With new faces up and down the roster and last year’s championship season in the books, the Cottage Grove football team got to focus on this year’s team at Friday night’s jamboree as they prepare for the upcoming season.
“When you have as many new bodies as we have you kind of go into not knowing… that we’re not what we were last year but we don’t know how far we’re off. So it’s good to go out and play against another team tonight and get to hit and tackle and block against somebody else,” said head coach Gary Roberts.
With nine new starters on offense and eight on defense, the Lions hosted North Eugene and North Bend for 18 plays on each side of the ball. In the first matchup against the Highlanders, it was familiar faces striking on the second play from scrimmage as returning first team all-state quarterback Dylan Graves found honorable mention all-state receiver Erick Giffen for a 34-yard touchdown. The pair connected throughout the night and Giffen also had a touchdown against North Bend.
“Ever since I moved here from California, me and Erick just clicked as soon as I got here. We’ve been best friends ever since and me and him are the only returners from last year’s team playing on the field so we just kind of have that connection,” said Graves.
Graves was also impressed with the Cottage Grove offensive line that brings back no returning starters from last year’s team.
“In the first scrimmage against North [Eugene] our line really started out and pushed really hard and got a great push. We got a lot of good runs which was really surprising to me because against ourselves on the scout time sometimes they have a little bit of trouble getting that first push but they came out fired up and that’s what I loved about it,” said Graves.
The other scoring play for the Lions came from David Cox’s one-yard rushing touchdown.
The offense of North Eugene and North Bend both exposed breakdowns in the Cottage Grove defense during their matchups. The Highlanders scored three times while the Bulldogs found the end zone twice.
“Kind of sloppy,” Roberts said of the Lions offense and defense. “I told the kids at the end that if you would have looked at the jamboree film of last year and said, 'Hey, you guys, this team is going to win a state championship,' you wouldn’t have sounded very smart. Or maybe you would have been really smart because I would have said no way. We made a lot of mistakes last year in the jamboree. We did not look crisp and polished. And it’s the same tonight. We looked sloppy but it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary and it gives us room to build. We didn’t look terrible by any means.”
Now the Lions begin to look forward as they host Cascade on Friday night at 7 p.m. in their first game of the season.
“[Tonight] was a jamboree, obviously, so we were just focusing on getting better we weren’t focused on winning,” said Giffen. “I rallied the team together, me and Dylan both, and we had some conversations about what we need to improve on and how next week we just need to focus on we need to get a lot better defensive wise and offensively, we have a lot to do also. We just need to focus on Cascade and thinking about beating them.”