NEWPORT — With just seven weeks to go before the Cubs host Tillamook in the first football game of the 2019 season, head coach Rod Losier is banking on young talent to carry the day.
Newport, 6-3 last year in 4A league play, forfeited 12 seniors to graduation in June. But Losier is already making good on those losses with a robust schedule of camps, cross-county scrimmages and three-hour daily practices to refine his returning players and polish raw talent.
In June, two dozen motivated Cubs traveled to George Fox College in Newberg, where they learned the science of football before tangling with oversized schools such as Gresham, Grant and Hillsboro.
“It was tough the first day,” chuckled Losier, a talented tackle in his own right who played on two national championship teams at Linfield College before signing a two-year deal with the Oregon Thunderbolts, a semi-pro team. “We had some pretty good competition that was quick, and the windows were a little smaller.”
Emerging from the college camp as the likely starting quarterback was incoming senior Austin Perry, a 6-foot, 10-inch running back and defensive linebacker on last year’s roster. Other returning players include wide receiver Ken Lehrer, running back Camden Galen, wide receiver Ashton Sampson, tight end Taylor Bergey, strong safety Jose Durantes, quarterback and defensive end Luke Losier, outside linebacker David Liulamaga, defensive linebacker Sam Watson, tackle Nick Rozell and center Steven Boys.
From the junior varsity squad, Louie Schultze will step into a defensive back spot, and Alex Galacia will likely play outside linebacker. Seniors new to the Cub roster will include Liam Versteeg at guard or center and Korben Finley, a transfer from Waldport, at guard or tackle.
The Cubs rocked the 4A conference in 2018 when they won their first six games and were ranked among the top three teams in the state for offensive stats.
Losier said he is still recruiting and hopes to have a roster of 40 players when official practice starts Aug. 19.
“All sports have a lot of value, but what sets football apart is the ‘teamness,’” he reflected. “Whether you’re tall, short or small, your average player can make that key play that decides the game.”
The three-hour sessions will be open to the public. But with an early start that includes camps and barbells, Losier intends to be ready for the likes of Sweet Home, Cascade and Stayton — teams with a long tradition of winning football games.
Newport faces its first opponent at home, when Tillamook visits on Sept. 6 at 7 p.m.
“It will be a good matchup,” said Losier, in his sixth year as head coach. “They’re kind of like us, always managing to compete well.”