ATHENA - The undefeated Weston-McEwen TigerScots are making a run during the Class 2A Oregon state football playoffs, after losing in the first round last season. The TigerScots raced past their 2011 first-round opponent, the No. 13-ranked Knappa Loggers, 48-14, at home last Saturday.
The No. 5-ranked TigerScots (10-0) take on the No. 4 Kennedy Trojans in Mt. Angel, Ore., at 1 p.m. Saturday. Mt. Angel is 20 miles northeast of Salem.
Kennedy (6-4) lost to the No. 1 team 2A team in the state, Scio, for the Tri-River Conference championship, 42-27.
The No. 2-ranked team in state, Gold Beach, also beat the Trojans, 40-28.
Three of Kennedy's losses came in non-league matchups, as they were 4-1 in Tri-River Conference play.
"Kennedy also played two top 3A teams (Horizon Christian-Tualatin and the Dayton Pirates) in their schedule," W-M head coach Kenzie Hansell said. "Kennedy has been good for years and is well coached. They have a great program. They have been there for years and we look forward to facing them. When you get to the quarterfinals, you'll face a team on the map like Kennedy and we're getting on the map."
The TigerScots are building a program of their own, and that is what fourth-year head coach Hansell is excited about.
"The youth coaches and junior high coaches are all doing a great job," Hansell said. "In helping us to build a program along with our high school coaching staff of seven."
Kennedy will be a good test for the TigerScots, as they've already seen in various film study sessions.
"I've been watching film all week and last week," W-M junior center Michael Guerrero said. "Talent-wise, Kennedy is probably the best team that we've faced all year. Not probably, they are."
Kennedy runs a three-back T-bone offense, while loading up the line and running the ball most of the time. The Trojans will also spread it out wide and run a three wide receiver set when they're ready to throw the ball.
"They have a big line but our line has such a great relationship," Guerrero said. "We know our assignments. If we don't do our assignments, it hurts the other linemen. This game will be a good test for our line."
A good comparison between the quarterfinal teams is in a familiar foe, the Heppner Mustangs. Kennedy came out on top of the Mustangs last week in the first round of the state playoffs, 35-12, and W-M beat Heppner 38-8 earlier on in the regular season.
"Kennedy is a good team," Hansell said. "They're in the quarterfinals for a reason. Once you get to where we're at in the season, every team is good, and they've earned the right to be here. With saying that, so have we."
"They're bigger, but we're faster," senior W-M nose tackle and right offensive tackle Riley Sederburg said. "We've got good defensive backs, linebackers and lineman. Dallas (Reich) and Elliot (Salter) are great, too."
W-M co-captains Salter, Reich, Sederburg, Guerrero and Jared Bond know they have to keep the TigerScots focused on preparing for the next game.
"The team listens to us captains," Sederburg said, "because they respect us and they have our respect. I try to get everyone to play attention and listen. I also get the team pumped on game day in the locker room."
The coaching staff and players have stressed unity throughout the season.
"We had some yelling and problems in the locker room in the past," Guerrero said. "But not this year. Everybody knows what we're going for. The league title was sweet, but we're not stopping at that."
Hansell has coached this group of 10 seniors since the seventh grade, when he was the middle school coach.
Hansell's "great group" of kids is 38 strong and have had a season in which they've yet to be challenged on the scoreboard for 48 minutes.
That progress may be attributed to years of work.
"I've liked playing football," Sederburg said, "since the fifth grade and being my senior year, I just want to leave it all out on the field. It is awesome and in a way sad, but look at the memories I've made."
W-M has made it to the state playoffs three consecutive years. There have been many fine memories along the way - the playoffs, beating 13-time consecutive league champion Heppner, an undefeated regular season with a league title, and even some memories on the lighter side.
In the third game of the season at Dayton, Wash., Guerrero was telling quarterback Reich that he'd been doing pretty well at center because of zero sacks on the year. Then, trouble hit; Guerrero had spoken too soon. On one of the first offensive plays of the game, Dayton's nose tackle hit Guerrero so hard that he fell back and sacked his own quarterback.
Another comical instance happened in the last game against Knappa, Guerrero recalls. Fullback Tyler Peterson flattened an opposing player and was quick to help him up before the play was over - an act of good sportsmanship that almost allowed the defender to make the tackle.
"It's definitely OK to be a good sport," Guerrero said. "But save it for after the whistle."
Guerrero knows that Hansell won't tolerate dirty play or unsportsmanlike conduct, and he believes that the community follows the team so closely because of good conduct off and on the field.
"If I didn't play sports," Guerrero said, "I might be getting into trouble or have bad grades. All 38 guys on the team are good students and good people. Anytime I think about getting into trouble, it comes to mind what coach Hansell would say, not what my parents would do, but how it might affect my team first."
"We all work together to win," Sederburg said. "But everybody motivates us - our fans, our coaches, and ourselves. We motivate each other and that is what drives us to get better every day."
No bigger responsibility could fall on the W-M linemen this game as they face a strong, big opponent in Kennedy.
Hansell attributes much of the team success to the W-M community and its fans.
"With this community, the kids think football, want football and talk football," he said. "Where we're on the road or not, everybody's goal is to be successful and do the best job we can. The community has backed us the entire season and offseason."