The Cougars will be strong again.
Wallowa High School has assembled another powerful football team. Last year, the Cougars used their prolific offense to win six games and extended the season to a state championship playoff. They featured many seniors, including Tyler Harshfield. He put up the kind of numbers that made him a starting quarterback this summer in the Shrine East-West All-Star Game. It was easy to assume his graduation would set the Wallowa program back several steps. But more than 30 boys turned out at preseason practices.
"We've got more talent than we can put on the field," coach Bill Robb said. "They all work together. It's great to see. Everybody wants that W."
There's no opening at quarterback. Junior Dusty McDaniel returns after picking up lots of experience last year as Harshfield's back up. Wallowa frequently mounted big leads by halftime, giving McDaniel opportunities to work the second half. Even more impressive, he worked a lot of the playoff game at Crane after Harshfield suffered an injury. McDaniel threw two scoring passes.
"Dusty did a great job in that Crane game," Robb said. "If he was nervous, you couldn't tell. He was Cool Hand Luke."
McDaniel will engineer a talented offense. His throwing options include a couple of big targets: senior wide receiver Ronald Gladden and senior tight end Ian Parks. Both stand six-foot-five. Meanwhile, McDaniel could also hand the ball off to senior running Cody Green. The other receivers and backs include senior Billy Lee, senior Zach Staidle, junior Justin Gladden and sophomore Wesley Conrad.
The backfield gets to work with protection from a strong offensive line. Junior center Chris Wilks provides the snaps and blocks in between senior Tyler Chrisman, senior Devin Fletcher. Parks and Justin Gladden cover the ends.
On defense, Wallowa is deep. Senior Hunter Harvey, Chrisman and Parks hit the line. They are backed by Lee, Green and Staidle. Opposing receivers will have a tough time eluding the coverage by Ronald Gladden and Conrad.
In addition to the starters, Wallowa brings back many boys from last season. They include senior Conner Evans and senior Dustyn Britton. The juniors are Mitchell Swift, Glen Spang, Zach Cherry. There are also sophomores Trever Schaeffer and Cody Swift.
Meanwhile, Wallowa added several new faces to the program. Seniors Salvador Mendez and Forrest Cox joined the team. They came along with sophomores Daniel Mendez, Dalton Tanzey and Kylie Jennings. Robb recruited six freshmen: Chaz Murray, Cody McManus, Aaron Wallace, Patrick Rummell, Spencer Shelton and Gabe Renfroe.
The Cougars will open this season Sept. 4 at Dufur, where they will play against Triad. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.