By Rusty Rae • Of the News-Register • 

Young Grizzlies seek improvement

Rusty Rae/News-Register##
The Grizzlies’ defense has a propensity to become the McNasties, with aggressive gang tackling.
Rusty Rae/News-Register## The Grizzlies’ defense has a propensity to become the McNasties, with aggressive gang tackling.

McMinnville head football coach Ryan McIrvin may not be familiar with the 1960s Clint Eastwood movie “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” but at times during practice last week he might have thought he was living through a replay as he watched his Grizzlies prepare for their first competition.

That isn’t to say that every football coach in Oregon isn’t experiencing at least some of McIrvin’s reaction, as teams battled through the August heat and two-a-days, preparing for the opening of the season. Wednesday marked the last of the daily doubles for the team, and the last ever for seniors.

This year’s version of the Grizzly football team plays for the first time tonight at the Centennial Jamboree, where they will test themselves against three other teams. First game is scheduled for 6 p.m.

The Grizzlies are young, for sure, and the major challenge for McIrvin and his staff is preparing raw talent for the glimmer of Friday-night-lights.

“After reviewing the film of our scrimmage Saturday, what we saw was a mixed bag of performance. There are times when we looked like we knew what we were doing, and at other times we just shot ourselves in the foot,” McIrvin said.

The good represents definite progress made in terms of this young group of Grizzlies being ready for the big stage of Friday night competition. The offense has at times looked dominating, and the offensive line has the potential to be an imposing force.

One member of the offensive line who impresses McIrvin and staff is junior Sam Keikala, who McIrvin believes has shown significant improvement in his play since the start of camp.

“Sam is someone who we have had our eye on, and over the last week something just clicked for him. He’s become a physical force on the line, and as his confidence has grown he is quicker off the ball and is playing faster,” McIrvin said.

Another who has caught the eye of McIrvin is Brantley Seehawer, one of three in a battle for the starting quarterback position. However, McIrvin said Seehawer may have found his starting niche at outside linebacker.

“Brantley has shown us he can play several different positions, but his improvement at outside linebacker has filled a key role on defense for us,” McIrvin said.

Defensively, McMinnville has the potential to be the McNasties. Young though they are, and out of position at times, this group appears to love to attack ball carriers, gang-tackling and devouring running backs with a fervor.

The Grizzlies’ quarterback battle has continued, and McIrvin said it, and some of the other position contests may continue well into the first game of the season. Thus far Sam DuPuis, Isaac Alexander, and Seehawer have all split reps.

In the area of bad, McIrvin said the team is still looking for a punter and thus far the play has been inconsistent. The Grizzlies are replacing the all-GVC play of Colton Ramos, currently kicking for Linfield.

“At times, our kickers really boom the ball out of there, but at other times, we are not sure where the ball is going. It is a work in progress and something we are certainly working on regularly to improve – particularly in the area of consistency,” the Grizzly head coach said.

With respect to the ugly, the Grizzlies are breaking a pair of new centers and at times, notably, when the team has been running from the shotgun formation, the team has had issues with the exchange between the center and the QB.

“It isn’t pretty at times, but it is a part of the preseason, and something that just about every center goes through at one time or another in their career. It is an area of concentration for us and the guys are working hard on their consistency,” McIrvin said.

The Grizzlies will make the trip to Centennial Friday where they get 12 plays on offense and defense against the Eagles, a team that reached the second round of the state playoffs last season, and 5A schools Sandy and Mountain View.

McMinnville opens its regular season the following Friday with a game against Wilson at Wortman Stadium, 7 p.m.


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