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 Phoenix Pirates of the Class 4A Skyline Conference.
Dave Johnson, second season (2-6 at Phoenix, 114-77 overall)
2019 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 2-6
League record: 0-4, fifth in Skyline
Playoffs: Did not qualify
ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS DEPARTED
WR/DB Nik Goff, first team offense and defense
RB/LB Mike Walker, honorable mention offense, first team defense
OL Dom McGee, second team
RB Mateo Lopez, honorable mention
DL Ariel Lopez, honorable mention
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB/FS Justin Wilcox, 6-0, 185, Sr.
Wilcox played receiver and free safety last season, making 23 tackles (two for loss), but now he’ll compete with classmate Eli Page (5-8, 150) to replace two-year starter Zach Dungey (1,159 yards, 10 touchdowns) at quarterback.
LB Marcello Valadez, 6-0, 200, Sr.
Valadez earned second-team all-conference honors last season, finishing with 60 tackles (7½ for loss) while manning the middle of the Pirates defense.
C/DE Huntyr Croy, 5-10, 195, Sr.
Croy is back to anchor the middle of the offensive line. He received all-conference honorable mention as a junior.
G/DT Fa Masalosalo, 6-3, 350, Jr.
Masalosalo, an honorable mention all-conference selection on defense last season, will be quite the load for opponents to deal with in the interior of both lines.
RB/SS Alexis Manzano, 5-7, 150, Jr.
Manzano is the only running back with varsity experience, getting two carries in an early-season game in 2019.
TE/LB Joey Baynard, 6-1, 215, Jr.
Baynard is the leading returning receiver with four catches last season for 73 yards and a touchdown. He had four tackles as a backup linebacker.
Few places had it rougher in 2020 than Phoenix. On top of the pandemic, the community dealt with the Almeda fire that raged through the town of around 4,500 people just south of Medford, devastating families and making many instantly homeless.
Johnson, who took over the program in 2019 following 17 seasons and two state championships at Baker, knew he faced an immense rebuild. The Pirates had gone winless the year before he arrived, and they played only one game in 2019 with all of their projected starters — a 27-0 victory over Newport in Week 2.
Now, besides the five all-league players who graduated, Phoenix had several potential starters forced to relocate from the area in the aftermath of the wildfire. Rising from the ashes of the fire, however, will be a new high school and athletic facility renovation that Johnson points out “is a source of pride for our students and community.”
In the meantime, Johnson and his staff will have a veteran offensive and defensive line, led by Croy and Masalosalo and including senior Kyle Braun (5-10, 230), junior Trevor Sharrar and sophomore Julius Bolstad (6-2, 175).
They’ll also sort through a young group of running backs — Manzano and sophomores Will Greenwood (5-8, 160) and Jair Ramirez — and a receiving corps that includes Baynard at tight end and seniors Trystan Norris (6-0, 160) and Martin Scala (5-6, 140), junior Eric Peltier (5-7, 140) and sophomore Jackson Seldon at wideout.
“We will be extremely young this year. Gone from last year are some very good seniors who graduated. It will be a learning and maturation process for us.” — Dave Johnson
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