By Mike Wilson, René Ferrán and Bob Lundeberg
This month, SBLive Oregon is previewing every Class 6A, 5A and 4A high school football team in the state leading up to the six-week season in March and April.
Today, we examine the quarterback situation for each of the 47 Class 6A teams in Oregon. Who are the starting signal-callers? Who are the backups expected to push the starters for playing time?
Note that the information provided here reflects where things stood as camps opened. Be sure to follow SBLive Oregon throughout the season for the latest on what’s happening with each team!
Jay Keuter (Beaverton) photo by Taylor Balkom
PORTLAND INTERSCHOLASTIC LEAGUE
A new coach (Bill Smith) means a new offense for the Warriors of Southeast Portland, who relied on the running game last season and plan to operate out of the pistol in 2021. Early in the calendar year, Smith identified four players who were in the mix at quarterback. Senior Logan Geiszler is the most experienced. Geiszler began last season as the starter, but he didn’t throw more than 10 passes in any game. “We’ve been impressed with him,” Smith said. Juniors Josiah Crothers and Thomas Oh made an impression on Smith in early practices with their work and dedication. Smith said sophomore Ellis Blanchard is also in the quarterback competition.
Junior Zander Garner, last season’s JV quarterback, is the projected starter for the varsity unit this season. First-year coach Jesse Thompson intends to spread the field more compared with last season, when the Lightning had more of a run-oriented offense. Thompson raved about Garner’s head-to-toe makeup — leadership, smarts, attitude, coachability and so on. His physical tools, in terms of accuracy and arm strength, are on the come, Thompson said. “I can’t say enough about the strides he has taken,” Thompson said.
The Generals of Northeast Portland are in the proven hands of senior Logan Going, a unanimous first-team all-Portland Interscholastic League selection last season. “He’s just all-around a lot better” this year, coach John Beck said. Going poured considerable offseason work into the 7-on-7 environment and in developing his skills under the tutelage of former Oregon Ducks and NFL quarterback Chris Miller (who has retaken the West Linn High School job). “He’s bigger, stronger, faster,” Beck said, referring to Going. “He has more velocity on the football.” The 6-foot-3 Going passed for more than 2,000 yards last season and gets high marks for his smarts and leadership.
Dondrae Fair was the team’s primary quarterback last season as a sophomore and passed for eight touchdowns for the Democrats of North Portland. Since then, first-year coach Houston Lillard said, Fair has made significant strides and made himself into a national prospect. “He’s developed a lot,” Lillard said. “I’m very excited to see him show what he’s been working on.” Fair is the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in 247Sports’ rankings of Oregon’s class of 2022.
Senior Mario Ambrose, a relative newcomer to the position, will start at quarterback for the Cardinals of Southwest Portland. Ambrose started one game as a junior and finished 9 of 14 for 119 yards and three touchdowns in one of the Cardinals’ three wins of 2019. He moved to quarterback last season after concentrating on wide receiver and defensive back the season before. “He’s a bright kid,” coach Jeremy Johnson said. “He cares about his teammates a lot, loves to compete.”
Senior Marcus Holden, last season’s starter, is expected to win the job again. Coach Joe Salvador cites improved arm strength and agility in the pocket as among Holden’s physical improvements, and he said Holden has grown on the mental side of the game, too. “He has a better understanding of our offense, proper progression, reads within our system and what we are trying to get accomplished,” Salvador said. “He will not overwhelm you with speed. However, he is a savvy runner with the ball, would rather run through you than around you, and he finds a way to get positive yards.” The coach added: “We expect for Marcus to improve as a quarterback and leader within our program and school building.” Junior Hank Kern returns as well after seeing action at quarterback throughout last season.
Imarion Kelly took over at quarterback in the second half of the 2019 season, so the junior has already had his varsity indoctrination. “He’s got a heck of an arm,” first-year coach Ryan McCants said. “He can run, he can throw. He’s one of our best athletes as well.” Since McCants was hired, he has been nothing but impressed by Kelly. “In the few months I’ve known him, he’s grown into a leader,” McCants said. “I see him leading more and more each day and making sure the guys are doing the things they’re supposed to be doing.”
The Trojans will break in a first-time starter at quarterback in 2021. Junior Tom White and sophomore Parker Feld-Gore were competing for the No. 1 job as the new year began. “They both bring enthusiasm for the game and leadership qualities that will shine through once the season begins,” said Keith Bennett, in his first season coaching the Southwest Portland school. “We want competition in the preseason for every position, and quarterback is no different. Having two talented, young arms in our system is a great problem to have.”
Two and possibly three players are in the mix to take over for Tim Dennis Jr., who was 2019 Metro League offensive player of the year. Junior Hunter Gerard, a transfer from fellow Metro school Westview of Northwest Portland, and junior Elijah Manriquez could end up splitting time during the winter/spring season as a prelude to another position battle for the fall season. Senior Tanner Volk, primarily a wide receiver/cornerback whose football IQ reflects his upbringing as a coach’s son, could factor into the quarterback competition as well. Gerard made two midseason starts last season (one against Aloha, coincidentally, and the other against No. 2 Tualatin) and ended the season having completed 56 percent of his passes for 699 yards and six touchdowns.
Junior Jay Keuter and sophomore Hunter Borter are the primary competitors for the starting quarterback job, though the multitalented Trent Walker (who played QB as a freshman) might be favored to win the starting job if he weren’t so valuable at wide receiver. Keuter played JV last season at Mountainside of Beaverton but transferred schools in perhaps a fitting move given that he played at the youth level in the Beavers’ program. Coach Bob Boyer was leaning toward Keuter getting first crack at the starting job. “Jay has got a real live arm and did really well in our passing league, but we haven’t seen him under fire yet,” Boyer said.
Junior Tatum Lewis steps to the fore after the departure of graduated senior Jack Heyden and the transfer of 2019 backup Cooper Wrenn to a California school last winter. Lewis is better known as a top lacrosse midfielder (he has committed to the University of Vermont), but his athleticism makes him a good fit for quarterback. He saw limited action last season, including going 8 for 8 in the first two rounds of the OSAA Class 6A playoffs. “He has a very good arm and is a good athlete,” coach Ken Potter said.
Junior Brian Mannion proved late last season he was equal to the task of starting at the varsity level. He began the 2019 season on the JV squad, but after Mountainside of Beaverton lost in Week 7 to Aloha, he got the call to start the next week against Westview. In Mannion’s five starts, the Mavericks were 4-1. He led a second-half comeback in the second round of the OSAA Class 6A playoffs, his four touchdown passes helping knock off top-seeded Tigard in overtime. Mannion has become one of the West Coast’s top quarterback recruits (Oregon State, California, Colorado, Syracuse and Northwestern are in the hunt). The brother of NFL veteran Sean Mannion and son of Mavericks coach John Mannion finished the season 61 of 117 for 842 yards with 14 touchdowns against three interceptions.
Senior Yusuf Farah and junior JC Klee are competing for the starting job, which was held the past two seasons by Darik Salinas. Klee was Salinas’ primary backup and played in four games last season for the Skyhawks of Beaverton. “Both have their strengths,” coach Kevin Bickler said. “It will be fun to see them compete for the starting job. They have both worked extremely hard in the offseason and are great teammates.”
Last season, Kyle Jaekel was the primary backup behind Callum Craig, who was a two-time all-Metro League honoree for the Apollos of Northwest Portland. Jaekel was 8 of 9 for 167 yards and three touchdowns as a junior, when he saw action in several games. “He has done a great job in the offseason getting the kids together to throw,” coach Damien Merrick said.
Brayden Libby is back for his senior year with the Wildcats of Northwest Portland after he encountered and overcame hurdles in his first season as the starting quarterback. Libby was briefly benched but regained the starting job, finishing the 2019 season 110 of 246 for 1,529 yards, 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. “He was challenged, and he responded in a positive way,” coach Ryan Atkinson said. “He faced adversity and didn’t quit, figured things out, and he came along really well by the end of the year.”
Tatum Lewis (Jesuit) photo by Taylor Balkom
Coach Danny Kernan anticipates a healthy competition for the starting quarterback job between junior Tyler Mahlman and senior Zach Boehler. “Right now, we are lucky to have a good quarterback room,” Kernan said. “We’re looking for them to continue to compete on a daily basis to help make each other better.” Mahlman opened last season as the starter for the Jaguars of Hillsboro, but health and injury issues limited his availability. He came back and regained his starting job for Century’s OSAA Class 6A playoff game. “We are looking forward to seeing the progress he has made,” Kernan said. Boehler stepped in last season when Mahlman couldn’t play, and he ended up as first-team all-Pacific Conference at quarterback. He completed 51 percent of his passes for 1,305 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions and rushed for 342 yards and three scores. “He does not let anything stop him from trying to help his team,” Kernan said. “He looks for ways to improve on a daily basis, and we’re excited to see the progress he has made during the offseason.”
Blake Sehorn is competing with fellow sophomore Cam Stortro for the starting quarterback job. Stortro, who is 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, projects as the more prototypical pocket passer, but Sehorn (5-10 and 160 pounds) enters the competition as No. 1 after starting on the freshman team for the Crimson Tide of Hillsboro. Coach Ian Reynoso said Sehorn owned the position during the fall 7-on-7 league.
Junior Hiro Diamond returns as the starter for the Falcons of Hillsboro after passing for 10 touchdowns and running for eight in a sophomore season interrupted by injury. Diamond received all-Pacific Conference honorable mention last season. “He has qualities that you love in your quarterback,” coach Eric Mahlum said. “A smart field general who loves the competition, and he wants the ball in his hands during crunch time.”
Kyran Hoskinson will be the Grizzlies’ starter after he split time as a sophomore in 2019 with then-senior Cole Justice. Hoskinson accounted for the vast majority of McMinnville’s passing game last season and received all-Pacific Conference honorable mention. “He made a big step from frosh ball to varsity, and he could take another big step this year,” coach Ryan McIrvin said. “He’s a hard worker who’s grown and developed physically.”
Levi Durrell returns for his junior season as the clear-cut starter at quarterback, one season after he won a three-way competition for the No. 1 job and ended up earning all-Pacific Conference honorable mention. The 6-foot-3 Durrell has matured physically over the past 14 months, gaining almost 40 pounds (up to 195) in muscle while improving his strength and speed. “He has a special mind and is a great leader,” coach Kevin Hastin said. “He’s been the biggest leader in our offseason training. I think he’s going to turn some heads after this season.”
Junior Bjorn Bergstrom played in six games as a sophomore while sharing time at quarterback last season, and he’ll have first crack at the starting job this season. Coach Greg Lawrence said the plan is for Bergstrom to split time with senior Jackson Hannan, for whom the Bowmen installed play packages to run out of the wildcat formation.
MT. HOOD CONFERENCE
Senior Cyle Calcagno is projected to start at quarterback for the Bruins of Gresham, succeeding three-year starter Jaren Hunter. Coach Chris Koenig calls the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Calcagno a dual-threat quarterback, a skill set that continues a trend from Hunter’s senior season (496 yards and 11 touchdowns rushing).
Sophomore Langston Williams-Lomax is the No. 1 quarterback for the Eagles of Gresham after he was thrown into the fray as a freshman when Centennial’s starter was hurt in Week 2. Coach Butch Self said what Williams-Lomax showed running a triple option out of the pistol formation created considerable excitement about the next three seasons. “He’s super athletic running the ball,” Self said. “And he has a great arm throwing it. Super impressed with him.”
The Rams of Southeast Portland need to find a successor to four-year starter Cade Knighton, who was the first-team quarterback on The Oregonian/OregonLive Class 6A all-state team as a senior. Coach Steve Pyne said early in the year the competition was among juniors Emerson Dennis and Luke Johnson, sophomore Mateo Maehara and freshman Cru Newman.
Early in the year, seniors Jack Artman and Jaxon Shaw were competing to succeed Austin Atkeson, who was second-team all-Mt. Hood last season and passed for more than 2,200 yards and 22 touchdowns. Coach James Holan described Artman as more of a pro-style, downfield passer, whereas he said Shaw can do things with his feet and is more of a dual-threat quarterback.
Senior James Hamann entered the season as the No. 1 quarterback for the Scots of Southeast Portland. He was the primary backup last season. “He’s very athletic and a threat to run on any play,” coach Cal Szueber said.
Junior Zack Kaufman is the Gophers’ No. 1 quarterback after he started about half of the team’s games in 2019. Kaufman’s imperturbability during a 1-8 season in which competing with opponents frequently was a struggle impressed coach Mike Melton. “Nothing fazes the kid,” Melton said. “When you’re a quarterback, and you’re an even-keel guy and you’re able to see big-picture, and you’re able to put bad plays behind you — he has football smarts about him. That’s huge.”
Senior Brendan Lynch is the front-runner for the starting quarterback job this season, even though he was all-Mt. Hood Conference honorable mention at tight end in 2019. Lynch was also the backup quarterback as a junior but saw limited playing time at QB for the Raiders of Troutdale. Coach Ryan Aldred said there will be considerable competition for the No. 1 spot this season. “Because of the nature of our offense,” he said, “our backups have not seen much time.”
The competition to be the Pioneers’ starting quarterback features senior Tanner Brewster, who contributed to the passing game throughout last season, and junior Teague Clemmer, who was 4 of 6 in two games as a sophomore. “It’s a pretty good battle that’s going to be going on,” coach Josh Dill said early in the year. Dill characterized Brewster as having a big arm and a great ability to make plays. Dill also called Clemmer a playmaker and praised his leadership and decision-making. “I like both of those guys at quarterback,” Dill said, adding, “We have some answers we need to get between those guys.”
Kyle Jaekel (Sunset) photo by Taylor Balkom
THREE RIVERS LEAGUE
Junior Jack Layne is the No. 1 quarterback this season after he saw action in seven games last season as a backup first to JJ Woodin and then to Casey Filkins. Layne hadn’t played quarterback until the Lakers staff moved him there as a freshman, “and he has just taken off at the position,” coach Steve Coury said. “The biggest thing he needs is some experience.”
Senior Andrew Oliver, last season’s backup, is the starting quarterback this season for the Pacers of Lake Oswego. Oliver didn’t accumulate many statistics on offense in 2019, but first-year coach Spencer Phillips said he could put Oliver at any skill position and he’d be special. Phillips said he wants Oliver at quarterback “so he touches the ball on every play. I’ve watched his development as a quarterback, and he’s been phenomenal given the circumstances. He’s everything you could want in someone leading your team.” Oliver has signed with The Citadel, an FCS school in South Carolina, as a safety.
After earning all-Three Rivers League honorable mention as a junior, Trey Martin is the Pioneers’ presumptive starting quarterback this season. Martin completed more than 61 percent of his passes for 1,834 yards with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a junior. “He has worked tirelessly on improving his game over this long offseason,” coach Dustin Janz said, adding that Martin (who signed with NAIA Southern Oregon) probably will share time with Jake Lopez and Logan Barnum, sophomores who are expected to compete for the fall-season starting job.
Junior Kellen Jolley and sophomore Cameron Masters-Doble entered camp as the leading contenders for the quarterback spot vacated by the early graduation of Colorado signee Drew Carter. Jolley, former coach Craig Ruecker’s grandson and Carter’s primary backup in 2019, completed all four of his passes in two games last season. Masters-Doble led the freshman team last season. “They both bring something different to the table,” coach John Kemper said. “Kellen has been around the game since the day he was born, while last year was Cameron’s first year to football, so he’s very raw but he brings things you just can’t coach.” Once practices got underway, a wild card emerged — Zach Chesler. The senior was expected to play wide receiver but has been taking snaps under center, and Kemper said there’s a good chance Chesler will end up as the starting quarterback.
Junior Jackson Jones is the Timberwolves’ No. 1 quarterback, but he is not expected to take every snap this season. Sophomore Jack Wagner will push Jones in practice and, as Jones did last season, perhaps get a series or two in each game. Jones averaged more than 16 yards per completion and had six touchdown passes against one interception as a sophomore. “He’s a gunslinger quarterback with the ability to make big-time throws,” coach Dan Lever said.
Senior Blake DeBisschop sat behind Ethan Long and Ethan Coleman — both all-Three Rivers League quarterbacks — and after nearly rallying the Lions in the fourth quarter of their quarterfinal loss to Central Catholic, he’ll get the chance to show his stuff this season. He was 28 of 38 for 243 yards and three touchdowns in six games last season. “He will be an FBS quarterback,” coach Chris Miller said, praising DeBisschop’s pocket presence and poise. “He can make all the throws we require and make a difference making plays with his legs.”
MOUNTAIN VALLEY CONFERENCE
Seve Castillo started the final three games at quarterback as a sophomore last season after an injury to Colt Musgrave. Castillo has the necessary skills and arm strength to run the offense, coach Matt Craven said, but sophomores Alexander Emery, Blake Groshong and Logan Malinowski are competing for the starting position.
Five-foot-9 senior Jack McCarty is in the driver’s seat to succeed three-year starter Erik Barker. Coach Jeff Auvinen said McCarty, who recently received an offer from Division III Lewis & Clark, boasts excellent mobility and delivers accurate balls. McCarty saw spot duty throughout his junior season for the Celtics of Keizer. “He’s got some arm strength, and he has very good instincts,” Auvinen said, adding that junior Tyler Copeland is also in competition for the No. 1 spot. “Tyler looks really good at quarterback,” Auvenin said. “He throws great balls.”
Returning starter Jakoby Moss passed for nearly 1,200 yards and threw for 10 touchdowns as a sophomore for the Cougars of Bend. Coach Brian Crum said Moss has been dedicated to improvement since the end of the 2019 season, working with a quarterbacks coach and throwing regularly with a group of Central Oregon players. “He really works on his craft,” Crum said, adding that Moss gives Mountain View — run-heavy the past couple of seasons — the ability to spread things out more than in the past.
Senior Drew Gertenrich was the junior varsity quarterback last season — his first season of high school football — and is the presumptive starter for this season. “Drew’s got some arm talent,” coach Scott Dufault said. “He’s just never played varsity football before.” Helping Gerternich’s transition to the varsity game will be a half-dozen receivers who Dufault says are “real, real solid.”
Junior Logan Smith and sophomore Will Hassoun are in a tight competition for the starting quarterback job. Coach Jay Minyard said the two have been neck-and-neck throughout the offseason. “They are both well-rounded kids who run well with pretty strong arms,” Minyard said. “They are really smart kids, great students, and they both love football and competition. We feel like they both could play for us.”
Early this year, four players were competing for the starting quarterback position: senior Daniel Dionne, junior Ben Woodward and sophomores Hogan Carmichael and Kemper Treu. Coach Corben Hyatt said it’s likely that all four quarterbacks will receive playing time this season for the Storm of Bend.
Senior Jackson Lowery is the Titans’ returning starter at quarterback. As a junior, he passed for nearly 1,800 yards and threw 18 touchdown passes, earning first-team all-Mountain Valley Conference honors. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Lowery has been offered a scholarship by Linfield and Pacific.
Kellen Jolley (Tigard) photo by Taylor Balkom
Hunter Gonzales will take over at quarterback for Grants Pass, which averaged 30.5 points per game last season with Chase Coyle — the school’s all-time leading passer — at the wheel. Coach John Musser said the 6-foot-2, 206-pound Gonzales has a strong arm and a high football IQ. Gonzales led the Cavemen to a come-from-behind 21-15 win over Westview in Week 7 of 2019 when Coyle was out with a shoulder injury and Grants Pass was without three starting offensive linemen. Gonzales was 18 of 30 for 264 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in that game.
There is no clear-cut successor to Brennan Stults, who passed for 26 touchdowns last season. Senior Colby Neron and junior Mason Warren are competing for the starting job. Neron made two starts as a sophomore and had plenty of success at the JV level, as did Warren. Neron saw end-of-game action throughout the 2019 varsity season.
Roseburg used multiple quarterbacks a season ago, and coach Dave Heuberger said the competition is wide open without a clear-cut starter. Junior Carson Six and senior Garrett Zeimet are among those who can play the position. “We probably have three or four guys that could be in the mix for it, and they all bring something unique,” Heuberger said. “We are excited that we have four options, because we haven’t had four options in the past.”
The competition for the starting quarterback position probably will come down to senior Larsen Helikson and sophomore Brock Thomas. Helikson began last season as the junior varsity quarterback and ended up playing on varsity in the defensive backfield and at wide receiver. Thomas, a speedy sophomore, has tools but lacks experience — one of Helikson’s strengths. “Helikson did a really good job for us last year and is a senior guy who has played quarterback his whole career except for last year,” coach Josh Line said. “There’s really not a whole lot Brock can’t do, but he doesn’t have the experience, and there will be a learning curve for him.”
For the first time in a while, South Medford is entering a season without experience at quarterback. Sophomore Deacon Edgar reminds coach Bill Singler of former Panthers standout and current Montana quarterback Robbie Patterson, but Edgar is unproven at the varsity level. He will compete with Jeremy Gaut, a senior who got hurt early in his freshman season and focused on basketball the past two years. “We are very inexperienced at quarterback right now,” said Singler, the Panthers’ 23rd-year coach. “This is one of the first years we’ve not had an older, experienced quarterback, and I think that’s one of the things that’s helped us be competitive throughout the years.”