Friday, August 22, 2008

{rebel football}

Feeling of optimism for South Albany By Jesse Sowa
Albany Democrat-Herald
South Albany coach Tony Matta isn’t afraid to let his belief in his team be known.He sees the ability and expects his team to compete for a 5A football state playoff berth in the Mid-Willamette Conference.“Talent-wise, they’re a top four team, and now they just have to put in the work,” said Matta, in his first year as head coach after working as an assistant under Andy Lusco. “These guys, they aren’t shying away from the work.”Senior Michael VanDoren, whom Matta considers his leader of the defense at linebacker, says his coach’s confidence is an extra boost.“It makes us want to get it even more now,” he said.The Rebels have motivation from 2007 as well after finishing 5-5 overall and 3-4 in conference, one game out of the state playoffs. South lost three of its last four, all to playoff teams.Under Matta, the Rebels are transitioning away from a double-wing offense that included primarily running the ball to one that will feature more passing.Behind center will be junior Zac Hunter, a varsity reserve quarterback and starting defensive back last season.“He’s not inexperienced by any means, and he’s a good leader,” Matta said.One of Hunter’s primary targets will be senior Matt Savage, who was named the outstanding receiver at the Western Oregon camp in Monmouth earlier this summer.Added to the mix is senior Greg Hoover, a speedy wing and safety who missed most of last season with ankle and hamstring injuries. Hoover ran under 4.50 for 40 yards at the Western Oregon camp.“We’re going to be a lot more dangerous and unpredictable this year,” Hunter said. “We’re going to be throwing a lot of stuff at people we haven’t in the past few years.”Added Savage: “People are going to come out expecting the run, but we have a lot more.“Matta said seven-on-seven passing games this summer helped the transition.Players are steadily making progress.“We’ve got a ways to go, and it will be a work in progress early in the season,” Matta said.Matta is changing philosophy to allow players to start on both sides of the ball with hopes of raising the talent level on the field. Previously, South had 22 different starters, trying to keep players fresh.“We’ll get the best players out there,” Matta said. “Ultimately, if you’re the best kid on both sides of the ball, you’re going to play.“On defense, VanDoren disrupted offenses at the line of scrimmage last year. Matta is impressed by the senior’s work ethic.“He’s probably the hardest worker in the weight room,” Matta said of VanDoren, a two-time qualifier for the track and field state meet. “His intensity, he’s about intense as they come.”The Rebels have two other leaders in senior lineman Kyle Sprenkle and junior center TJ Chapman, Matta said.South opens the season Aug. 29 at home against Liberty. The Hillsboro school went 2-8 last year.But then the schedule gets significantly tougher, with a home game against Thurston of Springfield and a road game at Klamath Union in Klamath Falls. Both teams made the state playoffs last year.It’s been seven years since South made the state playoffs. Matta and the Rebels are confident this might just be the year.“We’re looking to do big things this year. We’re kind of out here to prove everyone wrong,” Hunter said. “No one really believes in us, but we believe in each other.”

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