Oregon high school football preview: One big question for every 5A team

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

Here is one big question for every Class 5A team in the state.

Find each team’s complete breakdown at this link

Wilsonville photo by Leon Neuschwander

NWOC EAST

Hood River Valley

Can touted front lines provide a buffer to allow inexperienced players to mature?

Oregon State-bound Henry Buckles, third-year starter Emilio Castaneda and second-year starter Andy Foster are anchors on the Eagles’ front lines. Their skill and experience will be vital as Hood River Valley initiates a first-year starter at quarterback and develops unproven younger players at other positions. “The biggest area will be players who move up to varsity spots maturing into varsity players and contributors,” coach Caleb Sperry said. “They will.”

La Salle Prep

Is Ryan Rosumny the favorite for NWOC East offensive player of the year?

As a junior, Rosumny was first-team all-Northwest Oregon Conference East Division. He was third on the Oregon Class 5A regular-season leaderboard in passing yards (1,858), throwing 20 touchdowns and completing 65 percent of his passes. Many of Rosumny’s top targets return this season. The Falcons of Milwaukie are expected to expand their playbook to fully exploit Rosumny’s skills and smarts.

Parkrose

How will the Broncos handle the departure of Keanon Lowe?

It might be literally impossible to overstate the impact Keanon Lowe had on Parkrose in his two seasons as coach — on the team, the school, the Northeast Portland community. But the football team will carry on, even after Lowe left for the West Linn head coaching job (and then for UCLA and then for Nebraska). Coach Brian Jackson appears eager to instill his philosophy after having been on the Broncos’ staff in Lowe’s first season. “I think it’s good that we’re bringing in a pretty diverse coaching staff, as far as our ideas and the ways we want to bring our skill sets to our team,” Jackson said. “That’s really going to make the biggest impact on these players.”

Pendleton

How far beyond their years will the youthful Buckaroos play?

Pendleton lost 11 players who earned all-Northwest Oregon Conference East Division recognition last season. Coach Erik Davis initially regarded this season as a bridge until the Buckaroos could mount another deep Class 5A playoff run. What he has seen has sped up his timeline. “After our five-week practice schedule,” he said, “I really feel like we have the opportunity to win all sorts of games.”

Putnam

Can a promising junior class use this season as a springboard to success?

Juniors will make up the majority of the starting lineup on both sides of the line of scrimmage for the Kingsmen of Milwaukie, especially after some seniors who were expected to play in a fall season graduated early. “Some of the kids who have been stepping up are really closing the gap to what might have been there from a player who graduated early,” coach Tim Jacobs said. “We’re really excited about this junior class.”

Redmond

Can the Panthers continue their upward trajectory?

In coach Seth Womack’s first season, the Panthers went from 2-7 in 2018 to an OSAA Class 5A playoff berth and a six-win season in 2019. Junior Hayden Parrish will start at quarterback after being injured last season. That will allow last season’s quarterback, Austin Carter, to move to running back. “I felt like we had the talent this year to be much better, and I do feel that way,” Womack said. “We’re way more experienced.”

Ridgeview

Who will emerge as starting quarterback?

Bryce Demars, the starter the past two years, moved out of state before his senior season. Coach Patrick Pileggi identified three sophomore candidates for the No. 1 job: Aidan Brenneman started for the freshman team and impressed Pileggi in the offseason; Colten Chastain did not play as a freshman but is 6-feet-3 and has tools; and Ryder Parazoo is physical and capable of rescuing plays with his feet.

The Dalles

What can the Riverhawks accomplish at Class 5A after losing a big senior class?

Coach Andy Codding called The Dalles’ class of 2021 the smallest senior class he has seen in 25 years of coaching. After reaching the Class 4A OSAA semifinals last season, The Dalles is in a Class 5A conference and can count on tougher competition. “We have a lot of hope for our younger groups, and we’re building,” Codding said.

NWOC WEST

Canby

Was the end of 2019 the start of a renaissance?

From an OSAA Class 6A semifinal appearance in 2013, the Cougars went into a tailspin, the nadir being 2018’s winless season. They won the last two games of 2019, and second-year coach Jimmy Joyce is excited about junior quarterback Mikey Gibson. Last season, Gibson proved himself in the first season he was exposed to Canby’s new, spread offense. With a transition to Class 5A, Canby generally aligns better in enrollment with its new Northwest Oregon Conference West Division rivals than it did in the Three Rivers League. Playing a Class 5A schedule instead of in the ultra-competitive Three Rivers also should help Canby regain a solid footing — if not more. “If we can go out there and be successful and have a winning record, that’s great,” Joyce said.

Forest Grove

Can the Vikings close the gap on winning teams?

The four teams Forest Grove defeated in 2019 had a combined record of 8-25. The five teams Forest Grove lost to had a record of 30-19. The Vikings didn’t make it back to the playoffs last season as a follow-up to their 2018 appearance, and they will have a new starting quarterback this season. Two-way lineman Shane Parrow is the Vikings’ only returner who received all-Northwest Oregon Conference West Division recognition last season (second team on defense), but coach Perry Herbst said there are in fact several experienced players coming back.

Hillsboro

Can the Spartans continue on their upward trajectory?

Dating to Week 7 of the 2018 season (Dan Shuff’s first as head coach), the Spartans have gone 9-4. Two of Hillsboro’s four losses in 2019 were one-score games — essentially coin flips. Nine players who were first- or second-team all-Northwest Oregon Conference West Division have departed. “We’re going to be very inexperienced this year, but we really want to just keep rolling with the success we had last year,” Shuff said. As Hillsboro goes with a first-year starter at quarterback, a lot will be piled on the shoulders of senior running back/defensive end Slade Shufelt, who earned honorable mention last season on The Oregonian/OregonLive Class 5A all-state team.

McKay

What position units will emerge as team strengths?

Brian Coburn and twins Giovanni and Janderi Perez give the Scots of Salem a dependable trio of senior defensive linemen. But, especially with an undecided quarterback situation, are there other groups that can help McKay take strides? Senior Jonathan Rubio averaged nearly nine yards per carry last season, but he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4. Coach Brandis Piper also has confidence in offensive tackle Ramiro Solis as a leader in a unit charged with opening holes for Rubio.

North Salem

Has attention on quarterback TC Manumaleuna overshadowed what the offensive line can do?

When a freshman enters high school with a scholarship offer from a Pac-12 Conference team — as Manumaleuna has received, according to various outlets — it’s understandable if the spotlight might not find other players. Seniors Kobe Hubbard and Octavio Maldonado and junior Isaiah Razo give the Vikings a core of experienced, proven varsity-level players and help make the offensive line one of the team’s strengths. Assessing his team for this season, coach Jeff Flood started up front. “We have a pretty good group coming back,” Flood said, “some with experience and some with a trajectory of where they’ve been and where we think they’re going to be.” North Salem will continue to operate out of a wing-T and strive for an effective running game, Flood said, but with Manumaleuna, he said the team will probably be balanced between run and pass.

Scappoose

Can Scappoose’s offense hit an even higher gear?   

After two consecutive seasons of scoring at least 400 points, Scappoose put up 361 last season — still a highly respectable 32.8 points per game. This season, Scappoose looks to return to more of a pass-oriented offense with junior quarterback Lukas McNabb at the helm. “I really feel like these next two years we’ll have the ability to throw the ball around the field a little bit,” said Sean McNabb, Scappoose’s coach and Lukas’ father.

St. Helens

Will the Lions be best-served to concentrate on developing as opposed to wins and losses?

The Lions won two of their nine games last season — both against teams that finished 2019 winless. The win-loss accounting of the season appeared to be a step in reverse from 2018 and its four victories. Some players who were expected to return for a 2020 fall season have since considered early graduation. St. Helens will initiate a new quarterback to varsity competition.

Wilsonville

Had there been a traditional fall season, would Wilsonville have been the favorite to win the state title?

In what for them was perhaps a down year, the Wildcats in 2019 made “only” the quarterfinals of the OSAA Class 5A playoffs. They had advanced to at least the semifinals in each of the previous four years. Wilsonville had juniors or sophomores starting at 19 of the 22 positions in 2019 and was geared toward a huge season in 2020. “Our expectation was we were going to be very competitive in every single game and hopefully make a deep run this year in the playoffs, until all of this stuff happened,” coach Adam Guenther said, alluding to the coronavirus pandemic.

MID-WILLAMETTE CONFERENCE

Central

Might the delay in the season have helped the Panthers?

Central will go with sophomore Chase Nelson at quarterback, and with many other key players on the roster yet to reach their ceiling, an extra six months might have a benefit if only from a physical maturation standpoint. “We will be a younger team that will be led by a smaller group of seniors that will do everything in their power to make this year their best, if given the opportunity,” said Joel Everett, in his first season as head coach after 10 seasons as an assistant on staff. “Our strength will come from the grit that all Central teams have, and the willingness to do the extra things to be successful.”

Corvallis

Can the Spartans address concerns about the front line?

“We might have to move some kids from some spots and be creative,” coach Chris McGowan said. “But even with that, I think we will be very competitive because we’ve got some pretty athletic guys.” Giving junior quarterbacks Carter Steeves and Garrett Holpuch protection should pay off for the Spartans, who have a wide receiver group that McGowan projects as a unit of strength.

Crescent Valley

How much can the Raiders accomplish with a young, thin roster?

“Our numbers have been drastically down,” second-year coach Mike Connor said. The Raiders of Corvallis had four seniors early in the calendar year, but Connor said there is a big group of freshman and sophomore skill-position players. Of the older players, wide receiver/defensive back Ian Smith is a proven Class 5A performer, and junior transfer Landen Parker can move to wide receiver if a young quarterback steps up. “This year could be some bumps in the road for us, but in the long run it will help us out with those underclassmen getting game experience and reps,” Connor said. “The future is bright for us.” 

Dallas

With a revamped roster, can the Dragons sustain their success?

Seventeen players who earned all-Mid-Willamette Conference recognition, including seven first- or second-teamers, have moved on from last season’s 6-4 team. The Dragons have experience in the backfield but will be relatively green on the front lines. Coach Andy Jackson thinks the program’s foundation and the players’ faith in the Dragons’ system will compensate for the losses. “I’m really confident in the direction we’re going entering Year 3,” he said. “We are looking at a completely different picture this year and a lot of things are out of our control, so we’re focusing on taking care of what we can as a program.”

Lebanon

Instead of challenging for a state title, what will the Warriors accomplish?

Last summer, Lebanon appeared capable of making a run at the 2020 OSAA Class 5A championship, spearheaded by four-star linebacker Keith Brown. When the fall season was canceled, Brown enrolled early at Oregon, and the status of other expected returnees was thrown into question. Still, Lebanon has experience on the offensive line, a returning starter at quarterback and a deep group of skill-position players. “We’ve lost about 10 percent of our kids (owing to the pandemic),” coach Ty Tomlin said. “If our kids show up, I think we’ll be very competitive.”

Silverton

Will there be a drop-off on the offensive line?

It doesn’t look like it. Four linemen from the 2019 OSAA Class 5A semifinal team essentially need to be replaced, but the new first-unit players have experience. “Some of our linemen may not have been starters last year, but they rotated in a lot on the offensive and defensive lines,” coach Josh Craig said.

South Albany

What can opponents expect from the RedHawks?

First-year coach Jeff Louber has implemented a flexbone veer option offense. The rarity of the scheme could cause headaches for opposing defenses as they prepare. Louber was the team’s defensive coordinator the previous five seasons, so there is continuity on that side of the ball. If the RedHawks can stay healthy, look for them to shore up on defense after they allowed a Mid-Willamette Conference-high 39 points per game in 2019.

West Albany

Can the Bulldogs continue their defensive dominance?

West Albany held seven of 12 opponents to seven points or fewer last season, including shutting out three of them. The Bulldogs finished the season allowing a Class 5A-low 9.6 points per game. Six players who earned all-Mid-Willamette Conference recognition on defense have moved on. “I think we are fairly confident about how we can defend and how we’ll be able to defend,” coach Brian Mehl said. “We graduated some really good players, but we feel comfortable with a lot of these young kids stepping in. There are some good players all around.”

MIDWESTERN LEAGUE

Ashland

How will the offense differ with a new quarterback?

Rieger Sayre passed for 58 touchdowns the past two seasons. This year, senior Hayden Ellis — who received closing-time action the past two seasons — takes over. “Hayden is an athlete,” coach Beau Lehnerz said. “He can throw the ball pretty well, but he can also run the ball well. He’s a tough kid.” Given the limited on-field time before the season and Ellis’ mobility and willingness to run, expect more option plays and ground work from Ashland.

Churchill

Who takes over at quarterback?

With the graduation of Dylan Carson, all-Midwestern League South Division honorable mention last season, juniors Chace Pence and Camdyn Stiegeler head the competition for this season’s starting job. Pence has been around the program and has steadily improved the past two years. Stiegeler is new to the west Eugene team after transferring from Sheldon on the northeast side of town. Stiegeler’s power and finesse in the 7-on-7 environment were noteworthy — but not decisive. “Seven-on-7 has been a good indicator, but it’s easy to throw in shirt and shorts,” coach AJ Robinson said.

Crater

How smoothly can Crater make a transition to a new quarterback?

After two seasons as the varsity backup, senior Blake Eaton will take over as the starter. Eaton is succeeding Trever Davis, who passed for 29 touchdowns and was second-team all-Midwestern League South Division in 2019. Eaton has started at safety and gotten enough closing-time action at quarterback that first-year coach Berk Brown has confidence he understands the demands of varsity-level competition. “He’s got a great understanding of the game and has really worked on his technique throwing the ball, staying in the pocket, his footwork, his reads,” Brown said.

Eagle Point

Can the Eagles score more than last season?

After opening with victories by scores of 34-8 and 29-27, the Eagles didn’t exceed 20 points in their final seven games — all losses. Eagle Point was shut out in two of those defeats. This season, the Eagles will initiate a first-year starter at quarterback. Senior Lucas Meerten is back after leading the team in receiving yards (247) and receiving touchdowns (five) and tying for the team lead with four rushing touchdowns.

North Bend

How will opponents counteract Jacob Hannah?

Hannah made the all-Midwestern League North Division first team on the offensive and defensive lines last season. At 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, he’s agile and strong and someone who, coach Gary Prince said, “is going to create problems up front for both offensive and defensive coordinators alike.” Internally, Prince said, Hannah’s leadership has been an important unifying force among the team’s linemen.

South Eugene

What can the Axe accomplish after another 5-4 season in 2019?

Playing a Class 5A schedule, the Axe have turned in 5-4 records each of the past two seasons. Last season, the five teams South Eugene beat had a combined record of 7-37; a 26-14 loss to fellow Eugene school Churchill (3-6) probably cost the Axe an OSAA Class 5A playoff spot.

Springfield

Can the Millers take strides toward staying competitive in more games?

Six of Springfield’s seven losses last season were by at least 21 points. The losses to graduation measured by all-division honors were relatively small, which could make progress under second-year coach Miles Haley a little smoother. “Our main thing was to try to change the culture, trying to start a foundation that’s set up to win football games down the road,” he said. “The last part of a culture change that shows up is on the scoreboard.”

Thurston

If a state champion were to be determined, would the Colts have won for the third time in a row?

Maybe. Graduation cut deep and broadly into the roster of Thurston of Springfield, but coach Justin Starck thinks the class of 2021 measures up. The line is bigger than before, skill-position players appear to be comparable to their predecessors, and experience and confidence abound. “We have another really exciting senior class,” Starck said, “and I’m not just saying that to make them feel good.”

Willamette

Can the Wolverines continue their rebound in a nontraditional season?

Since a 5-5 record as a Class 6A school in 2016, Willamette of Eugene has had seasons of one, one, two and four wins (the past two seasons were against Class 5A opponents). This season won’t allow a fair comparison, but there are signs of optimism. Seven starters return on offense, and coach Josh Wolfram cited his linebackers on a defense that should be improved from one that allowed 39.9 points per game in 2019.

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

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