Oregon high school football preview: Meet each 6A team’s most indispensable player

By René Ferrán, Mike Wilson and Bob Lundeberg

The Oregon high school football season kicks off this week, and SBLive has rolled out a comprehensive statewide preview.

Here, our reporters examine each 6A team’s most irreplaceable player. Who is one player that if he were to miss a game, his team’s chances would take a big hit? We answer below.

Royce Fasel (Glencoe) photo by Taylor Balkom

PIL

Cleveland

Senior QB/S Logan Geiszler earned all-NWOC West honorable mention at safety last season. He began the season as the starting quarterback but didn’t throw more than 10 passes in any game. He is among the candidates to take over Cleveland’s new pistol offense. “We’ve been impressed with him,” Warriors coach Bill Smith said.

Franklin

Expected to be a two-way starter, 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior OL/DL Mipam Jampa can make an impact — whether as a physical force off the edge or as an offensive tackle. “He’s a good-size kid who moves very well,” Lightning coach Jesse Thompson said. “He could probably be a tight end in a different offense — and be a pretty good one.” Thompson added that Jampa has a high ceiling for his football future.

Grant

Senior QB Logan Going was a unanimous first-team all-PIL selection last season, and this year, Generals coach John Beck said, “He’s just all-around a lot better.” Going devoted considerable time in the offseason to work in the 7-on-7 environment and in developing his skills under the tutelage of Chris Miller, a former Oregon Ducks and NFL quarterback. “He’s bigger, stronger, faster,” Beck said. “He has more velocity on the football.” The 6-foot-3 Going passed for more than 2,000 yards last season and gets high marks for his smarts and leadership.

Jefferson

A first-team running back and the offensive player of the year in the PIL last season, senior RB Damir Collins signed with Oregon State in December. Collins (5-feet-9, 180 pounds) rushed for 2,453 yards last season, averaging 11.3 yards per carry. He scored 27 touchdowns on the ground and added two on receptions. “He’s elusive, a good kid, strong, fast,” Democrats coach Houston Lillard said. 

Lincoln

A third-year varsity player, senior RB/WR/S Charles Willmott was first-team all-Portland Interscholastic League on offense as a utility player and second-team all-PIL as a defensive back last season. Cardinals coach Jeremy Johnson said Willmott has put on about 15 to 20 pounds of “good” weight since last season. “He’s always been a little undersized in his frame, but he’s as tough as they come pound-for-pound,” Johnson said. Willmott, who attends Oregon Episcopal School in Southwest Portland, is headed to Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., where he hopes to play football and basketball.

Madison

Senior WR/DB Will Cabello has the most playing experience of Madison’s seniors and is expected to be a key contributor on both sides of the ball. “Will is our biggest threat on offense and embraces that role,” Senators coach Joe Salvador said. “He wants the ball in his hands at crunch time and is willing to make a key block to spring a teammate for a long gain.” The 6-3, 190-pound Cabello also draws praise for his competitiveness and leadership on and off the field.

Roosevelt

Getting the ball into junior RB/S Lindell Betts’ hands — wherever he lines up — appears to be a priority for the Roughriders of North Portland. “He’s really explosive,” Roosevelt coach Ryan McCants said. “When he runs, when he turns it on and he has a step on somebody, he’s not going to get caught.” A strong student in the classroom, Betts might line up at wide receiver depending on what offensive package the team runs. “He’s really quick,” McCants said. “He can make you miss in a phone booth, as they say.”

Wilson

Senior WR/DB Jayden Brannan was the Trojans’ leading receiver last season, exceeding 40 catches and 600 yards and scoring four touchdowns in the passing game. He was first-team all-conference on offense, received honorable mention at safety, and signed with Portland State in February. First-year coach Keith Bennett calls the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Brannan a gifted athlete with limitless potential as well as the consummate teammate. “He puts just as much energy into blocking to free a teammate for a touchdown as he does to score one on his own,” Bennett said. “He has the size, speed and intangibles to be an amazing football player not only in high school but college as well.”

METRO LEAGUE

Aloha

Senior WR/CB Tanner Volk earned second-team all-league honors on both sides of the ball as a junior, catching 46 passes for 847 yards and nine touchdowns and making 30 tackles and two interceptions in the secondary. The Central Washington commit, who can play quarterback in a pinch, learned from an early age the ins and outs of the game as a fly on the wall during his father’s coaches meetings, sitting in the corner and absorbing everything. “His savviness has paid dividends. He always seems one step ahead of the play as it comes,” Warriors coach Bill Volk said. “He’s also blessed with some athletic gifts. He can throw the ball with either hand, kick, catch, has athletic hips and is a mobile kid.”

Beaverton

Senior WR/FS Trent Walker had interest from service academy teams and several FCS schools, with 4.52-second 40-yard speed and 2019 statistics — 72 catches for 1,010 yards and 11 touchdowns at receiver, 59 tackles (49 solo), two interceptions, three forced fumbles and four pass breakups in the secondary — that helped earn him first-team all-Metro honors on both sides of the ball and second-team all-state on offense. He ended up taking a preferred walk-on offer with Oregon State. “He’s gotten stronger and put on weight, and he looks great,” Beaverton coach Bob Boyer said. “He can do just about anything.”

Jesuit

Senior OL/DL Charlie 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 (second team on offense, 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.”

Mountainside

Senior WR/DB Andrew Simpson is one of the most dynamic playmakers in Oregon — he’s ranked No. 19 among the state’s top prospects according to 247Sports and recently signed with Western Oregon. He led the Mavericks with 42 catches for 587 yards and six touchdowns last season, ran the ball 52 times for 246 yards, and was a third-team all-league cornerback with 51 tackles and six interceptions. “His best days are still in front of him,” Mountainside coach John Mannion said. “I’m excited to see what his development from his junior to senior season will be.”

Southridge 

Senior RB/LB Kaleb Moxley was one of the most dominant linebackers in the Metro League last season, finishing with a team-high 142 tackles (23 for loss), 13 sacks and 16 hurries playing opposite Zach Slail, who signed with Air Force. He is one of many players statewide who would benefit from having senior film to provide prospective college coaches. “Just a flat-out stud football player,” Skyhawks coach Kevin Bickler said. “He never wants to come out of the game. He will be a top player on the team and a great leader, dominant on both sides of the ball.”

Sunset

Senior TE/LB Connor Stevens earned all-Metro honors on both sides of the ball as a junior — first team at linebacker, where he made a team-high 66 tackles (26 solo, three for loss), and 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.”

Westview

Senior QB Brayden Libby went through an up-and-down season as a first-time starter. He was strong in the first two weeks, both victories, then struggled in his next two games and was briefly benched. He came back in the second half against Tualatin in Week 6 and regained his starting job, finishing the season 110 of 246 for 1,529 yards, 17 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. “He was challenged, and he responded in a positive way,” Wildcats coach Ryan Atkinson said. “He faced adversity and didn’t quit, figured things out, and he came along really well by the end of the year.”

Tanner Volk (Aloha) photo by Taylor Balkom

PACIFIC CONFERENCE

Century

Senior C/DL Broderick Reese had a chance to play at the next level in two sports. He won a wrestling state championship in February 2020 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-conference honors. He had offers from Northern Colorado, Valparaiso and San Diego but chose instead to accept a preferred walk-on offer from Washington. He was an honorable mention selection at guard, but he’ll move to center this season. “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.”

Glencoe

Junior RB/LB Royce Fasel might be the best player to come through the Glencoe program in a generation. A Day 1 starter as a freshman, he made the all-conference first team at three positions (running back, linebacker and kick returner) last season, and by being the only sophomore voted onto an all-state team (honorable mention defense), he became the first Crimson Tide player to earn all-state recognition since 2010. He led the team with 72 tackles (10 for loss), ran for 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns, and caught 23 passes out of the backfield. “He has just an amazing work ethic,” Glencoe coach Ian Reynoso said. “He’s destroyed his COVID offseason lifting plan — he is the strongest player ever to come through our program. He’s a wrecking ball. He’s been working on reading, reacting, changing direction and his overall strength and durability.”

Liberty

Senior RB/CB Xanden Unciano didn’t hang his head when he didn’t win the starting quarterback job last season, instead becoming a valuable jack-of-all-trades (receiving all-conference honorable mention at cornerback) and taking over for several games when starting quarterback Hiro Diamond was out with an injury. After Diamond’s return, the Falcons installed several packages for Unciano to run under center to diversify the attack. “We are a better team with both these players on the field at the same time,” Liberty coach Eric Mahlum said. “Xanden’s an athletic and explosive player who can play just about any position on the field.”

McMinnville

Another player who could have signed collegiately in two sports, senior OT Jacob Barnes was a first-team all-conference lineman last season and won a national championship in wrestling. He signed with Oregon State’s wrestling program in November. “He was dominant at times on the line last year,” Grizzlies coach Ryan McIrvin said. “I believe he is one of the best linemen in the state.” 

Newberg

Senior LB Conner Croskrey has started the past two seasons at middle linebacker and was named to the all-league first team as a junior after leading the Tigers with 95 tackles (eight for loss) and five sacks. Newberg coach Kevin Hastin praised Croskrey’s ability to drop back in pass coverage, as evidenced by his three interceptions. He’s getting looks from several Division III schools. “He’s one of the better linebackers that I’ve ever coached,” Hastin said. “He’s a dynamic player who can run sideline to sideline with great speed. He’s got a great nose for the ball and anticipates the play really well.”

Sherwood

Senior OG/LB Bryan Cuthbertson was the 2019 conference defensive player of the year and a first-team all-state middle linebacker who led the state in tackles with 158. He had 22 tackles for loss, four sacks and two blocked punts. He also was a first-team all-conference guard, but defense is his calling card, earning him an offer from Portland State. “He is the best linebacker I’ve seen in my 30 years at Sherwood,” Bowmen coach Greg Lawrence said. “He’s big for a linebacker at 240 pounds, but he doesn’t play at 240. He’s everywhere on the field. It’s fun to watch him because he makes cringing hits. His mentality is that he’s going to make you pay for even touching the ball.”

MT. HOOD CONFERENCE

Barlow

A two-way starter and the Bruins’ leading returning receiver, senior WR/CB Carter Baggs had 39 receptions for 431 yards last season, including an eight-catch, 114-yard game against Sandy and five catches for 87 yards in the Class 6A semifinal against Central Catholic.  

Centennial

After the out-of-state transfer of Centennial’s leading rusher from 2018 before last season, senior RB/LB Kobe Hein was moved from slot receiver to running back. The move worked well enough that he was all-Mt. Hood Conference honorable mention at the position. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Hein, also a wrestler whose toughness is evident on the football field, was among the team’s leading tacklers from an outside linebacker/rolled-up safety spot. “We have a hard time getting him off the field,” Eagles coach Butch Self said.

Central Catholic

Senior TE/LB Jack Brown started every game in 2019 at outside linebacker and amassed 10 tackles for loss in what Rams coach Steve Pyne called a very consistent season. “He has great athleticism and playmaking ability,” Pyne said. Brown had an interception in the 2019 Class 6A championship game — one of only two that runner-up Lake Oswego threw in its five postseason games. 

Clackamas

Senior S/LB Ethan Secor earned all-Mt. Hood honorable mention at linebacker last season. This year, Cavaliers coach James Holan said, “We’re hoping we get the production from the linebackers that we need and he can stay at safety, because that’s where he excels.” Secor, whom Holan called a “special player,” is Clackamas’ top returning tackler. 

David Douglas

The Scots will want senior QB/S/K James Hamann on the field as much as possible. He backed up Dakota Lohmeier at quarterback last season, led the team in tackles and came through as a kicker (he booted a 35-yard extra point in the season finale against Centennial to send the game to overtime). Hamann earned honorable mention on the all-Mt. Hood Conference team as a defensive back last season. “He’s very athletic and a threat to run on any play,” David Douglas coach Cal Szueber said.

Gresham

A first-team all-Mt. Hood tight end last season, senior TE/DE Ethan Evans (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) led the Gophers in receptions (20), receiving yards (381) and touchdowns (five). Exploiting Evans’ attributes will be among the team’s offensive priorities this season. “He runs pretty well,” Gresham 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.”

Reynolds

Senior RB/LB Miles Wilson is a two-year all-conference honoree. He was first-team all-Mt. Hood at running back and second-team at linebacker last season, after getting honorable mention at running back and second-team at linebacker as a sophomore. Wilson earned the accolades despite missing three games in the middle of last season with injury. “He is a beast running the football,” Raiders coach Ryan Aldred said, “but I believe he is better on the defensive side. He is a naturally instinctive player at linebacker and does things that cannot be taught.” Wilson is No. 45 in 247Sports’ rankings of Oregon’s class of 2021 players. Also a team captain, Wilson leads by example. “He does not miss anything and always does the right thing,” Aldred said.

Sandy

Junior TE/LB Ethan Lucore is a team captain, voted into that position at the end of his sophomore season. After making the all-Mt. Hood second team on the offensive line last season, he will move to tight end this year. Pioneers coach Josh Dill calls the 6-1, 215-pound Lucore probably the team’s most physical player. “He loves to block,” Dill said. “He can be a threat in the passing game as well. We’ll move him around quite a bit.” At outside linebacker/defensive end, Lucore will be an anchor on defense, and the coaches will move him around for favorable matchups.

Jack Brown (Central Catholic) photo by Taylor Balkom

THREE RIVERS LEAGUE

Lake Oswego

Junior QB Jack Layne hadn’t played quarterback until the Lakers staff moved him there as a freshman, “and he has just taken off at the position,” coach Steve Coury said. Last season, he served as the primary backup first for JJ Woodin, then to Casey Filkins when the Lakers went with the Wildcat full-time during the playoffs, getting into seven games and going 9 of 17 for 80 yards. “He’s just learning the game at the quarterback spot,” Coury said. “I think he’s got the chance to play at some level in college. The biggest thing he needs is some experience.”

Lakeridge

Senior QB/CB Andrew Oliver has signed with The Citadel as a safety, but in his time at Lakeridge, he has been a quarterback, cornerback — a new position last season at which he became a second-team all-league selection with 40 tackles and six interceptions — and punter (all-league honorable mention). First-year Pacers coach Spencer Phillips said he could put Oliver at any skill position and he’d be special, but he wants Oliver under center “so he touches the ball on every play. I’ve watched his development as a quarterback, and he’s been phenomenal given the circumstances. He’s everything you could want in someone leading your team.”

Oregon City

Senior QB Trey Martin completed more than 61 percent of his passes (157 of 256) and threw for 1,834 yards and 16 touchdowns in earning all-league honorable mention as a junior. Pioneers coach Dustin Janz thought he was ready for a big breakthrough senior season before heading to Southern Oregon. “He has worked tirelessly on improving his game over this long offseason,” Janz said. “He has the arm to make all the throws, makes great decisions and is fantastic in the pocket. He has added another layer this offseason and will be a threat with his feet when needed this season.”

Tigard

With all-league center Edward Beglaryan out with a knee injury, senior OT/LB Aden Murphy’s experience as a second-team all-league selection up front carries even more importance with now four new starters around him. He received all-league honorable mention at linebacker with 46 tackles (4½ for loss) and 2½ sacks. “Aden has taken on a leadership role in our offseason workouts,” Tigers coach John Kemper said. “He’s someone who’s definitely looking for that senior film to help propel him to the next level.” 

Tualatin

The Timberwolves found plenty of ways to get speedy junior RB Malik Ross involved in the offense last season with 23 catches for 318 yards and three touchdowns and 15 carries for 149 yards and two scores. He’ll move from receiver to tailback to take over for Kainoa Sayre. “He has big-play ability. If he gets a seam, he’s gone,” Tualatin coach Dan Lever said. “He will carry much of the offensive load for us.”

West Linn

Senior RB/LB Gavin Haines proved last season to be a more-than-able replacement for two-time all-state back Dawson Jolley, earning all-state honors himself while running for 1,620 yards and 21 touchdowns. He made 36 tackles (eight for loss) as a nickel linebacker. Haines ended up accepting a preferred walk-on offer from Oregon State over offers from Georgetown and Idaho State. “He’s a Jerry Rice 4.6-40 guy — he runs faster in games and doesn’t get caught from behind,” Lions coach Chris Miller said. “On defense, he’s tough against the run and can play man coverage.”

MOUNTAIN VALLEY CONFERENCE

Bend

Senior WR/LB Colt Musgrave, younger brother of Oregon State tight end Luke Musgrave, started at quarterback for most of last season before suffering a broken finger. The Idaho signee will be moving to inside linebacker this season and playing some wide receiver on offense. “He has put on a tremendous amount of good weight and I don’t think he’s missed anything (during the pandemic),” Lava Bears coach Matt Craven said. “He is a hard-working kid from a very athletic family.”

McNary

A top contender for Mountain Valley Conference defensive player of the year, senior TE/LB Dyami Rios has started at linebacker since his sophomore season. He 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 and obviously he’ll lead the defense.” 

Mountain View

An honorable mention all-Mountain Valley selection on defense last season, senior RB/LB Luke Roberts is poised to be a difference-maker on offense. He rushed for 518 yards and five touchdowns a season ago behind first-team all-MVC back Keenan Harpole (1,615 yards, 24 touchdowns), but the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is now the feature back. “He’s a special tailback,” Cougars coach Brian Crum said. “Three-sport athlete, student-body president, 4.0 student. We’ve had some special tailbacks come through our school, and he’s just as good as all of them.” 

South Salem

Senior WR/DB Gabe Johnson starred on both sides of the ball as a junior, making first-team all-Mountain Valley at wide receiver and earning honorable mention at safety. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior is the son of decathlete Dave Johnson, who won a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Johnson is rated a two-star recruit by 247Sports and holds multiple small-college offers. “Gabe is a college football talent and he runs really well,” Saxons coach Scott Dufault said. “He will be a three-year starter for us and is a very talented kid.”

Sprague

A first-team all-Mountain Valley selection on the defensive line as a junior, senior OL/DL Bryson 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.” 

Summit

Senior WR/DB Blake DiTullio was an honorable mention all-Mountain Valley defensive back as a sophomore and garnered first-team honors at wide receiver last season. The 6-foot-1 DiTullio could start both ways as a senior, but Summit has enough depth to keep him focused on offense. “He did amazing things at the end of last year in league, and that’s how he ended up on the first team,” Storm coach Corben Hyatt said. 

West Salem

Checking in at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds with a strong arm, senior QB Jackson Lowery is the complete package behind center for West Salem. He passed for 1,813 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior first-year starter, earning first-team all-Mountain Valley honors. Lowery is rated a two-star prospect by 247Sports and holds scholarship offers from Linfield and Pacific. “Jackson is a stud and a great place for us to start,” Titans coach Shawn Stanley said.

Aden Murphy (Tigard) photo by Taylor Balkom

SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE

Grants Pass

A first-team all-SWC offensive lineman last season, senior OL/DL Kai Perez is a two-way difference-maker who recorded 23 tackles and six sacks as a junior. He signed with Southern Oregon in early February over offers from Western Oregon, Pacific and George Fox. “Kai is relentless,” Cavemen coach John Musser said. “He is a vocal leader who is our best lineman.”

North Medford

Senior RB/LB Devin Bradd put up monster numbers last season, rushing for 1,581 yards and 26 touchdowns (fifth in Class 6A). He was a first-team all-Southwest Conference pick on offense and could be in the mix at outside linebacker as a senior. “Devin is a very powerful runner,” Black Tornado coach Steven Turner said. “He has good speed, not great speed, but his vision and strength are outstanding.” 

Roseburg

Junior ATH/DB Carson Six started as a sophomore and can play a variety of positions on offense, including quarterback and receiver. He is a standout for Roseburg in the secondary. “He has solid instincts and a good frame for the positions he plays,” coach Dave Heuberger said. “We are going to move him around a little bit.” 

Sheldon

Senior TE/DE Carter Neuman, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound two-star prospect, recently decommitted from Air Force and picked up preferred walk-on offers from Oregon State and Washington, signing with the Beavers. He was a first-team all-Southwest Conference 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. “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.” 

South Medford

A familiar name to football fans in the state, senior TE/DE Carson 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 and is rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports. He was a second-team all-SWC tight end last season and a solid pass rusher from the defensive end position. “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.”

Find our team-by-team previews for every 6A, 5A and 4A team here

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