3A Oregon high school football: Players, teams to watch

By René Ferrán

A look at some of the top players and teams to watch in Class 3A Oregon high school football

Players to Watch

RB Caleb Benson, Sr., Nyssa

Last season, Benson stepped in for all-state back JoJo Sanchez, who’s now at Idaho State, and earned all-state honorable mention in helping the Bulldogs get back to the state playoffs.

QB Elijah Blankenship, Sr., Siuslaw

Blankenship helped engineer the Vikings’ turnaround from a winless 2018 campaign to six victories and a 3A state playoff berth, completing 63.5 percent of his passes (125 of 197) for a school-record 2,455 yards and 13 touchdowns (one interception) and running for 878 yards and eight touchdowns.

DL Christian Brehm, Sr., Cascade Christian

As a junior, Brehm received all-state honorable mention with 33 tackles (eight for loss) and a team-high four sacks to help the Challengers reach the state quarterfinals.

WR/DB Hudson Carter, Sr., Santiam Christian

Carter made contributions offensively for the Eagles (19 catches for 213 yards) last season, but his importance for the state champions comes on defense, where he was a first-team all-state selection.

WR/DB Kristian Fralich, Sr., Cascade Christian

Fralich was a three-way all-state honoree last season, making the first team as a kick returner (three touchdowns on 23 punt returns with a 14.5-yard average) and second team on offense (45 catches for 910 yards and 15 touchdowns) and defense (team-high 76 tackles, seven interceptions, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles). 

RB Marcus Fullbright, Sr., Santiam Christian

Fullbright, a 3A co-offensive player of the year in 2019, went over 100 yards in 11 of 12 games and finished with 1,777 yards and 33 touchdowns rushing. He also caught 15 passes (two touchdowns) out of the backfield.

QB/DB Kennan Graham, Sr., Amity

Graham was a two-way standout for the 2019 state quarterfinalists, earning all-state honorable mention in the secondary with 40 tackles (14 for loss) and five interceptions while also directing the Warriors offense, throwing for 926 yards and 14 touchdowns.

QB/LB Logan Holler, Sr., Brookings-Harbor

Holler split time with older brother Ethan under center last season, throwing for 434 yards and four touchdowns and running for five scores, and he was an all-state honorable mention selection on defense with 80 tackles and three forced fumbles. He is a four-year starter on defense who made the all-league team his first three seasons. “He just has a knack for the ball,” Bruins coach Shaun Bavaro said. “He’s got a pretty darn good arm and is learning the offense. The sky’s the limit for him.”

QB Ely Kennel, Jr., Santiam Christian

Kennel last season hardly looked like a newcomer running the offense for the state champion Eagles, making the all-state second team after completing more than 57 percent of his passes (138 of 239) for 1,918 yards and 28 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He also ran for 884 yards (9.8 per carry) and 12 scores.

RB/LB Camp Lacouture, Jr., Siuslaw

Lacouture was the only Vikings player to receive all-league recognition on both sides of the ball during their renaissance season that saw them go from zero wins to six and their first playoff berth since 2014. He was a first-team all-league linebacker (three interceptions) and second-team running back, gaining 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing two games with an injury.

TE Joe MaQatish, Sr., Santiam Christian

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

RB Cedrix Moses, Sr., Clatskanie

The second-team all-state selection played a major part in the Tigers’ run to the division title and a spot in the 2019 quarterfinals, shining in the single-wing. We’re curious to see how new coach Judd Stutzman will use Moses in his spread attack.

OL Henry Rankin, Jr., Siuslaw

Rankin was one of four sophomores to make the all-state team last season, receiving honorable mention after helping the Vikings go from zero wins to six and their playoff berth since 2014.

OT/DT Hunter Stephenson, Sr., Yamhill-Carlton

Stephenson returned from a torn ACL suffered as a sophomore to help lead a Tigers defense that allowed just 14.4 points per game, making the all-state second team in the process. He had 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 put on about 15 pounds of muscle and became a dominant offensive and defensive lineman for us.”

WR Braydon Thornton, Jr., Siuslaw

Thornton joined Rankin as Vikings sophomores to receive all-state honorable mention after making 65 catches for 1,552 yards and 15 touchdowns a season ago. “He is a player who every coach dreams of getting on their team,” coach Sammy Johnson said. “He is a born leader for us and elevates his play to another level no matter who we are playing.”

QB/S Jaden Tiller, Jr., Burns

Last season’s league offensive player of the year and an all-state honorable mention selection, Tiller excelled in the read-option and RPOs that were the Hilanders’ bread and butter, nearly reaching 1,000 yards in both passing (97 of 187, 1,146 yards, 13 touchdowns) and rushing (912 yards, 11 touchdowns).

TE/DE 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 made 47 tackles (seven for loss) and three pass breakups.

WR/DB Justin Winn, Sr., Burns

Winn last season earned first-team all-league honors at receiver (22 catches for 262 yards and a team-high five touchdowns) and honorable mention at outside linebacker (70 tackles, nine for loss) to help the Hilanders reach the semifinals.

Teams to Watch

Amity (8-3 in 2019)

Warriors coach Joel Magill, in his third stint with the team, needs five victories to reach 100 for his career, and with Graham and Wart leading the way, Amity could hit that mark in a shortened spring season.

Burns (11-1)

The Hilanders might be the best team east of the Cascades, with seven starters back, including Tiller to run the show and two-way standout Winn plus a couple of dynamic juniors, running back Wyatt Epling and wide receiver Dalhton Proffitt, surrounding him.

Clatskanie (8-3)

The Tigers in 2019 won a second league title in the past three seasons with a senior-laden team, but with a new coach — Stutzman, formerly an offensive assistant at George Fox — in charge, the shortened spring season might be the perfect time to transition from the run-heavy single-wing offense to the spread.

Rainier (9-3)

The 2018 state champion will challenge rival Clatskanie for league honors with a couple of offensive standouts — junior quarterback Kenney Tripp and junior running back Stone Ware — and senior two-way threat Korbin Howell leading the way.

Santiam Christian (13-0)

The defending champion would have been an overwhelming favorite to become the first back-to-back titlist since Vale in 2014-15 if not for the pandemic.

Yamhill-Carlton (9-1)

The biggest question for the Tigers is who will replace all-state quarterback Jaime Garcia, but the defense led by Stephenson and junior linebacker Tiger Reimann would have kept them in contention for a second consecutive league title.

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