Before their first kickoff, the Outlaws enter this season already lost.

Enterprise High School football needs direction. Nine seniors, most of them starters on the team, graduated. Then, three days before practices began, an automobile accident claimed the life of a rising star in Kasey O'Leary. And Nathan Lund, who had considered joining the team, suffered multiple broken bones in the crash and will miss the season.

The Outlaws will open their new season understandably distraught and lacking stability.

"Given the circumstances, with Kasey, last week was stressful," coach William Castilleja said. "We're working through it."

The Outlaws needed unity, something around which they could rally. Thanks to Angie Neil, the team will fashion stickers with O'Leary's No. 32 on the back of their helmets.

It's a tribute, common around sports. In baseball, the Baltimore Orioles adopted in 1988 thick black rings around their left sleeves with the initials "EBW" after their owner Edward Bennett Williams died. More than a decade later, they honored the passing of long time coach Cal Ripken, Sr. in similar fashion, with his No. 7.

Engulfed in emotions, the local boys found football to provide an outlet. The team faces a challenging season. With so many dependable veterans having graduated, the team is rebuilding. The younger players are smaller and lack experience. Enterprise plays its first district opponent, Union High, on Sept. 4. Until then, the Outlaws will continue learning and taking shape amid recent troubles. Once they step on the field and strap on their helmets, they find some focus.

Said Castilleja: "We want to honor Kasey with how we play."

Hector del Castillo is the Chieftain's sportswriter. E-mail comments and questions to hdelcastillo@wallowa.com.

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