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Eagle Point senior Tyrone Holmes busts through the offensive line, while Coach Jacob Schauffler (far right) watches on, during practice at EPHS on Wednesday, August 24, 2011.

A new home for Eagles

EAGLE POINT — Jacob Schauffler won't have to tweak the game plan too much this season.

Although his Eagle Point football team joins a new league this season — the Midwestern League — the Eagles are plenty familiar with each of their six new conference foes after seeing each one last season.

"We basically played in the league without being in the league last year," says Schauffler, now in his fourth year at Eagle Point.

The Eagles, along with fellow Southern Oregon Hybrid Class 5A foe Ashland, are now official members of the eight-team MWL.

Last season, Eagle Point and the Grizzlies had players voted to the all-league teams.

They just weren't official members.

"We petitioned the OSAA last year but they turned us down," says Schauffler. "I was all for (joining). I like the competition, the league as a whole. It gives you a chance to play for a league championship."

And Schauffler may have the pieces to do some damage this season.

Despite losing their quarterback (Shane Bluhm) and top receiver (Aaron Foster) to graduation, the Eagles were picked by the league coaches to finish in a tie for second with Churchill behind Marist.

Eagle Point, which received one first-place vote, returns a host of experienced linemen to clear space in their spread offense.

Key among the returning behemoths is 6-foot-4, 245-pound senior Tyrone Holmes.

The physical offensive tackle and speedy defensive end, who won the Class 5A shot put title last spring, has had offers from five different Division 1 colleges, Schauffler says.

"He's very athletic and gets after it pretty hard," says Schauffler.

Holmes, one of eight EP linemen who returns with starting experience, is also getting praise from other coaches in the MWL.

"Tyrone Holmes is a complete stud," says Frank Geske, the fourth-year coach of defending league champion and 5A state runner-up Marist. "I've been touting that kid since last year to every college guy and college service I know."

Holmes will have plenty of veteran help on both sides of the ball.

Specifically on offense, where tackles Trevor Olsen (6-0, 225) and Manny Valdovinos (5-10, 275), guards Brandon Dale (6-0, 200), Nick Owens (6-2, 235) and Bryan Strong (5-10, 225), and center Hunter DeLange (6-3, 270) all return to bolster the attack.

In the backfield, Eagle Point senior Daniel Morgan ventures over to quarterback where he'll replace Bluhm.

Morgan, at 6-0, 200 pounds, will be a sturdy presence for the Eagles.

"He's been a backup the last two years," says Schauffler of Morgan. "I think he can step up and fill that role. He's a good athlete, has a strong arm and can do a lot of things very well.

"I'm hopeful he's looking forward to the challenge."

Morgan's main targets boast length and speed.

Starting with length, Zach Reed (6-9, 210) is a mismatch Schauffler hopes the Eagles can take advantage of.

"He's a basketball player, so he's pretty good with his hands," Schauffler says. "He caught some balls for us last year but, to be honest, we had a decent number of receivers last year so we didn't really need him. He'll get plenty of action this year."

Providing both speed and length will be senior Loren Nesberg (6-2, 200), juniors Kyle Zerger (6-1, 190) and Brandon Wilson (6-2, 185) and sophomore Carlos Flores (6-1, 185).

At running back, the Eagles will mix junior Caleb Ash (5-10, 190), who Schauffler calls the fastest guy on the team, with shifty junior Jakob Combs (5-8, 175) and the bruising running style of senior Garrett Snow (6-1, 225).

Defensively, Holmes and Reed, who played in the backfield last season, will anchor the end positions, while Morgan, Snow and Ash return at linebacker. Junior Johnny Wilkerson also returns after suffering through an injury plagued sophomore campaign.

Nesberg heads up a deep defensive backfield that also includes Zerger, senior Julian Ramirez and juniors Blade Rittiman, Jesse Sattler and Brandon Wilson.

Schauffler expects the depth that the program has built up the last few years to be the difference for this year's squad.

"It's one of those things where we've gotten to a point in our program where sophomores don't need to start," says the coach. "It's the first time since I've been here where we don't have sophomores starting anywhere on Day 1. We have so many strong juniors and seniors.

"We do have quite a bit of depth and that's exciting for us and just the program as a whole."

Reach reporter Kevin Goff at 541-776-4483, or email kgoff@mailtribune.com

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