Cottage Grove, Ore. -- "Our seniors run everything," Cottage Grove head football coach Gary Roberts explains.
"In terms of...our seniors bring everything out, all the equipment, they put all the equipment away. Our seniors are in charge of all the ball bags and the waters, things like that. Some programs say that's for the freshmen, that's their initiation but that's not how you build leaders. You build leaders by having their older kids lead by example and that's what we hope to do."
With that mentality it's next man up, or next class up, for reigning state champion Cottage Grove. Which includes players taking on bigger roles.
"Creed Lufkin who is an offensive and defensive linemen," Roberts mentions. "He played basketball for the first time this past winter and really helped his footwork, he's trimmed 25 pounds, he's a big kid."
Lufkin is one of those kids that embraced that accountability and has stepped into a leadership role.
"I've embraced it as it's my turn," the lineman says. "I've been waiting for it. And I'm trying to teach these guys as much as possible so that way they can be good next year as well."
And that leadership has helped others step up as well.
"Jaden Doolittle, wide receiver and defensive back," says Roberts. "He'll be a junior, he's done real well for us. And Jacob Dunn who's also a junior, he's a wide receiver and he's a linebacker. Those are three kids that have really stepped up."
"We have a couple lineman," Lufkin continues. "We have a freshman lineman, Aidan Freeman this year. Freshman, he's on varsity he's been doing really good for us. And our quarterback, Dylan Graves and our backup quarterback Logan Nelson."
So the title defense is on, and with the additions of Marshfield and Marist into the fold, Cottage Grove better be ready. And to hear it in Coach Roberts words, they will be.