It was an interesting 2017 football season for the Roseburg Indians.
I liked the way the Tribe competed for most of the season. Dave Heuberger’s second season as head coach — 3-6 overall and fifth in the Southwest Conference at 2-4 — looked much better than his first one, even with just seven seniors on the roster.
Heuberger had pretty much a brand new coaching staff.
Unfortunately, the Indians didn’t make the 32-team Class 6A playoff field. They had their chances. Two overtime losses to North Medford (Oct. 6) and North Salem (Oct. 27) prevented Roseburg from joining the postseason party for the first time since 2014.
An extra week of practice and a playoff game would’ve really helped this young team heading into next year.
The Indians are still learning how to finish games. They had a 14-point lead against Gresham in the season opener and lost, 21-14; were up 18 on North Medford and fell, 30-27; and couldn’t put North Salem away in regulation and lost, 34-28, in the regular season finale.
“We had some uncharacteristic fumbles (against North Salem) and that was a game we didn’t deserve to win,” said Heuberger. “We didn’t play well. You can spin it as a positive and say it’s nice to not play well and still be in an overtime game. It shows some growth, but it was definitely disappointing not to get that one.”
Reflecting on the season, Heuberger felt the program took some steps forward and I’m buying that.
“It was a growing year for us,” he said. “We took strides. A lot of those games are games we weren’t in the fourth quarter the year before. We’d have liked to seen bigger steps, but it definitely showed growth as a program to be in those situations.
“There weren’t a lot of seniors in that group, but I felt this year we laid a foundation. I don’t know in year one if we necessarily laid a foundation. You kind of sit back and get to know the program and community, but I felt we laid a foundation this year.”
Due to the small senior class and lack of depth, Roseburg started as many as nine sophomores at one point. It’s tough to win in any conference with that kind of youth.
Heuberger appreciated the contributions he received from the seniors — Garrett Russell (second-team all-SWC wide receiver), Brendan Ibarra (honorable mention wide receiver), Alex Reynaga, Terrell Jacks (honorable mention linebacker), Brandon Jeffers (honorable mention tight end), Tyler Sconce and Brody Black. Sconce was injured early in the season, but the others gave every ounce they had week in and week out.
“We called on those guys at the beginning and said we were going to ask a lot out of them this year,” Heuberger said. “They came out and played their butts off all year long. They’re smart kids ... they know where we’re at as a program and know they left it in good shape.
“Some of them maybe sacrificed playing both ways for us so we could have some of those games we had. Very selfless players across the board.”
The Indians have some talented players returning next season.
Junior Zack Mandera was selected a first-team all-conference linebacker and was the heart of the Roseburg defense. Junior Collin Warmouth started at quarterback and safety (honorable mention), and did some good things. Junior Thomas Ruth (honorable mention) was Roseburg’s most consistent offensive lineman. Sophomore running back Doran Gillespie (second-team all-SWC) is the real deal.
Hopefully, those key players can stay healthy next year. If they can and others can fill in around them, I see a playoff team in Roseburg.