Sports

Junior class poised to lift Springfield

SPRINGFIELD – Four years ago, the junior class now coming through Springfield won the seventh-grade championship.

A year later, they were eighth-grade champions. Now, they’re ready to put their stamp on a Millers program that hasn’t posted a winning record or reached the playoffs since 2015.

“We’ve been excited about this group the last couple of years,” Haley said. “It’s all starting to come together. Physically, they have the talent, but now, it’s understanding that varsity football is not all about physicality. Seeing them show up, work their butts off, and knowing how talented they are, that usually adds up to a lot of wins.”

The Millers won once on the field last season — their other two victories came via forfeit — and scored five touchdowns in eight games. That put tremendous pressure on a defense that was solid most weeks and posted a shutout in the only on-field victory, a 10-0 home win against North Bend.

In a Week 8 loss to Churchill, Springfield began to show an offensive identity that Haley hopes will carry to this season.

“Our older guys have been through so much adversity, we were never able to get into a rhythm during their time,” he said. “But by Week 8, as a young team playing a lot of sophomores, juniors, even a few freshmen — those guys had grown up.”

They also found their man at quarterback in Kasperek, who threw for a career-high 140 yards against Churchill and had the Millers leading 10-8 in the fourth quarter before the Lancers rallied for a 22-10 win.

“Caeleb is the unquestioned guy for us at quarterback,” Haley said. “The team rallied around him. They believe in him. He’s a hard worker. He’s selfless, and he’s developed a ton this offseason, perfecting his craft. I think he will have a special year.”

The Millers have tough games at Thurston and vs. Crater this season.

Kasperek will have a bevy of skill position talent around him, led by Fotta, one of the team’s few seniors, about whom Haley said, “We’ve got to find ways to get the ball in his hands.” The line returns three starters, with Lomeli sliding to center and sophomore Kani Alani (5-11, 260) filling the other starting spot.

“I feel good about our first five there,” Haley said. “It’s now about developing depth and providing time for Caeleb to get the ball out.”

The defense was often tasked last season with keeping the Millers in games, but they shouldn’t have to lean as heavily on that side of the ball this year. If the offense can finish drives and put points on the board, a winning record and a playoff berth could be in the cards.

“Our offense has struggled the last couple of years, but I think we’re ready to take the next step. We learned last year that our defense is something that we can count on, and now having an offense that can match it, it just feels like we’re putting it all together — the coaching, operations, our players.

“I’m excited to see how it all turns out,” Haley said.