TURNER – It’s a beginning of sorts for the Cascade High School football team.
The Cougars (1-0 Oregon West Conference, 2-2 overall), who routed Yamhill-Carlton, 60-8 at home Friday in their league opener, have a target on their backs as defending Class 4A state champions.
The state champs label brings expectations, but Cascade isn’t about living in the past.
“That was Chapter 1, coming out as the defending champs,” first-year head coach Brandon Bennett said after Friday’s win. “Chapter 2 is all about league and the next one’s Stayton.”
Cascade still wears its familiar black and gold uniforms, but there are many different players in key roles this season. That’s part of the landscape in high school sports.
The Cougars had five, first-team all-state selections last season, led by running back Garrett Coffey, who ran for more than 2,500 yards and was named 4A offensive player of the year.
Senior linebacker Cota Wakem is the only returning first-team all-state player on the Cougars’ roster, and more players are going both ways now by necessity.
“Garrett Coffey didn’t have to play defense. We had the luxury to do that,” said senior Dominic Federico, a three-year starter at center who also is starting at defensive tackle this season.
Cascade’s first state championship in football since 1980 under coach Karl Elliott will always provide a source of pride for the community, but musing about it won’t help the Cougars win games this season.
Cascade was coming off a 49-7 loss at North Bend and it was important to get back on track.
There were distractions leading up to Yamhill-Carlton game.
Because of the number of personal fouls penalties called on Cascade last week at North Bend, Bennett initially faced a one-game suspension from the OSAA. But upon further review by game officials and the OSAA, some of the penalties were overturned. Bennett was informed Thursday that he could coach his team against Yamhill-Carlton.
“It’s kind of nice to be vindicated,” Bennett said.
And now the focus is on the remainder of the season. The Cougars dominated on both sides of the ball Friday.
Senior running back Justin Marcott ran for 181 yards and three touchdowns, and junior quarterback Quinn Legner passed for two touchdowns and ran for a score.
Yamhill-Carlton (0-1 OWC, 1-3 overall) did not score an offensive touchdown.
“We needed some confidence after last week,” said senior wide receiver/safety Michael Biddington, whose 22-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the second quarter gave the Cougars a 20-0 lead. “It will help us move forward to Stayton.”
If figures to be an emotional game for Bennett, who was head coach for two seasons at Stayton before becoming Cascade’s offensive coordinator last season under Steve Turner.
Turner retired in January after producing a sterling 37-9 record in four seasons at Cascade with four state playoff appearances. Bennett was named his successor in February.
As for the difference between being head coach at Stayton and Cascade?
“It’s a different community and there’s a ton of support here. It’s ‘Coug Nation,” Bennett said.
Federico is well aware of Cascade’s football tradition. After all, the football field is named after his late grandfather, Leonard Federico.
Dominic Federico said “it’s a cool experience” to play at Federico Field, but he’s about staying in the moment. So are his teammates.
Chapter 2 is off to a good start for the Cougars.
“We have a ton of talent,” Bennett said. “We’ve just gotta get the guys on the right track and I think we’re one step closer to where we want to be.”
ghorowitz@StatesmanJournal.com, 503-399-6726 or Twitter.com/ghorowitz