Coming off a 2010 state championship, the Baker Bulldogs will remain the kings of the Greater Oregon League until somebody can knock them from their throne.
Despite losing 17 seniors to graduation, the Bulldogs will again field one of the toughest teams in the state in head coach Dave Johnsons ninth year.
On offense the Bulldogs will need to replace multi-dimensional quarterback Jesse Brown and although 2010 backup Braden Phillips (6-foot-4, 180 pounds) returns as a junior, the Bulldogs also have sophomore Nate Baeth (6-0, 150), who was a record-setting triple jumper in middle school and excelled at long jump, hurdles and the 400- and 800-meters.
Receiver Cody Osborn (6-1, 165) was a key contributer as a junior and will give the Bulldogs a reliable set of hands on the outside.
The Bulldogs need to fill holes at running back too and will need somebody to share carries with 6-0, 190-pound senior Colten Richards.
On defense, Osborn and senior Sam Averett (6-0, 160)?give the Bulldogs experience at defensive back and Phillips and junior Jorden Osborn (6-1, 255) will be key factors on the defensive line.
Baker is the only Class 4A team ranked in Maxpreps.coms preseason Oregon rankings at No. 11.
Ontario is the top contender to knock off the Bulldogs while Mac-Hi and La Grande will revive a tight race for third.
The Ontario Tigers big playoff loss to Baker is probably still stinging a little for the 21 returning Tiger seniors and juniors.
But like Baker, Ontario has key positions that need filled in on offense and defense.
Junior Trampis Waite (6-0, 163), served as top backup to graduated quarterback Andrew Maeda last season and will look to beat out classmate Tanner Alexander (5-10, 180) for the starting role.
Several running backs return but with few varsity carries and senior tight end Tony Machuca (5-10, 186) is their top returning receiver.
La Grande will be under the guidance of first-year head coach Dave Collinsworth, who coached the defensive line last season, and will need to replace their starting quarterback and running back.
Mac-Hi will be looking for its first league win since 2008 under fourth-year head coach Chuck Pease.
Coach: Chuck Pease, fourth year
Offense: Spread/Power Option
Key Players: QB/K Francisco Saldana, Sr; LB/RB Willie McCoy, Sr.; DB/WR/RB Patrick Sheets, Sr.; WR/RB Jesse Fields, Sr.; RB/LB Lance Warne, Sr.; OL Tucker Stringham, Sr.; DE Derek Richwine, Jr.; LB Trent Sandoval, Sr.; WR/RB Jake Morris, Sr.; DB Travis Hodgen, Sr.; LB?Eddie Saragoza, Sr.; DB Derek Domemskey, Sr.
Returning Starters: 18
2010 record: 3-6; 0-3 GOL
The Mac-Hi Pioneers continue to grow under Pease and had their largest turnout for summer weight lifting and conditioning in his fourth season as head coach.
Wins and losses come with what you put into it, Pease said. The kids are buying in and working hard.
Senior quarterback Francisco Saldana returns to run the offense and will have a full stable of senior runners to utilize in the power option and spread formations.
Saldana also is the teams kicker and Pease said a summer of hard work in that regard should instantly help the Pioneers improve on last seasons 221 points.
Pease said with such a large turnout he is running two to three deep at most defensive positions and hopes to have fewer two-way players this season.