Molalla football stresses teamwork ahead of ‘topsy-turvy next year and a half’

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 Molalla Indians of the Class 4A Tri-Valley Conference.

MOLALLA TEAM PAGE

HEAD COACH 

Sean McElhaney, second season (2-6) 

2019 AT A GLANCE 

Overall record: 2-6 

League record: 2-3, tied for third in Cowapa

Playoffs: Did not qualify

ALL-LEAGUE PLAYERS DEPARTED 

Damian Pingo, RB (1st team), LB (1st team)

Afanasy Kutsev, RB (1st team), DB (1st team)

Jacob Nix, LB (1st team)

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

Brady Laccino, senior, OL/DL

“One of those guys you can anchor around, build around a little bit,” said McElhaney, who can tell Laccino is stronger this year.

Isaac Thomas-Klementis, junior, QB/RB

He’s penciled in right now to be the quarterback but that could change, McElhaney said. 

“He’s the prototypical quarterback, body-wise,” McElhaney said. “He’s tall, with a really strong arm. Also happens to be a very good runner. As much as we like him at quarterback, he could end up at running back.”

Tucker Ward, sophomore, QB

The coach does not classify this as a quarterback controversy. 

“He’s got a good arm, and I’ve seen a lot of improvement,” McElhaney said. 

If Thomas-Klementis does end up at running back, the team will have plenty of confidence in Ward to take over at quarterback. 

“Both are really good athletes. Both throw really good balls. And both are really smart,” McElhaney said. “They make good decisions.”

Blake Olsen, senior, WR/DB

Don’t go looking for football highlights of Olsen on HUDL or anything like that. He has not played football since middle school.

He is an athlete whom the coach has been asking to come out for football for years. Finally, his senior year, he said yes. 

“The key is, he wants it,” McElhaney said. “He’s got a real motor, a drive to be successful.”

Jaimon Dobbs, senior, OL/DL

A four-year guy, a program guy. Smart, too.

“He helps guide people on the offensive line,” McElhaney said.

It would be a shame if there were no season for everybody involved, but that’s especially true for seniors such as Dobbs, the guys who give their all for a program. 

OUTLOOK  

Molalla has moved from the Cowapa League to the Tri-Valley Conference.

“The goal is to play, to make sure we are ready to play, whether we play or not,” McElhaney said. 

Teamwork has to be emphasized. McElhaney said there are a lot of strangers. After all, here we are in February, and the freshmen do not know many people halfway through the school year. There has been no youth football, either. So, next year’s freshmen will have to play catch-up as well.

“It’s going to be a topsy-turvy next year and a half, trying to get them all together,” McElhaney said.

COACH SAID 

McElhaney has been a teacher at the school for 27 years. He also has served on the city council. The community means so much to him. And he cares deeply about his players, his students. For football this year, it’s about so much more than statistics and results.

“We need to get the kids to trust each other, know each other, and play some games,” McElhaney said. “I don’t think the win-loss record is going to be as important. I want to win all five games we have scheduled but … it can’t be our priority.”

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