PALATINE HILL -- Once again, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers offensive line will return a wealth of experience when the Pios open the 2019 season on Saturday in southern California. In addition to having the bulk of their starting unit a year ago, the Pioneers also return a two-time All-Northwest Conference selection. Last season, Lewis & Clark had its most rushing yards (1,174) since 2011.
Lewis & Clark is entering its fifth season with national title-winning coach Jay Locey leading the program. The Pios welcome in Renato Felina as their first-year offensive line coach. Felina is originally from Portland and a former student-athlete in the NWC. He joined the Pioneers from the coacing staff at Clackamas High School.
All three of the Pioneers seniors have at least 23 career games played including Devon Franklin who has been named All-NWC each of the last two seasons. At 6-2, 285 pounds, he has played in eight games in each of his first three seasons and brings superb senior leadership and pass protection. Kalae Wong will return at center where he has tremendous experience. With the transition in coaching staff, Wong has shown his grasp of the new system and has served as a mentor to the younger linemen. James McArthur returns after an injury took two games from him last year. A highly-intelligent tackle, McArthur has some of the best length and fits into new offensive coordinator Joe Bushman's scheme. The trio was part of the big rushing season for unanimous All-NWC First-Team running back Michael Abraham who returns for his junior season.
Mercury Compagno and Eryk Schaftlein both emerged as key pieces up front last season, although Compagno's year was cut short by an injury. With a relentless motor, Compagno is an ideal guard who has impressive athleticism. Schaftlein competed in seven games last year and returns at 295 pounds. He's a highly-capable run blocker who has also improved his pass protection entering the year. Originally a tackle, Dominic Pallares adds good depth to the guard position and is expected to see time in the rotation entering his junior year. He's played in three career games.
Jack O'Hearn is the Pios lone sophomore returning for 2019. He made five appearances as a freshman and will provide depth to the Pios center and guard positions this year. He's proven reliable when called upon and has done well in fall practice.
Lewis & Clark welcomes four new linemen with the incoming class. Matt Casson joins the team from Mukilteo, Wash. where he was an all-conference selection twice. At 295 pounds, he is agile and is understanding the offense quickly. From Auburn, Wash., Joe Norris picked Lewis & Clark in part because of the campus and people. Off a two-year hiatus from football, Norris has shown a good feel for the tackle spot and has ideal size at 6-9, 250 pounds. Elijah Woody has extensive experience run blocking from his high school years in Newberg, Ore. A mauler, he's a potential tackle for the Pioneers as he works into the offensive scheme. Cameron Stewart is making the transition to the offensive line from the defensive line, both positions he played during high school in Benicia, Calif. Adding depth at the tackle, Stewart brings a good foundation to the position.
Lewis & Clark opens the year in southern California against Pomona-Pitzer on Saturday. The Pioneers won 40-29 in the last meeting there in 2017. Lewis & Clark's other non-conference game is the home opener on Sept. 21 against Whittier. The Pios will try for two-in-a-row against the Poets, who Lewis & Clark beat last year, 46-27.
The Northwest Conference schedule begins on Oct. 5 at Pacific Lutheran.
Lewis & Clark's home schedule includes Homecoming and Family Weekend on Oct. 26. The Pioneers will try for a third consecutive win over Willamette. The game follows Whitworth's visit on Oct. 12 and precedes the Senior Day game with Puget Sound on Nov. 16. Whitworth won the NWC title last year.