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Are we ready for football?

After its best season at the NCAA I-AA level, the Portland State football team heads into the 2001 season hungry for another shot to advance in the playoffs.

The Vikings start the season ranked 17th in the USA/ESPN Coaches Poll and third in the Big Sky Conference. Dominating most teams on their schedule last year, the Vikings lost the majority of their starting unit on both sides of the ball. There are only six starters coming back from last year. While 29 seniors departed upon graduation, 15 new starters have been inserted into the line-up.

“You never really know how ready you are until you play a game, especially when there is a lot of change in your team,” head coach Tim Walsh stated in a recent press release.

But Walsh is hoping for a third straight winning season and second consecutive playoff berth. After eight seasons, he has been instrumental in the program’s success at the Division I level with an overall record of 53-39.

There are a few key players to look for this season including quarterback Justin Wood, who has taken the offensive reins as a junior.

Also on offense are two returnees: Riley Hayes at center and Scott Lesure who will familiarize blocking schemes for the newer line up front.

All-American candidate Terry Charles will be the Vikings’ leading returnee for the 2001 season. The 6-foot-4 wide receiver will seek to impress NFL scouts on fly patterns to the end zone.

Brad Ransom will be the only returning starter up front for the defense that will send heat at opposing quarterbacks. Strong safety Brent Donnerberg and rover Ron Granderson will be back roaming the secondary. While helping most of the new faces up front, they’ll be looking to make some picks and headache hits.

The squad opened its season earlier this month with a 16-13 victory over Stephen F. Austin. The only touchdown came in the third period as Wood connected to Amad Robinson for a 34-yard play.But the real standout was redshirt junior kicker Mike Cajal-Willis who had a 46-yard field goal.

“I was really happy with how we played defensively for 59 minutes,” said Walsh after the game. “It may have been better than we played for a couple of years. We tackled really well until that last series. Offensively, we weren’t as polished as we wanted to be but we did what we had to do to get the win.”

The Vikings return to the newly renovated PGE Park for all home games. Student must now pick up tickets prior to game day at the Portland State Box Office (First Ave. Cinemas). For more information on tickets call 1-888-VIK-TIKS.