By Jeremy McDonald
ADAIR VILLAGE, Ore.– It was the first-time that the young Gervais Cougars got to suit up and pop those pads for the first time this season at the Santiam Christian Jamboree Friday night.
Head Coach Josh Crawford told the team that two-, all-three of the team’s that they faced Friday in the host-Eagles, Yamhill-Carlton and Molalla, will be some of the toughest challenge they’ll face this season and will be a taste for what is to come with the Kennedy’s and Santiam’s this season.
But, as with any young team eager to start, Gervais had some growing pains to work through. Jumping before the snap, ball control, it was all just an opportunity to learn as Crawford pointed out the scoreboard that, hey it’s a jamboree and nothing more than a learning tool for Week 1.
“These three teams, like I said in our little huddle at the end are better than…two of the three are better than any team we’re going to face all year I think,” said head Coach Josh Crawford. “I thought we played really well. It’s really crucial and we got to get them hyped back up even more, Game 1 is always an important game as it’s the first one of the year. So we want to start off with a win.”
And the scrappiness of this team showed in glimpses. Slowing Santiam Christian’s high-powered offense to making them work in the red-zone towards the end of the Cougs scrimmage with them as Gervais found opportunities to get themselves in the right spots with they played cleanly to the ball defensively.
Offensively, the run game that Crawford has brought into the program has possibly found it’s next workhorse in sophomore Damian Tavera at running back behind sophomore quarterback Reynaldo Marruto.
Tavera overcame a slowly start to the jamboree as by the end, looked like a power running back as he fought for yardage against the Tigers, Indians and Eagles Friday night.
“It was good, got to feel some real hits. So it got me warmed-up a little bit and then I started getting into it, started running with the ball with people on me so it was a really good experience,” said Tavera.
One thing Tavera mentioned they could work on entering their first game of the season is their blocking game as Tavera found himself at times trying to find a opening to run through as they head back to practice.
“More blocking and lead blockers, that’ll be a good thing that we could work on to pride ourselves on this season,” said Tavera.
Jeremiah Studer got a few carries from the fullback position Friday as well.
Over the last two years entering August 31 match-up, Gervais has had the Royals number, taking the 2016 meeting 20-14 and the 2017 meeting 68-20 as they hope to make it three-in-a-row against Portland Christian in 2018. But this upcoming week of practice is going to be important in making the corrections and improving from Friday in order to make it happen.
“It’s very crucial, we all know it’s a very winnable game. But it just comes down to who wants it more and I believe we want it more,” said Alejandro Contreras. “It’s great to get the tough competition and we need it in order to face up against tougher teams like Kennedy and Santiam.”