WEST SALEM — After one day to analyze the season-ending loss, West Salem football Shawn Stanley found himself studying a piece of paper. It showed a potential depth chart — starters and backups at each position — for next season.
“I’m looking at who we have coming back and whether some kids move a position,” Stanley said.
It wasn’t what the coach intended or wanted to be doing two days after the Class 6A second round. But, given West Salem’s 35-27 loss at home to Sherwood, it was one of the only things left to do while Sherwood plotted a game plan for Central Catholic in the quarterfinals.
Stanley’s depth chart showed more than two players — call them candidates — at the various spots on the field, but one thing was glaringly missing – returning first-teamers on one side of the ball.
“We’re graduating all 11 offensive starters,” he said.
That means it will be next man up for the Titans, and Stanley said he was looking forward to seeing who would take over and rise to the occasion.
The program doesn’t lack for players who have been grooming for varsity duty, nor does it lack players who have experienced some form of success on the gridiron.
The West Salem junior varsity was undefeated this year, and the freshman team went 8-1, dropping only its opening game to Tigard.
“Good players are on the way, and a lot of guys have been playing,” Stanley said. “I love the nucleus.”
The Titans are saying goodbye to senior quarterback Brooks Ferguson, a good passer and runner. He completed 59.9 percent of his throws this year for 1,550 yards and 10 touchdowns, with four interceptions. He also ran for 719 yards and 13 TDs.
The varsity starting corps could be saying hello to Kaden Martirano, a 6-2, 185-pound freshman QB. He started for the JV and served as a backup to Ferguson.
“He can throw it and run it,” Stanley said. “He’s a good, smart player.”
A handful of defensive starters figure to be back, led by solid cornerbacks Jameson Lowery and Roman Burrow, both to be seniors. The defensive line returns seniors-to-be Dmitri Trofimchik, Wyatt Jenks and Ty Amawattana.
The Titans were able to shuttle in substitutes on both defense and offense during their 9-2 season of 2021, and Stanley said he’d like to do the same thing next season, and keep the team’s basic look.
West Salem outgained its opponents in yards, 4,616 to 3,236, despite having about 200 fewer yards passing. On the ground, the Titans ran for 3,043 (277 per game) and held opponents to 1,479 (134). West Salem had 41 rushing touchdowns and gave up 17.
Senior Johnny Withers led the way among a solid corps of backs, producing 1,083 yards rushing on 142 carries and scoring 13 touchdowns. Senior Hudson Giertych had 869 rushing yards on 131 carries, with 12 touchdowns.
The run game is “kind of who we are,” Stanley said. “We’re able to throw it if we need to, but our calling card is on the ground with good running backs and with mixing in our quarterback.”
Senior Zach Dodsen-Green topped the receivers with 36 catches for 681 yards and seven touchdowns.
Stanley uses his defensive coaching base to help plot what formations and plays might work for the West Salem offense.
“I’m a defense guy at heart,” he said, “so I think of the things that challenged me defensively – motion, different things with tight ends, fly motion, an option component, play-action.”
Stanley said the 2022 Titans should have the type of players they need to keep the same approach.
“We have similar personnel coming back and coming up,” he said. “Offensively, we like being in a spread and playing with one or two tight ends at times because we feel that gives us an advantage with the run game, and we think we’ll have some good tight ends.”
The JV team was a mix of sophomores and juniors, and those juniors can be good varsity players, Stanley said.
“We’ve had some really good players who played JV as juniors and then went on to play college ball. They get better by playing.
“And we try to coach all three levels like they’re the varsity, with interaction between all three levels during practice.”
The Titans sewed up the 2021 Special District 6 championship with a 34-28 victory at Bend in the next-to-last regular-season game. Then they won the league title outright at 6-0 in league with a 30-0 victory over visiting Sprague.
After that, a 42-0 first-round playoff romp over Jefferson made it six wins in a row for the Titans.
The only loss for West Salem before the playoffs came to Tualatin, a 6A contender. The Timberwolves were No. 1 in the state when they topped the Titans 41-7 on Sept. 24.
What was the difference after the Tualatin game?
“Just the realization that we had to pay attention to details,” Stanley said, “and a re-commitment as coaches to accountability and to planning well and practicing hard.”
Between now and September, and through all the upcoming off-season work, that will be the plan again at West Salem.