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BANDON - Aaron Freitag looked out at his football team practicing Monday afternoon with a smile on his face.

The Tigers had 32 players for the opening day — more than Bandon had at the end of the season last year — with several more expected.

“I’m excited,” he said. “I’m shooting for 40.”

That number would enable the Tigers to have a strong JV squad, giving all the players game experience every week.

Plus, after being heavily reliant on sophomores and freshmen the past two years, Freitag is excited about the makeup of the group.

“This year, I feel like we have a varsity team,” he said. “I have a few sophomores and juniors who are starting to look like varsity players.”

Bandon also got a couple of transfers in from Pacific who will make a big impact.

The Tigers return a bunch of players with varsity experience, though Freitag would like to find another running back to fill his three-back rotation behind quarterback Braydon Freitag.

Braydon, who will be a four-year starter at the position, has a lot of weapons to work with.

They will be operating behind what Aaron Freitag described as Bandon’s best line in several years.

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But the coach is most excited about Bandon’s defense, which was one of the stingiest in the state and should get better with more experience.

“I love defense,” he said. “You can’t be on defense all the time and win football games, but I love when we are on defense.”

The Tigers have nearly two weeks of practice to get ready for their first action, a jamboree in Florence next Friday that will include three larger schools — the host Vikings, Pleasant Hill and Marshfield.

“It’s going to give us a good test,” Freitag said. “I’m all for it.”

The players are excited about practice being underway again.

“I can’t wait,” said sophomore Johnny Helms, one of the leaders on the line. “I think we’re going to do good.”

The biggest goal for the group is to host a playoff game after being on the road for the playoffs the past two years.

“We’ve had to travel,” said junior Wyatt Dyer. “We want to have it in our stadium.”

The Tigers have the potential, if they keep their focus in the right place, their quarterback said.

“Mentality is the biggest part of it,” Braydon Freitag said. “We have to have the will to win. The work ethic has to be there every practice — and the self-discipline.”

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