By René Ferrán
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 Nyssa Bulldogs of the Class 4A/3A Greater Oregon League.
Lee Long, 13th season (73-46)
2019 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 5-4
League record: 2-2, third in 3A District 3
Playoffs: Lost 50-7 to Santiam Christian in first round
ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS DEPARTED
OL Jonathan Lopez, first team
K/P Aleonzo Calderon, first team kicker and punter
WR/DB Pedro Chavez, first team offense, second team defense
DB Aidan Moyes, first team
OL Adam Simpson, second team
TE/DL Elijah Cleaver, honorable mention offense, second team defense
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Landon McDowall, 5-10, 170, Jr.
McDowall took over the starting job in Week 7 of his freshman season after senior Ethan Draper sustained a back injury, and after leading the Bulldogs to a win over then-unbeaten Burns, he hasn’t been dislodged, earning all-league honorable mention last season. This year, though, he’ll face stiff competition from sophomore Andrew Enders (5-11, 165). “We were not expecting him to do as well as he did as a freshman,” Long said. “Last year, he did quite well, and being a junior, he should be really coming on this season.”
RB Caleb Benson, 5-11, 190, Sr.
Benson took over for all-state back JoJo Sanchez (now at Idaho State) last season, and Nyssa’s rushing attack hardly missed a beat, with Benson named first-team all-league and all-state honorable mention. Willamette and College of Idaho have him on their radars. “He had limited reps behind JoJo, but last year, he just continued to flourish and had a great season,” Long said. “If we do have a season, I think he should be the best running back on this side of the state.”
OL/DL Bryan Flores, 5-11, 265, Sr.
Flores was an all-league second-team selection on both sides of the ball last season and will be a third-year starter this spring. “Just a great kid and a hard worker,” Long said. “A lot of what we do at the line of scrimmage will be dictated by him.”
RB/LB Santiago Miranda, 5-6½, 185, Jr.
Miranda was a two-way all-league honoree last season, making the first team at linebacker and earning honorable mention as a blocking back in front of Benson. “He’s just filled out and continued to get stronger,” Long said. “He’s coming into his prime and will be a name you’ll hear a lot of for Nyssa.”
OT Emilio Olvera, 6-1, 300, Jr.
Olvera is another player who is just coming into his own during the offseason after receiving all-league honorable mention as a sophomore. “He will do a great job for us,” Long said.
RB/WR/TE/LB Brandon Vela, 5-11, 200, Jr.
Vela made his name on defense last season, earning all-league honorable mention, and he’ll be a jack-of-all-trades on offense this season, playing at running back, wide receiver or tight end as Long schemes to get him as many touches as possible. “He’s really grown and matured, both physically and as a player,” Long said.
WR Teagan Moody, 5-11, 175, Sr.
Moody was a second-team all-league receiver last season. He’ll provide leadership and experience on the outside.
WR/LB Orin Stipe, 6-0, 175, So.
Stipe is the vanguard of the next wave of Bulldogs who shined on the JV team last season, a group that includes Enders and junior offensive lineman Kian McIntosh (5-10, 175).
The Bulldogs were the first of three consecutive Eastern Oregon teams to fall to eventual 3A state champion Santiam Christian in the 2019 playoffs, making the most of what figured to be a transitional season after sharing the 2018 league title.
Nyssa has a large junior class to build around this year, with the main question being who will start at quarterback between the incumbent McDowall and the up-and-coming Enders.
McDowall has the advantage of having started 13 games, including three in the postseason, although he moved to quarterback more out of team need than true positional fit. Enders has been groomed to become the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback since junior high and over the past year has attended quarterback clinics and combines around the country, traveling to Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina to hone his craft.
It figures to be a healthy competition between the two, with the bonus that they’re good friends who will be supportive of each other no matter what while also both being athletic enough to change positions.
“Obviously, Landon has that experience in his pocket, and he’s a great athlete and intelligent kid,” Long said. “In Andrew’s favor is that he’s an innate quarterback. He was an incredible junior high and freshman quarterback, and he’s pretty committed to his development.”
“We had a lot of young guys last year who played quite a bit and will now be juniors. If we have a season, we’ll have a good balance of talent and experience and big guys along the line. We will have a pretty good squad.” — Lee Long
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