“Finish every play! Finish every rep! Finish your homework!”
Those were orders called out by Grant Union head coach Jason Miller during last week’s practice as players ran through football drills.
With just two seniors this season — 11 graduated in June — the 22 varsity players have big cleats to fill.
Junior Drew Lusco is Grant Union’s only returning starter, and a handful of others have varsity experience.
“Drew Lusco is strong and experienced,” Miller said. “He has great size and is a good leader on the offensive and defensive line.”
Lusco said the team has some refining to do, but they’re “big on heart.”
“The whole team is working harder than anyone else in 2A right now,” he said.
Last year, Lusco was named to the All-State first team for defensive lineman and second team for offensive lineman.
Five others on the 2017 All-State list graduated, including wide receivers, defensive backs, a linebacker and a running back.
The Prospectors were Wapiti League champions last season, and ended their run at state in the quarterfinal round with a 50-14 loss to the Santiam Wolverines in John Day. Grant Union had eight wins and two losses on the season.
Grant Union lost last year’s starting quarterback Wade Reimers to graduation, and backup quarterback Kellen Shelley moved to Tillamook this summer.
This year’s seniors are Caleb Rand and Garrett Lenz, who is starting quarterback for the Prospectors.
Lenz played the position last year in some junior varsity games. Miller said that team performed well last season.
This year, there are not enough players to fill a junior varsity team.
“It’s just been a struggle to get guys out,” Miller said, adding some had a late start with practices because of finishing duties at the fair.
Lenz and juniors Russell Hodge and Taylor Hunt saw some varsity time last season. Hodge will be a running back and kicker.
“Taylor Hunt works hard and is linebacker and fullback, some offensive line,” Miller said. “He’s doing a great job stepping in and doing whatever we need.”
Other than those positions, “we’re still fighting for spots,” he said.
Hunt said although they’ve lost a lot of seniors, he’s excited to see what the defense will do this year.
“We have a lot of young kids willing to fill whatever they can,” he said.
“I’m just excited to see what this young team has in store for us,” Lenz said. “Heart and hard work is going to get us where we want to be.”
Andy Lusco is back as Grant Union defensive coordinator, and Tucker Wright is back as an assistant coach.
Justin Larson will be the Prospector junior high coach.
Grant Union competes in their first game of the season on the road at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, against the Knappa Loggers in Astoria.
The Prospectors’ first home game will be at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7, when they host defending 2A state champions the Monroe Dragons.
In league contests, Grant Union will be up against Heppner, Stanfield, Weston-McEwen and Riverside in Special District 6.
“Heppner is tough again,” Miller said, adding Stanfield and Weston-McEwen have improved.
Miller said he doesn’t know a lot about Riverside yet, but the team also has 22 players with no junior varsity team. They have four seniors and nine freshmen.
The Prospector roster includes six juniors, seven sophomores and seven freshmen.
“This group has been a lot of fun to coach, and they are all giving great effort,” Miller said. “I am looking forward to gaining valuable experience with our first few games.”
He said with many of the guys moving up from junior varsity to varsity, they’ll need to acclimate to the speed of a varsity game.
“Most have some experience; they’re just young and raw,” he said. “The kids have a great attitude and work hard. We have a lot of work to do.”
2018 Grant Union Prospector football schedule
Aug. 31: @ Knappa at 7 p.m.
Sept. 7: vs. Monroe at 6 p.m.
Sept. 15: vs. Gold Beach/Pacific at 2 p.m. at Summit High School in Bend
Sept. 21: vs. Umatilla at 7 p.m.
Sept. 28: @ Kennedy at 7 p.m., location TBA
Oct. 5: @ Stanfield at 7 p.m.
Oct. 12: vs. Riverside at 7 p.m.
Oct. 19: @ Heppner at 7 p.m.
Oct. 26: vs. Weston-McEwen at 7 p.m.