Oregon’s top high school football players: Meet the state’s best tight ends

By René Ferrán, Mike Wilson, Bob Lundeberg, Paul Valencia and Rockne Andrew Roll

Over the next week, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at some of the top players in Oregon high school football. Our fourth list focuses on the tight ends.  

There are hundreds of standout football players in Oregon and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive! Use the comments section to discuss the other tight ends worthy of fans’ attention in 2021.

Find our team-by-team previews for every 6A, 5A and 4A team in Oregon at this link

Dyami Rios photo by Matt Rawlings, Keizertimes

Bryce Williams, Jr., St. Paul

The Buckaroos would have counted on players such as Williams, a two-way all-league selection last season who had 22 catches for 367 yards and six touchdowns at tight end, in their bid to make the 1A final for a third consecutive season and win the title for the first time since 2010. Besides being a top football player, Williams is very active in high school rodeo, where he rides bulls (No. 1 in the 2019 Northwest Youth Rodeo Association standings) and competes in tie-down roping (second).

Carson Cota, Sr., South Medford

A familiar name to football fans in the state, Cota is the son of former Oregon Ducks and NFL safety Chad Cota and the younger brother of current UCLA receiver Chase Cota. The 6-foot-4 Carson also is a Division I talent rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports. He was a second-team all-Southwest tight end last season with 24 catches for 333 yards and two touchdowns. “Carson gives us experience both ways,” Panthers coach Bill Singler said. “He has versatility and size and experience as a receiver, and that’s nice to have.”

Carter Neuman, Sr., Sheldon

Neuman, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound two-star prospect, recently decommitted from Air Force and accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Oregon State. He was a first-team all-Southwest pick on defense last season and received honorable mention at tight end. Irish coach Josh Line said Neuman worked hard on his receiving abilities during the offseason and should be a bigger threat as a senior after catching a team-high 27 passes for 314 yards and four touchdowns last season. “First of all, Carter is a great leader who really sets an example and does a good job of showing the kids what our culture is all about,” Line said. “And physically, there’s just not a lot of guys who are his size.” 

Charlie White, Jr., Banks

White is 6-3 and built, at around 220 pounds. He also has incredible hands — he finished with 14 catches for 173 yards as a sophomore. On the rare occasion the ball hits the ground, his teammates just have to make fun of him. “It’s a shock if he drops a ball in practice. It’s so unlike him,” Banks coach Cole Linehan said. 

Carson Cota (South Medford) photo by Tony Rivera

Connor Stevens, Sr., Sunset

Stevens earned all-Metro honors on both sides of the ball as a junior, including making the second team at tight end, although Apollos coach Damien Merrick moved him around like a chess piece. He had 16 catches for 249 yards and 20 carries for 83 yards, scoring three touchdowns. “He added some weight to his long frame and looks sturdier than before,” Merrick said. “He can play multiple positions on both sides of the ball and would add a ton of flexibility to both the offense and defense.”

Dyami Rios, Sr., McNary

Rios didn’t catch a pass on offense last season but still was voted first-team all-MVC at tight end for his blocking prowess. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Rios is committed to Princeton and rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports. “As a lark, we nominated him for all-conference on offense last season because he was just a blocking machine, and I think the other coaches saw that,” Celtics coach Jeff Auvinen said. “He’ll run the ball some this year as a power back.” 

Ethan Evans, Sr., Gresham

A first-team all-Mt. Hood tight end last season, Evans (6-4, 215 pounds) led the Gophers in receptions (20), receiving yards (381) and touchdowns (five). Exploiting Evans’ attributes will be among Gresham’s offensive priorities this season. “He runs pretty well,” coach Mike Melton said. “That’s a key for a kid his size. And he’s got pretty good hands. We just have to find a way to get him the ball.”

Jack Kimball, Sr., Wilsonville

As a junior, Kimball finished second on the team in receptions (20) and receiving yards (366) and tied for third in receiving touchdowns (four). “He’s got sneaky speed and great hands,” Wildcats coach Adam Guenther said.

Jackson Kane, Sr., Barlow

Kane started last season at tight end and had what Bruins coach Chris Koenig called a great offseason of development. The 6-1, 205-pound Kane had 21 catches last season, averaging 11.5 yards per reception, with three touchdown catches. 

Connor Stevens (Sunset) photo by Taylor Balkom

Jackson Lehman, Sr., Heppner

The 6-4, 195-pound Lehman was a first-team all-state tight end and is the top returning receiver for the 2A state champion Mustangs with 14 catches for 345 yards and seven touchdowns. Coach Greg Grant loves his versatility and can line him up at just about any skill position. “He’s just a really good athlete with great hands,” Grant said. “You just want to get him the ball. He’s a talented athlete and one of those guys who’s going to get bigger and stronger.” Lehman plans to join older brother Mason at Eastern Oregon.

Jacob Newell, Jr., Thurston

Newell played behind all-state first-teamer Santino Stranieri last season, making 17 catches for 204 yards and four touchdowns in a backup role as the Colts repeated as 5A state champions. His recruiting blew up over the summer as he shined at several collegiate showcases, picking up an offer from New Mexico as well as interest from Oregon and Oregon State. 

Jalen Ridgeway, Sr., Central Catholic

Rams coach Steve Pyne said Ridgeway, a third-year starter and an honorable mention all-Mt. Hood selection at tight end as a junior, is the one returning player on offense who contributed significantly to last season’s 6A state championship team (11 catches for 238 yards and two touchdowns). “He is a versatile player who can play as an attached tight end or split out wide and make plays,” Pyne said.

Jalen Ridgeway (Central Catholic) photo by Taylor Balkom

Joe MaQatish, Sr., Santiam Christian

MaQatish proved to be a red-zone weapon for the Eagles, with seven of his 15 catches (249 yards) going for touchdowns last season. The first-team all-state selection signed with Northern Arizona in the early period.

Josh Wart, Sr., Amity

Wart suffered a season-ending torn labrum just before halftime of the Warriors’ Week 7 victory over Rainier last season, yet he still earned all-state honorable mention at tight end with 19 catches for 360 yards and seven touchdowns. “He is an amazing athlete on both sides of the ball,” Amity coach Joel Magill said. “As most coaches would attest, he’s a matchup nightmare with his 6-6 frame and great speed.”

Kyle Gilbert, Jr., Bend

Gilbert received honorable mention all-MVC on offense a season ago, making three catches for 57 yards (third on the team) in the Lava Bears’ run-heavy scheme, and he is poised for a breakthrough junior year. Coach Matt Craven said Gilbert probably has the best hands on the team. “He has definitely grown and doesn’t look like a sophomore anymore — he looks like a mature high school kid,” Craven said. “I think he is going to make a real impact for us.”

Mitchell Duea, Sr., West Linn

Duea will head to Georgetown as a tight end, where he was a red-zone threat for the Lions last season — five of his nine catches were for touchdowns. “He is an excellent two-way player,” West Linn coach Chris Miller said. “If developed well, Mitchell has a chance to play pro football in the future.”

Mitchell Duea (West Linn) photo by Taylor Balkom

Spencer McKelligon, Jr., Jesuit

McKelligon can play tight along the line or split out as a wide receiver, and he’ll get plenty of reps on defense. He caught two passes as a sophomore in limited varsity action. “An amazing athlete who will play at the next level,” Crusaders coach Ken Potter said.

Tre Anderson, Sr., Jefferson

The 6-4 Anderson was second-team all-PIL on offense as a utility player in 2019. He led the Democrats with four touchdown catches and averaged more than 26 yards per reception. “He makes plays,” Jefferson coach Houston Lillard said, “and does a lot for us.” 

Waylon Wolfe, Jr., Lebanon

Wolfe is a quiet kid with big upside on both sides of the ball. As a sophomore, he received all-state honorable mention at tight end with 12 catches for 156 yards and four touchdowns. Lebanon coach Ty Tomlin said Wolfe has a strong understanding of the game and loves the physicality of football. “I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do after getting stronger in the weight room,” Tomlin said. “He’s just a good, fun kid to coach.” 

Spencer McKelligon (Jesuit) photo by Taylor Balkom

Will French, Sr., Valley Catholic

“Will is the kid that every coach wants to coach,” Valiants coach Nick Hegwood said. Hands down, French is the team leader. At 6-3, 220 pounds, he has the size to go with his skill and commitment, tools that should help him at the next level, Hegwood said. He’s a tight end, but French will move around a lot on offense to make the defense adjust. 

Zack Schlottmann, Jr., Glencoe

Schlottmann was an honorable mention all-Pacific Conference tight end who finished second on the team with 28 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown last season. “He has put in such a great offseason,” Crimson Tide coach Ian Reynoso said. “He’s added about 20 pounds and is strong, over that 1,000-pound total we shoot for, but hasn’t lost a speck of speed. He has a ton of potential ahead of him.” 

Find our team-by-team previews for every 6A, 5A and 4A team in Oregon at this link

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