Eugene, Ore. -- The North Eugene Highlanders are hoping to ride the momentum the team built at the end of the season into this new year.
The Highlanders finished last year (2-7), on the year, and gave up more than 40 points in five games. This offseason head coach Rick Raish set out to address the issues on defense bringing in a number of new hires, including former Springfield Millers head coach, Adam Jones.
"We've added 4 different defensive coaches, which we've fine recruited and looked up, sought for," said Raish. "So that's our number one goal is to sure up our defense. So we feel we do that, that's going to flip-flop probably our record."
However, the defense wasn't the only issue that needed to be fixed coming into this year. A number of players felt the teams approach and attitude toward the game were not serious enough, and said there was a lack of leadership in the locker room.
Receiver Junior Prakash said, "We're trying to change the standard around here. You know we're not settling for what you've been; what we've been settling for the last couple of years."
Offensive lineman, Logan Kerr added, "Hold each other accountable and make sure that our leadership as a team you know exceeds expectations. So that the coaches can coach, the players can play."
Coach Raish identified last season's starting quarterback as the main vocal leader last year, but said he did not receive much help from his peers. But this year's senior group has taken a bigger emphasis on leadership and the underclassman have taken to it, especially junior starting quarterback, Jason Proudfit.
"This year we've got at least, I would say seven or eight seniors that have taken charge and the juniors are also being vocal," said Raish.
In 2018, the Highlanders ended the season with a 20 point victory over the Millers, who they lost to by one point in week one. The win was the high note for the season, and the hope for what we they see on the field this year.
"I feel like that was just kind of a sneak peek as to what we could be if we really set our mind into things," said Prakash.
The team has set their sights on playing in the postseason this year, and hope with the adjustments made this offseason they can make those dreams achievable.
"We realistically think we're going to make the playoffs this year," said Coach Raish. "That's what the kids have been working on there. They think they're going to make it. You know I think we have the talent to do it. I think we have the coaching staff now to do it."
North Eugene kicks off their season at home against Springfield on September 6.