REEDSPORT — It’s hard to miss the Reedsport offensive linemen. It is not just because the team’s starting unit is, on average, 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds but because the roster seems to be chock full of linemen.
“It feels like almost half the team is made up of offensive linemen,” said second-year head coach Boe Pickett. “I’m just looking at that like, ‘Oh yeah, let’s go.’”
Reedsport's Kaileb Pickett fakes a handoff to Kai Royle during practice Aug. 28 at Reedsport High School.
For Pickett and the Brave this is great news after last season’s linemen, and team as a whole, limped their way to the end of the 2-7 season. Reedsport finished last year with 24 players on the roster, half of which were freshmen. Since then, Pickett has been recruiting across campus looking for athletes, former football players and anyone else who is ready to put on the red and black.
While teams across the state and in Reedsport’s league are struggling for numbers, entering the season the Brave’s roster is healthy with over 30 players on the team and the possibility of a few more joining. With a full cast ready to go, the engine that will make the team go is that big group up front. Returning from injury after missing all of last season will be senior guard Jacob Chaney, who has seen the team go through some struggles in this position.
“For me, the last football game I played in, a bunch of guys were hurt. We were playing in the state playoffs and on my left and right, had a kid that was about 5-5 and a kid that was about 5-6,” recalled Chaney. “To have this, I’m just like, this is awesome. I have people there that are willing and able to block with me.”
Chaney was forced to miss all of the 2018 season after tearing his labrum during basketball in the winter of that same year. Injured during a practice, he continued to play not only for the rest of that practice but also for the forthcoming baseball season, in which he was the team’s second pitcher. The tear was to his pitching arm.
Now with two healthy arms, Chaney, is ready to be in the heart of the action.
“I’m ready to put the pads on, that’s what I’m ready for. I know the game of football, I’m ready to hit. So whenever we put the pads on that’s when I’m going to be jittering. I’m excited, it’s been two years,” he said.
Joining Chaney on the line will be the likes of seniors Chris Reed and Kahnor Pickett, sophomore Mason Gallo-Rochon and transfer Phillip Taylor.
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“Basically, the line last year fell apart a little bit just because it was a lack of practice that we could get live. We could only do a certain amount because of injuries and player numbers at line where this year we have all that so we can kind of build the energy,” said Kahnor Pickett. “We can be the moving wall destroying people and letting our running backs do what they do behind us.”
Behind that offensive line will be Kaileb Pickett at quarterback and Miguel Velasquez and returning starter Alex Carson at running back. The offense will be assisted by Tyler Thornton, who was at Marshfield last fall, at receiver with tight end Javier Analco, who also puts time in at punter and kicker.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team will be anchored again by the play of the line. The plan is for at least two linemen who won’t be starting on offense, to start on defense. Filling out the rest of the defense will be Ethan Logo at corner, Thornton at safety and Derek Johnson, Carson and Kahnor Pickett at linebacker.
But the biggest change for the defense is with play calling. While head coach Pickett was often calling offensive and defensive plays a season ago, help has come in the form of assistant coach Bill Shaw. For the last 10 years Shaw has been head coach of the eight-man team at Elkton High School. Prior to that he spent a decade with standard 11-man teams.
“I forgot what it was like to have cover over the top of your defense,” Shaw said of the difference between 11-man and eight-man. “It’s so hard to put a safety in in an eight-man scheme. You’ve got to funnel them in the middle of the field. I’m excited to give this a go.”
Feeling at home on the defensive side, Shaw is excited to apply pressure and make opposing teams uncomfortable. Just as he did at Elkton, he is looking to take risks in order to create chances to get sacks or interceptions and force fumbles. But to do that, he is looking for players with a certain mindset.
Reedsport players drive a sled during an Aug. 28 at practice at Reedsport High School.
“People use crazy words but defense is about violent contact, you’re either going to hit or be hit. It’s your choice. Either someone is going to come at you or you’re going to fly up in there and do something,” said Shaw. “And so you know, it takes a strong mentality to put your nose in there and risk seeing a flash of light.”
After finishing 2-7 and winless in league, there are varied expectations across the team. While some players have realistic-seeming hopes of getting back to .500, head coach Boe Pickett has higher aspirations.
“We’re shooting for league, that’s the goal. We’re shooting for league and we’re shooting to go into playoffs and go deep,” he said. “I told the kids on the very first day, expect to play until late November. That’s our goal, to play until Thanksgiving, that’s the goal every season.”