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Gridiron gladiators prepare for 2002 season

Practices for the Portland State football team begin today for rookies and August 10 starts full squad daily doubles.

The Vikings will practice tentatively five and a half hours through the first 10 days of practices. Preseason scrimmages for the Vikings will be held on Aug. 17 and 24.

The first opportunity for the Viking’s to release some anxiousness and aggression will be against Stephen F. Austin on Aug. 31. PSU will begin its season against the Lumberjacks at PGE Park, as their first of six home games in 2002.

As of the last two seasons at home, the Vikings record reads an impressive 10-1.

The squad will be led by two strong core players, senior, Juston Wood at quarterback and sophomore tailback, Ryan Fuqua in the backfield.

The Vikings have 16 starters coming back this year, along with 41 letter winners.

All-American Juston Wood will lead his offense once again, which was ranked fourth in the nation overall last year.

Wood is fortunate to return a slew of players that will back him up. Receivers Antonio Jackson and Jesse Levin come back from last year along with tight end Tim Hester. Last but not least, sophomore running back Ryan Fuqua who was fifth in the nation last year, as only a freshman, returns.

Some other key returnees on the defensive side of the ball include linebackers Marcus Green and Kevin Hastin. To back them up, roaming the secondary with their experience will be Brent Donnerberg and Nick Chenault.

By coaches and media polls, Portland State is picked to finish second this year in Big Sky competition next to defending champion, Montana. This season the Vikings will have their work cut out for them on the field. They will travel to Eugene to do battle with Pac-10 powerhouse Oregon. Then the Vikings will face defending NCAA 1-AA National Champion Montana at home later in the season.

“Oregon is the game everyone wants to talk about and Montana after that, but Stephen F. Austin is the game we’re focusing all our attention on,” head coach Tim Walsh stated in the Portland Tribune.

“We need to stay focused on games one at a time, otherwise those big games might not be so big.”

Portland State has a full schedule, hosting six and playing five away this season. First will be Stephen F. Austin on Aug. 31, then North Carolina A&T on Sept. 14. Eastern Washington will be PSU’s first Big Sky home match-up on Oct. 12. To finish non-conference action, PSU will host SW Texas State on Oct. 15. National Champion Montana comes to town Oct. 26 and Idaho State is PSU’s last home game of the season on Oct. 2.

The away schedule has the Vikings at Oregon on Sept. 21 as the anticipated road match-up. The Vikings then travel to play Northern Arizona on Sept. 28, to kick off league play. Their other roads games will be against Sacramento State on Oct. 19, Weber State on Nov. 9 and lastly Montana State on Nov. 16. To add to their challenge, this season the Vikings play three Big Sky games at home and four away as opposed to last.