The vaunted junior class arrives in the Springfield spring at contention

By René Ferran | Photo by Leon Neuschwander

SBLive Oregon will break down all 6A, 5A, and 4A teams in the state through the 2022 football season. Here’s our look at the Springfield Millers of the Class 5A Midwestern League.

SPRINGFIELD TEAM PAGE

THE HEAD COACH

Miles Haley, fourth season (5-20)

LAST 4 SEASONS

2021 (autumn): 3-7 overall, 3-4 in the Midwest

2021 (spring): 0-6 overall, 0-3 in the Midwest

2019: 2-7 overall, 0-5 in the North Midwest

2018: 2-7 overall, 0-5 in the North Midwest

DEPARTURE OF PLAYERS IN ALL LEAGUES

OL/DL Chase Sattler (first team offensive, second team defensive)

OL Kaiden VanEtten (second attacking team)

LB TJ Daniel (Honourable Mention Defense)

DB Quentin McDonald (honorable mention defense)

DB Jordan Vega (Honourable Mention Defense)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

QB Caeleb Kasperek, 6-2, 210, Jr.

Kasperek shared the quarterback job with Jack Wargo for half of his sophomore season, and just as he was about to grab the job, he contracted COVID and had to miss two games. He returned for the league final against Churchill and totaled 205 yards of offense, finishing the season 23 of 53 for 240 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 119 yards on 37 carries. He’s someone Haley believes has great potential. “I don’t want to put any pressure or expectations on him, but he’ll be there as a first-team all-league player,” Haley said. “He’s an athletic kid, with big arms, a strong runner, and he’s put himself in the best possible position for this season.”

RB/CB Connor Dye, 5-10, 170, Jr.

Dye became a starter during the spring season and last fall made the honorable mention list all over the Midwest, rushing for more than 200 yards. He also played linebacker and weak side safety last season, but Haley will move him to cornerback, where he thinks Dye’s future lies. “It’s going to end up being one hell of a corner,” Haley said. “I expect him to take care of one side of the pitch in defense while we continue to find ways to get the ball to him in attack.”

WR/CB Dwayne Fotta, 6-0, 185, Sr.

Fotta, another three-year starter on both sides of the ball, earned an all-Midwest honorable mention at receiver last fall after catching 12 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. His speed was on display in May at Hayward Field in Eugene, where he raced in the 100-meter final at the 5A track meet, placing eighth. “We need him to be explosive because the best version of our offense has teams having to worry about Dwayne being behind them,” Haley said.

WR/DB Julian Gomez, 5-9, 165, Sr.

Gomez has played running back the past two seasons, getting 51 carries as a junior. He will move opposite Fotta at receiver this season. He was also an honorable mention pick throughout the Midwest for safety last year. “He’s a kid who’s selfless the same way Connor was,” Haley said. “He will be a ball keeper and a guy who can make attacking plays.”

QB/S Jack Wargo, 5-9, 175, Sr.

Wargo may be undersized for a traditional quarterback, but he was part of a three-headed quarterback situation last fall and was 17 of 51 for 153 yards and a touchdown. “He improved a lot for us last year,” Haley said. “He loves football and he’s someone you can rely on.”

OT/DL Nate Williams, 6-4, 280, Jr.

Williams is part of a talented junior class that Haley says can help make the program a 5A powerhouse. He got a starting job on the offensive line as a sophomore and rotated to the defensive line. “He got really physical this summer, which was a big step for him,” Haley said. “He’s the mainstay of our offensive line and a guy you’ll be hearing about over the next two years. He has the prototypical long arms for a guy who will play on Saturday.

WR/S Zack Sherman, 6-1, 185, Jr.

Sherman started last season oscillating between JV and varsity. By the end of the season, he was a two-way college starter who had developed a relationship with Kasperek, one of his best friends. “He can pull up the seam and has the best hands on the team,” Haley said. “He will be really good in midfield, and I expect him to play on Saturdays as well one day.”

WR/DB Jaevon Spencer, 6-2, 180, So.

Haley called Spencer “a fun kid to coach.” He is expected to start free safety in the second year. “He’s a sponge and wants to be coached,” Haley said. “He’s a guy who gets people’s attention. We are really excited about it.

OG/DT Diego Medina, 6-1, 255, Sr.

Medina is a three-year starter on the offensive line who also shone on the defensive line last season. Haley expects him to challenge for all-league honors on both sides of the ball. “I expect him to become his own this year…as the leader of this leading group,” Haley said.

C/DE Bryan Lomeli, 6-1, 195, Sr.

Lomeli started at defensive end last season and will move from tight end to inside line. He was a constant presence in the weight room throughout the offseason in preparation for the move. “I don’t think he knows what he’s capable of, but we’ll find out,” Haley said. “I think he’s going to surprise himself this year.”

RB/DB Clay Rhoades, 5-10, 175, So.

Rhoades may not have a clear opening in the starting lineup this fall, but he’s too talented to leave for the JV squad. He’ll spin in the backfield to spell Dye and in the secondary in nickel and dime packages. “He’s a guy who shows up in the weight room and he might not say a word all the time, but he’s a really hard worker,” Haley said. “He’s a very talented boy.”

OUTLOOK

Four years ago, the junior class now going through Springfield won the seventh-grade championship. A year later, they were eighth-grade champions. Now they’re ready to put their mark on a Millers program that hasn’t posted a winning record or reached the playoffs since 2015.

“We’ve been excited about this band for the past two years,” Haley said. “Everything is starting to fall into place. Physically, they have talent, but now it is necessary to understand that college football is not only a question of physique. Seeing them show up, working their butt off, and knowing how talented they are usually equals a lot of wins.

The Millers won once on the field last season — their other two wins came by forfeit — and scored five touchdowns in eight games. It put huge pressure on a defense that was strong most weeks and posted a shutout in the only win on the pitch, a 10-0 home win over North Bend.

In a loss to Churchill in Week 8, Springfield began to show an offensive identity that Haley hopes to maintain this season.

“Our older guys went through so much adversity, we were never able to get into a rhythm during their time,” he said. “But by Week 8, as a young team playing a lot of sophomores, juniors, even a few freshmen – these guys had grown.”

They also found their man at quarterback in Kasperek, who threw for a career-high 140 yards against Churchill and put the Millers up 10-8 in the fourth quarter before the Lancers rallied for a victory of 22-10.

“Caeleb is the go-to guy for us at quarterback,” Haley said. “The team rallied around him. They believe in him. He is a hard worker. He’s selfless and he’s developed a ton this offseason, honing his craft. I think he will have a special year.

Kasperek will have a whole host of talent around him in a position of skill, led by Fotta, one of the few seniors in the team, of whom Haley said: “We have to find ways to get the ball to him between the hands.” The line flips three starters, with Lomeli slipping to center and second Kani Alani (5-11, 260) filling the other starting spot.

“I feel good about our first five there,” Haley said. “Now it’s about developing depth and allowing time for Caeleb to get the ball out.”

The defense was often tasked last season with keeping the Millers in games, but they shouldn’t have to rely so heavily on that side of the ball this year. If the offense can finish practices and put points on the board, a winning record and a playoff berth could be in the cards.

COACH SAID

“Our attack has struggled in recent years, but I think we are ready to take the next step. We learned last year that our defense is something we can rely on, and now that we have an offense that can match it, we feel like we’ve got everything in place – training, operations, our players. I can’t wait to see how it all ends. —Miles Haley