssa Bulldogs in many ways are in a similar spot as Vale. The Bulldogs, who ended the 2018 season 7-3 with a quarterfinal playoff loss to Amity, have more than 50 players out for the 2019 season, said coach Lee Long.

“I think we are more fortunate than other places,” said Long. “Everywhere is struggling with numbers, but especially in rural areas.”

The Bulldogs will begin the season without standout running back JoJo Sanchez, who graduated, but Long is confident because he will have eight returning starters on offense and 11 on defense.

“He (Sanchez) carried us a long way so, in a way, we were one-dimensional,” said Long.

This year, said Long, the Bulldogs will have to be more “dynamic.”

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“We just can’t run the ball and let people put eight or nine in the box. We have to be diversified and have to be able to keep people honest and spread it out,” said Long.

Long said the Bulldogs will be able to rely on some young and capable talent, including sophomore quarterback Landon McDowell and junior running back Caleb Benson.

Benson proved crucial last year as a secondary weapon to Sanchez. Long said by the fourth game of the season 2018 Benson already amassed more than 700 yards rushing.

Long said toward the end of the 2018 season McDowell “really came on.”

“He has that experience. He is not just a sophomore with no varsity experience, but he also has playoff experience,” said Long.

Long said three of Nyssa’s five starting offensive linemen will be back for the 2019 season.

“The good news is when you have the horses to run the race you have a chance,” said Long.

Long said he expects Vale to be the team to beat in the Eastern Oregon League but also expects Burns to be in the running for a top league slot.

With a pre-season schedule that Long said is “manageable” Nyssa could be in the driver’s seat when it opens league play against the Vikings.

“We will definitely have an opportunity to be in the mix this year,” said Long.

Contact: Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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