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 sixth list focuses on the defensive linemen.
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 linemen worthy of fans’ attention in 2021.
Jake Moore (Wilsonville) photo by Leon Neuschwander
Aiden Johnson, Jr., Tillamook
Johnson had nine sacks, including five in one game, last season, his second as a starter for the Cheesemakers. “Aiden, technically, is the best lineman we’ve had in my years here,” coach Kye Johnson said. “Great team leader, too. He is, for sure, a college guy. We’re definitely hoping he gets two seasons in 2021 so he can maximize the most out of this year.”
Andrew Savaiinaea, Jr., The Dalles
Savaiinaea returned to The Dalles, where he grew up, after playing his first two years of high school football at Eastside Catholic in the Seattle suburb of Sammamish, where last season he had 25 tackles and three sacks despite missing a month. “He’s getting a lot of attention from Division I schools and is one of the top kids in the state at any level,” coach Andy Codding said. Savaiinaea is 6-feet-5 and 280 pounds and is being recruited as a defensive lineman by seven Pac-12 schools — he is No. 5 in 247Sports’ Oregon Class of 2022 rankings.
Blaine Aamodt, Sr., Redmond
A three-year starter, Aamodt last season was first-team all-league as a defensive lineman. “I think Blaine will be really dominant for us on the defensive line, as he was last year,” Panthers coach Seth Womack said.
Blake Wolters, Sr., Heppner
Wolters made the all-state team on both sides of the ball last season, making 70 tackles (17 for loss) with four sacks and five forced fumbles as a nose guard for the 2A state champions. “He just tears people up with his low center of gravity,” Mustangs coach Greg Grant said of the 5-8, 155-pounder. “He’s just a pain in the butt on defense.”
Brady Traeger, Sr., Kennedy
Traeger was a terror on the defensive front for the Lancers last season, earning first-team all-state honors for a defense that allowed 11.8 points per game as the Trojans reached the 2A state final for a second consecutive season.
Broderick Reese, Sr., Century
Reese had a chance to play at the next level in two sports. He won a wrestling state championship last February after a junior season on the gridiron in which he had 29 tackles for loss (88 total tackles), 7½ sacks, 11 hurries and three forced fumbles and earned first-team all-Pacific honors. He had offers from Northern Colorado, Valparaiso and San Diego, but instead accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Washington. “Brody is our anchor on both our lines,” Jaguars coach Danny Kernan said. “He is a great leader and is always looking to help get his teammates better.”
Brody Little, Sr., Culver
Little missed his freshman season after breaking his tibia during summer camp, then had to deal with his father and coach, Shea, recovering from a double lung transplant during his sophomore season. As a junior, he made the 2A all-state team at three positions, including on the defensive line, where he had 49 tackles, two fumble recoveries and a sack. “Brody is a quiet leader, a strong and explosive player,” Shea Little said. “This season will help Brody make his decision whether to play at the next level or not.”
Bryson Kievit, Sr., Sprague
A first-team all-Mountain Valley selection on the defensive line as a junior, Kievit is an imposing two-way lineman who recently received a scholarship offer from Western Oregon. Kievit has ideal size (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) and improved his explosiveness during the offseason. “He is a diehard football kid,” Olympians coach Jay Minyard said of Kievit, who has started since he was a sophomore. “He loves football and loves competing.”
Carter Neuman, Sr., Sheldon
Neuman, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound two-star prospect, recently decommitted from Air Force and instead accepted a preferred walk-on offer from Oregon State. He was a first-team all-Southwest pick on defense 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,” Irish coach Jose Line said. “And physically, there’s just not a lot of guys who are his size.”
Charlie Pickard, Sr., Jesuit
Pickard eschewed several scholarship offers, including one from Mountain West champion San Jose State, to accept a preferred walk-on offer from Oregon, where the two-way all-state selection (honorable mention on defense) hopes to become the next walk-on to earn a scholarship in Eugene. Don’t bet against him. “He is a leader on our team,” Crusaders coach Ken Potter said. “Very strong and talented.”
Charlie Pickard (Jesuit) photo by Taylor Balkom
Christian Brehm, Sr., Cascade Christian
Brehm received all-state honorable mention last season with 33 tackles (eight for loss) and a team-high four sacks as he helped the Challengers reach the 3A state quarterfinals. “He is an undersized lineman who makes up for the loss of mass with a relentless attitude,” coach Jon Gettman said. “His quickness and agility allow him defensively to make penetration into the backfield. He is another one of the many players I get to coach who understands the importance of humility, hard work and sacrifice.”
Cobyn Herbert, Sr., Elmira
Herbert serves as a hard-hitting defensive end. At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, he’s a game-changer on both sides of the ball. “Defensively, he’s that guy that helps us shut down the run and the pass from length and speed,” Falcons coach Justin Peeler said. Though he’s struggled with injuries in the past, Peeler said Herbert looks as healthy as the coach has seen him.
Dalton Puckett, Sr., North Lake
Puckett has bucked the odds for small-school players making it big, coming back from an injury his sophomore season that required surgery to sign with Western Oregon this month after earning all-league honors playing for a one-win team in eight-man football last season. “Last year, Dalton did everything we asked of him,” Cowboys coach Barry Anderson said. “He has great character and physically is a ton to deal with for opposing teams. Playing at the next level has always been a goal of his, and he is very excited about the opportunity.”
Dillon Condit, Sr., Hillsboro
Hillsboro had enough linebackers last season that Condit was moved to the defensive line, even though he weighed about 165 pounds. Size didn’t matter for Condit, who was second-team all-NWOC West on defense. “He has the best get-off for a defensive lineman,” coach Dan Shuff said. “He’s so small. And he’s so hard to block. He just tore people up last year.” Condit tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 16.5. “He has a motor,” Shuff said, “and just goes and goes and goes.”
Eathan Lasby, Sr., Sheldon
The brother of former Sheldon all-state defensive lineman Austin Lasby, Eathan had a strong junior season on defense and made second-team all-SWC. His 48 tackles (six for loss) are the most of any returning Irish player. Sheldon coach Josh Line said the younger Lasby could wind up playing defensive tackle or middle linebacker. “We don’t really know where he’s going to land this year,” Line said. “He’s a super tough kid, as tough as they get. And he’s a lot more athletic than his older brother, but not quite as a big.”
Emilio Castaneda, Sr., Hood River Valley
Castaneda is a third-year starter who was first-team all-NWOC East on the defensive line last season, although he’ll play on the offensive line at Western Oregon. “He’s a big, strong kid who is kind of maturing late but is really physical and has a relentless motor,” Eagles coach Caleb Sperry said. “He gets after it. He likes to mix it up in the trenches and be a tough guy.”
Ethan Myers, Sr., Baker
As a junior, Myers was a first-team all-league pick at defensive end. “A tough, athletic kid with a motor,” Bulldogs coach Jason Ramos said. “He’s a dominant defensive end who is tough to handle on the edge.”
Gavin McGuire, Jr., Lake Oswego
McGuire ended last season as a starter at defensive end and had big games in the semifinal win over Jesuit (five tackles, 1½ tackles for loss, forced fumble) and the final against Central Catholic (four tackles, forced fumble). He is a top lacrosse player whose older brother, Marshall, plays at Syracuse. “It was huge, his coming on the way he did throughout the year,” Lakers coach Steve Coury said. “He’s a fighter, just a very good player.”
Giovanni Perez, Sr., McKay
Perez made second-team all-Mid-Willamette on defense last season, when he had 8½ tackles for loss and forced four fumbles. “He’s a fantastic, fantastic worker, extremely motivated intrinsically, and he does everything he possibly can to continue to do better,” Scots coach Brandis Piper said, also praising Perez’s leadership. “He holds himself and everyone around him to the highest possible standards and doesn’t let anyone do less than what their best effort is.” Perez brings high energy, physicality and aggressiveness to the field.
Hunter Nielsen, Sr., Bend
Playing both ways in the trenches is difficult at the 6A level, but Nielsen is too good to be limited to one side of the ball. He was a first-team all-Mountain Valley selection on defense last season, finishing with 12 tackles as he solidified the middle of the line. “He’s a guy that we look to start at guard, which is a crucial position on our offensive line,” Lava Bears coach Matt Craven said. “We see him as a guy who is also going to split time on defense.”
Hunter Stephenson, Sr., Yamhill-Carlton
Stephenson returned from a torn ACL suffered as a sophomore to help lead a Tigers defense that allowed 14.4 points per game. He made the all-state second team after recording 26 tackles (eight for loss) and four sacks. “Hunter took that opportunity after his injury to really work his upper body while rehabbing,” coach Brennon Mossholder said. “He has used the COVID situation in a similar way to again propel himself towards an excellent senior year.”
Jack Kimball, Sr., Wilsonville
Kimball led the Wildcats with 16½ tackles for loss and 13½ sacks last season, and he was fourth on the team with 58 tackles (a team-high 29 solo). “He’s got sneaky speed and great hands,” Wildcats coach Adam Guenther said.
Jack Kimball (Wilsonville) photo by Leon Neuschwander
Jacob Hannah, Sr., North Bend
A beast of a lineman at 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, Hannah made the all-league first team on offense and defense last season and recently signed with Southern Oregon. He’s agile and strong and, more important, he’s taken on a leadership role in a critical position group. “He and his teammates are really spending a lot of time together, which we hope will translate into a very close group of guys,” Bulldogs coach Gary Prince said. “(He) is going to create problems up front for both offensive and defensive coordinators alike.”
Jake Moore, Sr., Wilsonville
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Moore was first-team all-NWOC West on both interior lines last season, finishing with 47 tackles (13 for loss) and five sacks. “He’s quick off the ball,” Wildcats coach Adam Guenther said. Moore is the strongest player on the team, Guenther added, able to do 28 bench-press repetitions of 185 pounds. Moore has committed to NAIA College of Idaho, where he also intends to compete in track and field.
Jayden Sandusky, Sr., North Medford
As a junior, Sandusky led the Southwest Conference with nine sacks en route to earning first-team all-conference honors. Black Tornado coach Steven Turner said Sandusky lost weight in the offseason but added muscle to his 230-pound frame. “He was probably the second-best guy in the league last year behind (Sheldon’s Taylor Johnson),” Turner said. “Jayden is a very physical player with a great motor. He is an outstanding D-lineman for us.”
Jimmy Jordahl, Jr., Crater
“When I was coaching at the college level, when we were recruiting linemen, you were more likely to get a scholarship if you also wrestled,” first-year Comets coach Berk Brown said. “There’s so much to it: the balance, the coordination, the understanding of leverage.” Proof of concept: Jordahl, who garnered all-state honorable mention as a defensive lineman as a sophomore. He also was the Class 5A wrestling state runner-up at 210 pounds. Coincidence? Not a chance, Brown would argue.
Joe Northcutt, Sr., Henley
Northcutt signed with Western Oregon after a junior season in which he earned first-team all-Skyline honors on defense with 46 tackles (13 for loss) and six sacks. “He’s a monster, and he’ll be one of the better players at his position in the state,” Hornets coach Alex Stork said. “He’s a strong, physical player who plays all along the D-line for us.”
Julian Lopez, Sr., Lake Oswego
Lopez served as one of the anchors of the defensive line last season, earning second-team all-Three Rivers recognition. He has drawn interest from small college programs in the Northwest. “He’s gotten bigger and more physical in the offseason,” Lakers coach Steve Coury said. “We’re expecting a lot from him.”
Kaden Segel, Sr., Grant
Segel was a first-team all-PIL selection who played at tackle and end for a Generals defense that allowed a league-low 201 points in earning their first outright league title since 2014. He plans on playing baseball in college, signing with Linn-Benton Community College.
Kaden Segel (Grant) photo by Rockne Andrew Roll
Kale Paslay, Jr., Marist Catholic
At 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds, Paslay was a dominant force last season as the Spartans’ starting nose guard, finishing with 27 tackles (six for loss). “He ended up being our best defensive lineman by a long shot as a sophomore,” coach Frank Geske said. “Great hand placement, great motor.”
Kasey Robinson, Sr., Springfield
Robinson dominated fall 7-on-7 competition in Eugene and signed with Western Oregon after making the all-league team on defense. Not bad for just his third year of organized football. “He’s primed, he’s ready to go, he’s worked as hard as he’s ever worked,” Millers coach Miles Haley said. “He’s going to be a big-time guy.”
Keenan O’Donnell, Sr., Thurston
O’Donnell, a 6-foot-5, 315-pounder who made the all-state second team as a defensive tackle last season with 27 tackles (6.5 for loss) and two sacks, signed with Western Oregon this month. He’ll play both ways this season, and Colts coach Justin Starck is downright excited. “The linemen are the key,” he said.
Kross Galago, Sr., Thurston
Another of Thurston’s seniors in the trenches, Galago transferred from Class 4A Marist Catholic, where he made the all-Sky Em first team on defense with 32 tackles (eight for loss). The Southern Oregon signee will again play both ways, and at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds, he’s more than ready for the physical challenges of Class 5A football. “This kid is put together — he makes your eyes pop out when you see him,” Colts coach Justin Starck said. “From what I’ve seen on film, this kid is a game-changer.”
Kyle Moxley, Sr., Southridge
Kyle transferred with twin brother Kaleb from Aloha in the summer of 2019, but Kyle’s junior season was cut short by a knee injury suffered at practice the week before the opener. He worked hard to come back from the injury and is in the best shape of his life hoping to make up for lost time. “He is as dominant a defensive player as anyone in this league,” Skyhawks coach Kevin Bickler said. “He’s expected to have a huge season.”
Liam Brown, Sr., Sunset
Brown was a two-way all-league performer for the Apollos last season, garnering second-team honors on defense (16 tackles, 4½ for loss). He recently signed with Montana as an offensive lineman. “He put on some great weight during the pandemic but still moves really well,” Sunset coach Damien Merrick said.
Liam Brown (Sunset) photo by Taylor Balkom
Logan Chastain, Jr., Clackamas
Chastain was an all-Mt. Hood first-team selection last season, even though his statistics were modest. “You go watch the film, you’re going to see he was a problem for the (opposing) offense,” Cavaliers coach James Holan said, citing the double-teams Chastain drew and the way he would allow linebackers to range across the field. “He’s pretty dominant for us on the defensive line.” Holan said Chastain (6 feet, 250 pounds) is by far the strongest player on the team.
Noah Culbertson, Sr., Sherwood
Culbertson signed with Idaho to throw the shot put and discus, but he easily could suit up for the Vandals football program. Besides being named the conference offensive lineman of the year last season, he had 20 tackles (five for loss) as a second-team all-conference pick on defense. “He’s a technician with good size and does things the right way,” Bowmen coach Greg Lawrence said.
Slade Shufelt, Sr., Hillsboro
Spartans coach Dan Shuff is looking for huge things from Shufelt in his senior season. As a junior, Shufelt was first-team all-NWOC West and earned honorable mention on the 5A all-state team on defense. “He’s going to be heavily relied on both offensively and defensively for us,” Shuff said. Now 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Shufelt last season tied for the team lead with 16.5 tackles for loss and was tops among Spartans players with 4.5 sacks. Speed and athleticism are evident from his fifth-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2019 OSAA Class 5A track championships. Shufelt participated in the Blue-Grey Football All-American Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in December and was chosen overall MVP of a Best Coast Showcase in late fall. He has received an offer from FCS Valparaiso in Indiana.
TJ Zimmerman, Sr., West Albany
A second-team all-state pick on defense last season for a Bulldogs team that allowed 9.6 points per game, Zimmerman is a leader on both sides of the ball. At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Zimmerman had 45 tackles (seven for loss) and two sacks as a junior. “TJ is just a big, strong, wide kid,” coach Brian Mehl said. “He plays big roles for us on offense and defense.”
Trey Darden, Sr., Dufur
Darden last season was a second-team all-state selection on the defensive line, finishing with 36 tackles (nine for loss) and five sacks. He signed with Eastern Oregon this month. “Trey is a hard-working local Eastern Oregon product with tremendous upside and versatility as a football player,” EOU coach Tim Camp said.
Ty Delgado, Sr., Parkrose
The 6-foot-2, 275-pound Delgado should be the anchor of both lines for the Broncos. He was first-team all-NWOC East last season on both sides of the line of scrimmage. “We’re really looking for him to help set the tone,” first-year coach Brian Jackson said of the all-state honorable mention selection.
Ty Delgado (Parkrose) photo by Amanda Loman
Tyler Exline, Sr., Banks
After spearheading the Braves’ run to the 2018 4A state championship, Exline was injured in the first league game in 2019 and missed the rest of the season as the team reached the final. He signed with Eastern Oregon this month, with Mountaineers coach Tim Camp saying, “Tyler is a dynamic athlete with the unique combination of size, speed and power, and can play multiple positions on the defensive line.”
Va’atausili Tofaeono, Sr., Century
Tofaeono received all-Pacific honorable mention last season after making 109 tackles (13 for loss), two sacks and four hurries. He has committed to Linfield. “Tau is a kid that we ask a lot out of,” Jaguars coach Danny Kernan said. “And he gets the job done no matter what.”
William Woitte, Sr., Crater
Woitte was second-team all-state as a junior, proving what old-fashioned grit can do. “He’s not afraid to get after it against anyone — doesn’t matter if he’s getting double-, triple-teamed, he’s not going to turn down a fight,” Comets coach Berk Brown said. He’ll be a vital piece on both sides of the ball for Crater.