By Paul Valencia
Over the next few weeks, SBLive Oregon will break down every 6A, 5A and 4A football team in the state in anticipation of a six-week season in March and April. Even if the season is postponed or canceled, we will continue to highlight more than a hundred teams and more than a thousand players in Oregon. Here’s our look at the Sweet Home Huskies of the Class 4A Oregon West Conference.
Dustin Nichol, 11th season (53-44)
2019 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 3-6
League record: 2-3, tied for third in Oregon West
Playoffs: Lost 52-6 to Estacada in play-in round
ALL-LEAGUE PLAYERS DEPARTED
Zach Luttmer WR (1st team), DB (2nd team)
Iakona Howerton OG (1st team), LB (1st team)
Sevin Carson T (1st team)
Carson Smith DL (1st team)
Jasper Korn DB (1st team), WR (2nd team)
Kai Bryson DL (2nd team)
Travis Thorpe LB (2nd team)
Jackson Royer LB (2nd team)
Gavin Nichols DB (2nd team), RB (honorable mention)
Tye Moore DB (2nd team), WR (honorable mention)
Paul Glynn DL (honorable mention)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Aiden Tyler, senior, QB
With no season in the fall, Tyler traveled to Texas and played in a showcase game in Texas Stadium.
“He’s done everything he can in the offseason to perfect his craft,” Nichol said of Tyler, the returning starting quarterback. “He’s got a mind for the game.”
Tyler will be going to Western Oregon University.
Cade Gaskey, senior, RB/LB
Gaskey should be a go-to running back this season.
A naturally talented, gifted athlete, “he glides through the defense,” Nichol said.
On defense, Gaskey has a sense for the football.
“He just finds it,” the coach said.
Cole Baxter, senior, WR/DB
He was the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver last season for Sweet Home. Since then, Baxter has been all about elevating his game, preparing to be No. 1 this year.
“He and Aiden have gone ballistic lifting weights and working in the offseason,” Nichol said. “Cole has come on big-time for us.”
Tucker Weld, junior, OL/DL
An offensive lineman but with a running back’s heart. Ward used to be a running back. In fact, during the extended offseason, whenever his teammates were getting together for 7-on-7 competition, he showed up and played running back or linebacker. He just had to be there.
“He lives and breathes football,” Nichol said.
Jake Fanning, senior, OL/DL
Officially, a center. But the coach has another way to describe Fanning on the offensive line.
“There are two quarterbacks on our team. The quarterback, and the center who leads the line,” Nichol said. “His knowledge of our system is paramount to our success.”
Fanning also was the one texting teammates during the offseason, making sure they knew when workouts were, and Fanning lived in the weight room whenever it was open.
Daniel Luttrell, junior, RB/DB
Luttrell moved to Sweet Home from West Albany, and Nichol cannot wait to see him in action. Look for Luttrell in the backfield or as a receiver, depending on the play, the matchup.
“He’s a student of the game. That’s refreshing. You get somebody who will study the game and not just play. He’s one of those guys,” Nichol said. “A true student of the game with a lot of talent.”
The pandemic has made for a lot of changed priorities. Sure, Sweet Home wants to win, but this season has a different meaning.
“Right now, I just want to get kids memories,” Nichol said. “I want to get kids some exposure. I want to get kids opportunities.”
That said, some things never change.
“I want to win a league championship every year,” Nichol added. “I want to win every game. My philosophy is to compete for three quarters and give us an opportunity to win in the fourth. That’s what I’m hoping to do. Any Friday night, it can go either way.”
So, just what does Sweet Home High School mean to Nichol?
“Let’s put in this way: I have four children,” he said, and then named them:
S and H names.
“Our house is green and gold all the way,” Nichol said. “We live and die and bleed green and gold, and that’s all there is to it.”
More from SBLive Oregon:
Could the Oregon high school football season switch to a 7-on-7 format? ‘If this is our only option for a season, then we will play our hearts out’
What might OSAA’s ‘culminating events’ look like in Oregon high school sports? Football coaches intrigued by possibility of ‘bowl week’
Could an Open Division playoff work in Oregon high school football?
Oregon all-state football 2020-21: The state’s top returning high school football players