DUFUR – The four-year magic carpet ride known as the Dufur football team has been the benchmark for many 1A programs.
During their four consecutive title runs, the Rangers have gone 49-3 over the last four years, including 33 winds in, a row and dominated the Big Sky Conference with seven wins and one forfeit, and outscored opponents by a combined 330-82 margin to take league-championship honors.
Last year’s accomplishment was with 10 seniors spearheading the charge.
Reigning 1A Player of the Year Asa Farrell is the lone senior on a team that has 15 underclassmen and eight juniors at the start of the fall campaign.
Still, even with so much uncertainty surrounding the team, it doesn’t change the goal of the players.
“Every single year, all these other teams under-estimate us and winning all these state championships puts a target on our backs, so we have to come out and perform during practices like we are now,” said junior end Trey Darden. “We still have to get better and work on our game and try our best to make it as far as we can, obviously, and prove them wrong.”
Farrell is entrenched in his scatback role and Kaleb Pence is at fullback, giving 2018 National Coach of the Year Jack Henderson a thunder and lightning run attack to go along with the dual threat abilities of new quarterback Cooper Bales.
Frakes and company contributed great things for an offense that averaged 21 yards per pass and 7.7 yards per rush in 13 games, as the Ranger offense scored more than half of their 633 points in league action and, overall, had 4,515 yards of offense, 1781 through the air, on 136 attempts and 32 plays of 40 yards or more.
Bales soaked in as much as he could from Frakes and now he gets his first opportunity to lead this group to several scoring drives.
“I have high expectations for myself,” Bales said. “Obviously, the last couple of quarterbacks who have come through here were great players and led this team to great places. They have helped me. Working this offseason helped me get where I wanted to be as far as my speed, strength, and I think we can go a lot farther if we work hard, come ready in practice and play our hardest in every game.”
Dufur defensive coordinator C.S. Little has players to fill roles across the field, and now the hope is to get back to last year’s numbers, where the Rangers allowed two touchdowns or fewer in five of six league tilts.
“For us, we may not be as fast or as big, but we have players here that have a passion for the game,” Farrell said. “All we have to do is work our butts off and get out there and make plays. We practice to get better, and for us, we have been improving immensely. Our first practice wasn’t pretty, but then you improve and gain confidence and start believing in what you are doing. We can’t over-complicate it. We just treat this just like any football season and do what we know how to do best.”
Following this Friday’s opener against Adrian, Dufur heads to St. Paul for a rematch of last year’s state title game at 7 p.m. Friday.