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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Revived Roosevelt 'can taste' end of losing streak

The losing streak, which stands at 20 games, soon could be history for Roosevelt's football team.

"I'll tell you what, I can taste it," second-year coach Christian Swain said. "We're light years better."

The Roughriders of North Portland, who dropped from Class 5A to 4A this season, have been competitive in their first two games, losing to La Salle 19-13 and Gladstone 16-6. For a team that lost by an average of 35.6 points in 2009, that counts as progress.

But Swain's optimism goes beyond the early results. Roosevelt has its best collection of athletes in years, in part because of six players who transferred to their neighborhood school from Grant and Jefferson.

"What's killed this program for a lot of years is that the neighborhood kids leave," Swain said. "It's nice that they're deciding to come back and try to restore this program."

Perhaps the biggest coup, though, is the addition of two promising freshmen who are starting on the offensive line: Semise Kofe (6-foot-1, 235 pounds) and Sione Taumoe'anga (5-10, 235). Kofe and Taumoe'anga, both of Tongan descent, also play linebacker.

"Those kids are special," Swain said. "Historically, those kids would've gone somewhere else, either Jefferson or Grant or maybe Benson. They originally applied to go to Lincoln, then decided they wanted to come here."

Kofe's five older brothers and cousin played football at Jefferson despite living about a mile from Roosevelt. But Kofe took the advice of Buddy Williams, his coach on Roosevelt's seventh- and eighth-grade team, and became the first in his family to attend the neighborhood school.

"He said if all of us stuck together, we'd be a good team, and we could play for state," said Kofe, whose brother Saia was the Class 5A Portland Interscholastic League defensive player of the year at Jefferson in 2009. "Since we're playing together now, if we stick together, we can be like a family. We've got each other's backs."

Kofe -- who goes by "Tonga" -- said he is enjoying the school, too.

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