Oregon high school football preview: One big question for every 6A 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 6A team in the state.

Find each team’s complete breakdown at this link

Liberty photo by Rockne Andrew Roll

PIL

Cleveland

Can the Warriors replace Finian Jamesbarry’s production?

Jamesbarry rushed for 1,266 yards (fourth in the Class 5A regular season) and 11 touchdowns last season and was a first-team all-Northwest Oregon Conference West Division running back. First-year coach Bill Smith is implementing a pistol-formation offense featuring more misdirection and speed than a battering-ram approach. It doesn’t matter how a team matriculates the ball down the field, of course, just as long as it can. Cleveland entered the preseason with an undecided quarterback situation, and other skill-position players haven’t proved themselves at the varsity level.

Franklin

Can a more open offense lead to more points?

First-year coach Jesse Thompson wants the Lightning to spread the field more than in the recent past. The approach takes advantage of the roster, he said, citing the “receiver-type bodies” on the team. Franklin exceeded 14 points once in nine games last season — in its 43-20 victory over Madison (0-8), which allowed an average of 58 points in its other seven games. Thompson heaped praise on starting quarterback Zander Garner. The coach loves what Garner brings as a leader and student, and Thompson said he has made huge strides in the tools department. Part of Garner’s job will be to get the ball in the hands of senior wide receiver Isaiah Rickard, a second-team all-Portland Interscholastic League selection last season.

Grant

Did the pandemic cost the Generals a chance to show their stuff?

Grant tied for first in the Portland Interscholastic League in 2018 and won the PIL title outright in 2019, and the Generals probably would have been favored to win again in 2020 had it been a traditional season. Could they have become the first PIL team since 2017 to win an OSAA Class 6A playoff game (Lincoln and Grant made it out of the first round that season)? Third-year coach John Beck, whose career includes deep runs into the playoffs as head coach at North Medford and Crater of Central Point, thought this was going to be a memorable season for the Generals — who he believes were capable of making a statement even before the playoffs could they have played a traditional nonleague schedule.

Jefferson

Will the Democrats’ next-level talent lead to success at this level?

Led by Oregon State signee Damir Collins, Jefferson is flush with players on college recruiting lists. But even with many of those prospects on last season’s roster, the Democrats mustered seven points in their loss to Grant, and Jefferson’s stay in the OSAA Class 6A playoffs ended with a 35-0 first-round loss to Sheldon of Eugene. First-year coach Houston Lilliard said before the season the team needs more than star power to have staying power. “Football is a game of unity,” he said. “If we’re not on the same page and we’re not willing to work together, then we won’t have team success.”

Lincoln

Will the hard time endured by the Cardinals’ young players last season pay off?

It became apparent last season to the Lincoln coaching staff that a relative handful of players were doing the lion’s share of the work, and of that relative handful, a nontrivial amount were sophomores. The Cardinals ended 2019 with a 3-6 record, one season after a Portland Interscholastic League co-championship. This season could be the start of the payoff for last season’s pain. “We have a number of juniors who are going to get people’s attention,” coach Jeremy Johnson said. Senior quarterback Mario Ambrose has one game of varsity starting experience, and athletic running back/defensive back Charles Willmott, another senior, should also be conspicuous by his presence.

Madison

Can the Senators turn their experience into wins?

Of the team’s 22 starting positions in 2019, 16 were manned by a sophomore or a player in his first year of organized football. Players return at 20 of those 22 starting positions. With three seniors in 2019, Madison’s graduation losses were minimal. “We have high expectations heading into this particular football season,” coach Joe Salvador said. “As we build off last year, we are looking to have a winning record when we finish this season.”

Roosevelt

How different will the Roughriders’ offense be from 2019?

First-year coach Ryan McCants said the offense will retain features from last season but also spread things out some. Imarion Kelly got starting experience at quarterback as a sophomore, and he has impressed McCants with his on-field skill and his off-field leadership. The Roughriders lost DaMarzhe’ Nelson and Malique Sabb, first-team all-Portland Interscholastic League at running back and as an offensive utility player in 2019, so there is room for other players to step into their shoes.

Wilson

How will Wilson measure progress this season?

It is hard to sugarcoat the Trojans’ struggles last season. They were winless and allowed the most points among Class 5A teams (even playing eight games instead of the nine many teams played). First-year coach Keith Bennett’s indoctrination to the program was hampered by the pandemic. The Trojans have some players who would be the envy of other programs — such as Jayden Brannan, Logan Leybold and Cole Thomas — but the win-loss column might not be the best judge of what Wilson accomplishes.

METRO LEAGUE

Aloha

How do the Warriors replace a transformative senior class?

Many of the players who guided Aloha to a Metro League co-championship in 2019 were three-year varsity contributors; the Warriors’ loss of experience is unmistakable. But five senior returners have significant experience, part of a 13-player strong class of 2021. Deciding on a quarterback from among junior Hunter Gerard, junior Elijah Manriquez and senior Tanner Volk — or deciding on a multiple-quarterback scheme — will be part of the answer.

Beaverton

Who replaces Carson Budke at quarterback?

Budke, one of the Metro League’s two first-team all-league honorees at quarterback last season, had starting experience dating to the 2017 season. Who’s next? Junior Jay Keuter (who played at the JV level a few miles west at Mountainside last season), sophomore Hunter Borter and senior Trent Walker — who was first-team all-Metro League last season at slot back and defensive back — are in the competition. Part of the argument against Walker is that coach Bob Boyer would like his quarterback to have a target such as Walker to pass to.

Jesuit

Does it matter who carries the ball for Jesuit?

Two seniors — 6-foot-4, 285-pound Charlie Pickard and 6-2, 290-pound Declan Quillin — are the most proven cogs in the Crusaders’ front line this season. Each of the past two seasons, Jesuit rushed for more than 215 yards per game; last season’s alpha male running back, Kade Wisher, rushed for 2,485 yards (including the postseason). Coach Ken Potter cited his offensive line this season — populated mainly with seniors — as a team strength. Look for Jesuit to continue to gobble up territory with the running game.

Mountainside

How much could Mountainside have accomplished if this were a traditional season?

The Mavericks of Beaverton listed 25 juniors on their 2019 roster. They would have formed the core of a team that was clearly on the come — Mountainside won four games in a row before a loss in the quarterfinals of the OSAA Class 6A playoffs last season. The Mavericks were looking forward to a full season with junior quarterback Brian Mannion at the helm, with dynamic EJ Broussard and Andrew Simpson at skill positions and a defense that held each of its 2019 opponents to below its season-long scoring average. “And our offseason had gotten off to a great start,” coach John Mannion said.

Southridge

Who will take over at quarterback?

With twin brothers Kaleb and Kyle Moxley in the vanguard of the defense, among the most pressing questions for the Skyhawks of Beaverton is about the offensive centerpiece. The competition involves senior Yusuf Farah (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) and junior JC Klee (5-10, 185 pounds), who served as Darik Salinas’ primary backup and played in four games last season. “Both have their strengths,” coach Kevin Bickler said. “It will be fun to see them compete for the starting job.”

Sunset

Can last season’s disappointing finish be a springboard to this season?

Through six weeks of the 2019 season, Sunset was 4-2, with the losses coming to Tigard and Tualatin — eventual Nos. 1 and 2 in The Oregonian/OregonLive media poll. The Apollos lost two of their last three Metro League games and were shown the door in the first round of the OSAA Class 6A playoffs. The tailspin occurred after injuries denuded the Apollos at receiver and in the defensive secondary, forcing them to rely on younger players. Those Friday night lights-tested players should be key contributors this season.

Westview

Can the Wildcats buckle down on this season and not look too far forward?

Three would-be key players for Westview — junior receiver Darrius Clemons (the No. 1 recruit in 247Sports’ 2022 Oregon rankings), junior running back Aaron Jones (who suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 last season) and sophomore quarterback Sam Leavitt — moved out of state to play a fall season. Ineligible for the OSAA football season, they provide a tantalizing prospect of what Westview might accomplish in fall 2021. In the here and now, linebacker Riley Keppel and quarterback Brayden Libby are at the controls of their respective sides of the line of scrimmage to ensure Westview accomplishes what it can in the coming weeks, instead of pining away for what might be in the coming months.

Aloha / Taylor Balkom

PACIFIC CONFERENCE

Century

What signs of defensive improvement are there?

The Jaguars of Hillsboro allowed at least 40 points in eight of their nine losses in 2019. Even though Century has an unsettled quarterback situation, point suppression might be a more pressing topic. Senior defensive lineman Broderick Reese (6-feet-3, 300 pounds) was first-team all-Metro League last season (and will be a preferred walk-on at Washington), classmate Va’atausili “Tau” Tofaeono (all-Metro League honorable mention) was among the Oregon Class 6A leaders in tackles, and Cayson Hammer received all-league honorable mention on the defensive line as well. Moreover, Century has players who gained experience on defense as underclassmen.

Glencoe

Crimson Tide’s defense appears to be a known quantity; who will be quarterback?

Blake Sehorn (5-feet-10, 160 pounds) is competing with fellow sophomore Cam Stortro (6-5, 200) for the starting quarterback job. Stortro would appear to be the more prototypical pocket passer, but Sehorn enters the competition at No. 1 after starting on the freshman team. Coach Ian Reynoso likes how Sehorn owned the position during the fall 7-on-7 environment. Whoever does not start at quarterback is likely to shift to slot receiver.

Liberty

What can the Falcons accomplish with a proven offensive line and a healthy Hiro Diamond?

Diamond won the quarterback job in 2019 but had his sophomore season interrupted by injury, costing him two games (both of which the Falcons won). Helping to keep him safe this season are three senior linemen who received all-Metro League recognition last season: guards Cyrus Markowitz and Jason Dardon and center Padraic Perez.

McMinnville

Can the Grizzlies’ offense turn it up against stepped-up competition?

McMinnville scored more than 14 points three times last season. The Grizzlies won all of those games — but the opponents’ combined record ended up at 6-21. McMinnville will benefit from junior quarterback Kyran Hoskinson having a year’s experience. Senior Preston Ginter (844 yards rushing, 6.1 yards per rush, 11 rushing touchdowns) was the team’s top rusher last season.

Newberg

Could the Tigers’ defense be even better than in 2019?

Among Class 6A teams last season, Newberg allowed the fewest total points (143) and the fewest points per game (13). The Tigers posted five shutouts — including three in a row from Week 8 to the first round of the OSAA Class 6A playoffs — and held eventual state champion Central Catholic to its second-lowest point total among games against Oregon opponents. Newberg lost Harrison Hess, a Pacific Conference co-defensive lineman of the year, but look for opponents to continue to have a difficult time piercing the Tigers’ defense.

Sherwood

Did the pandemic cost the Bowmen their best shot at a Class 6A title?

After four consecutive years of losing in the second round of the OSAA Class 6A playoffs, coach Greg Lawrence thought this was the season his team could challenge for its first final-four berth since 2015 — if not reach the final for the first time since 2013, the program’s final year as a 5A school. Senior linebacker Bryan Cuthbertson returns after being the Pacific Conference defensive player of the year and a first-team choice on The Oregonian/OregonLive all-state team. Senior running back Clay Peden was conference offensive player of the year. Everywhere, it seemed, the Bowmen were primed to excel. “This was supposed to be our year,” Lawrence said. “We’d been talking to this group since they were freshmen, saying we couldn’t wait until they were seniors, and now, we’re not going to be able to prove just how good we are.”

MT. HOOD CONFERENCE

Barlow

Can a large turnout help the Bruins overcome losses owing to graduation?

Off a team that reached the OSAA semifinals — a first for Barlow since 1991 — 22 seniors are gone. Four of the departed players were first-team all-Mt. Hood Conference selections, a number that presumably was dimmed by the presence of state champion Central Catholic and its top players on the all-Mt. Hood rolls. Senior Cyle Calcagno is projected to be the Bruins’ starting quarterback, succeeding three-year starter Jaren Hunter — a player esteemed at a rare level by former coach Terry Summerfield. Current coach Chris Koenig was encouraged by the turnout of more than 80 players for virtual workouts early in the calendar year, and the positive environment created by last season’s success should help at least partly compensate for the losses.

Centennial

What can quarterback Langston Williams-Lomax do in his sophomore season?

Williams-Lomax was thrown into the fire last season as a freshman quarterback. Running a triple-option offense out of the pistol formation, Williams-Lomax made the coaching staff excited about the next three seasons. “He’s super athletic running the ball,” coach Butch Self said. “And he has a great arm throwing it. Super impressed with him.” Centennial’s offensive line looks capable of giving Williams-Lomax and the other skill position players — such as senior running back Kobe Hein — time and space to succeed, so there is justifiable optimism Williams-Lomax’s trajectory will continue to point up.

Central Catholic

Who succeeds Cade Knighton at quarterback?

For the past three offseasons, Central Catholic’s Steve Pyne slept the rare, restful sleep of the high school coach who knew who his quarterback would be. The departure of Cade Knighton, who capped his four-year run with an OSAA Class 6A championship and first-team recognition on The Oregonian/OregonLive all-state team, might not have made Pyne’s nights less restful, but it has forced the Rams to dust off a question: Who’s our quarterback now? Pyne said early in the calendar year the competition was among juniors Emerson Dennis and Luke Johnson, sophomore Mateo Maehara and freshman Cru Newman.

Clackamas

The Cavaliers’ catchers are known quantities; who will be the pitcher?

Senior Nick Kennewell (a team-high six touchdown catches in 2019), junior “K.J.” Kemeatrous Johnson-Gibson (listed in 247Sports’ “Scout Look” tier of Oregon class of 2022 prospects) and junior Miles Williams (five touchdown catches) lead Clackamas’ receivers. “K.J., Miles and Nick — our receiving corps is pretty special,” first-year coach James Holan said. Early in the year, seniors Jack Artman and Jaxon Shaw were competing for the starting quarterback position. Holan described Artman as more of a pro-style, downfield passer, whereas Shaw is more of a dual threat.

David Douglas

Can the end of last season and a big turnout be a springboard for the Scots?

A last-second touchdown in regulation that led to a one-point overtime victory in the 2019 finale was followed by an increased turnout across all four classes. Even with senior James Hamann in his first season at quarterback, a second cycle with the Scots’ current offensive approach should help. David Douglas went from allowing 42 points per game in 2018 to 30 last season, and coach Cal Szueber expects a more athletic defense this season. Szueber called it a “very positive situation for our program.”

Gresham

Can the Gophers exploit Ethan Evans to the fullest?

Among the players on the 2019 all-Mt. Hood Conference offensive first team, Evans is one of two who was not a senior. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder led the Gophers in receptions (20), receiving yards (381) and touchdowns (five) as a junior. “We just have to find a way to get him the ball,” coach Mike Melton said. Look for junior quarterback Jack Kaufman to make finding Evans a top priority.

Reynolds

Do the Raiders make their recent success a tradition?

There’s a saying that goes, Once is an incident; twice is a trend; three times is a tradition. After a 2-7 record in 2017, the Raiders of Troutdale have made the OSAA Class 6A playoffs the past two seasons. There will be no playoffs this season, of course, but the standard has been established. After broad losses to graduation, it’s fair to ask if Reynolds can measure up to the new threshold. Led by seniors Jacob Ross, Miles Wilson, Angelo Martinez and Brendan Lynch, the Raiders would appear to have at least a puncher’s chance again this season. “We are going to be young overall, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t compete,” coach Ryan Aldred said.

Sandy

How will a change in offensive approach play out?

The Pioneers will go with a new quarterback after the departure of two-year starter Chet Chamberlain. Senior Tanner Brewster and junior Teague Clemmer are competing for the starting spot at the controls of what will be a more straight-ahead scheme compared with the spread look of the past. Brewster played throughout last season, and Clemmer was 4-of-6 passing in two games as a sophomore. Coach Josh Dill early in the year characterized Brewster as having a big arm and a great ability to make plays and called Clemmer a playmaker with strengths in leadership and decision-making.

Central Catholic / Taylor Balkom

THREE RIVERS LEAGUE

Lake Oswego

What can the Lakers accomplish after the departure of so many key players?

Running back Casey Filkins, the offensive player of the year on The Oregonian/OregonLive Class 6A all-state team, is only one of nine first-team all-Three Rivers League players from 2019 whose eligibility is exhausted. Two other would-be contributors are not playing this season, and running back/linebacker Ty Miller broke a foot in the fall. Junior quarterback Jack Layne appears to have a high ceiling, but he was limited to closing-time duties last season. “We have a lot of young kids, guys who played as sophomores, and a lot will depend on how well they develop,” coach Steve Coury said. “They’ll be a competitive group, and we’ll have a chance to be in a lot of games and to win games.”

Lakeridge

What must the Pacers do to match last season?

You could look at Lakeridge’s 5-7 record last season, or you could look at what the Pacers did. One of the Pacers’ regular-season losses in 2019 was by one point at Bend, after the longest trip — by far — the team made last season. Entering the OSAA Class 6A playoffs as the No. 22 seed, Lakeridge defeated No. 11 Beaverton and No. 6 Aloha before a three-point loss to No. 3 Lake Oswego in the quarterfinals. Under Spencer Phillips (who succeeded last-minute interim coaching choice Forrest Sherman) this season, expect Lakeridge to rely on the playmaking of senior quarterback Andrew Oliver, emerging senior wide receiver Bryce Caufield and senior running back Carter Pahl. On defense, honorable mention all-Three Rivers League selections Barrett Bevacqua (on the line) and Zac Waible (at linebacker) spearhead a unit that hopes to improve on its 35.3-point-per-game average from 2019.

Oregon City

Can a healthy team lead to more on-field success?

In 2019, at least half a dozen players eyed for significant roles suffered season-ending injuries in the early going. The season ended with a 2-8 record and an average scoring margin in the losses of 26.4 points. Coach Dustin Janz believes this season’s team has sophomores and juniors capable of becoming stalwarts along both lines. He also expects a better running game after the Pioneers averaged 77 yards last season. “We played three different No. 1-ranked teams at the time of our game and five teams that made it to the state quarterfinals or better,” Janz said. “It was not a season that we felt we met our potential.”

Tigard

Who will succeed Drew Carter at quarterback?

The early graduation and matriculation at Colorado of Carter left the Tigers with a competition at quarterback. Junior Kellen Jolley grew up around the game, and sophomore Cameron Masters-Doble led the freshman team last season. “They both bring something different to the table,” coach John Kemper said. Jolley started the duel with an advantage, but Masters-Doble has what Kemper called remarkable skills. Just when the competition seemingly couldn’t get any more intriguing, a wild card was thrown into the mix — Zach Chesler. The senior was expected to play wide receiver but emerged in camp as another option under center.

Tualatin

What can this year’s juniors accomplish?

The Timberwolves reached the state quarterfinals last season — their deepest run since they made the 2010 final — with a senior-laden team boasting seven players who earned first-team all-Three Rivers League honors. This season, Tualatin will feature a significant junior class whose leading edge includes running back Malik Ross, quarterback Jackson Jones, center Nico Webb and wide receiver/cornerback Cole Prusia.

West Linn

Would this have been the year for an OSAA championship?

After making the OSAA Class 6A quarterfinals in 2019 — where West Linn lost to eventual champion Central Catholic in a one-score game for the second time in a 12-week span — the Lions appeared armed with enough talent and experience to win a championship of their own. Senior quarterback Blake DeBisschop has apprenticed behind all-Three Rivers League standouts the past two seasons; coach Chris Miller calls him an FBS talent. Senior Gavin Haines (1,620 rushing yards, 8.0 yards per rush, 21 touchdowns) can gobble up turf on the ground, and there are a menu of receivers for DeBisschop to choose from. Miller called his outfit a “14-game type of team” — referring to the games played in a traditional OSAA season by the teams that make the championship game.

MOUNTAIN VALLEY CONFERENCE

Bend

How do the Lava Bears overcome the loss of their top offensive player?

Nate Denney, who rushed for 2,200 yards and 24 touchdowns en route to selection as Mountain Valley Conference offensive player of the year, and safety Micajah Weisner, a first-team all-Mountain Valley selection as a junior, moved out of state to play in the fall. “That made it tough on our senior class, but the kids that stayed have put in the work,” coach Matt Craven said. The Lava Bears appear likely to put the offense in the hands of junior Seve Castillo, who got three starts last season but didn’t throw many passes.

McNary

Can the Celtics score more than in 2019?

McNary averaged 21.3 points per game last season, by far the fewest of any team that won its conference. Senior Jack McCarty is a first-year starter at quarterback after he got limited action last season. McCarty is 5-foot-9 but has the tools necessary to run McNary’s offense. Coach Jeff Auvinen said McCarty, who recently picked up an offer from Division III Lewis & Clark, brings excellent mobility to the position and delivers accurate passes. “He’s got some arm strength, and he has very good instincts,” Auvinen said.

Mountain View

Do the Cougars have any holes on offense?

Maybe not. Junior Jakoby Moss is a second-year starter at quarterback. Senior Luke Roberts rushed for 518 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and five touchdowns last season as a backup. Senior Rory Eck is a three-year starter on the line, part of an experienced group up front. Senior Josh Cockrum and junior Declan Corrigan head a receivers unit that gives coach Brian Crum confidence.

South Salem

Can the Saxons’ receivers help the team turn around?

South Salem hasn’t won a conference game since 2017. Helping the indoctrination of first-year varsity quarterback Drew Gertenrich are some wide receivers whose promise prompted coach Scott Dufault to identify the position group as a team strength. Senior Gabe Johnson was first-team all-Mountain Valley Conference last season. Senior Nick Vandehey is an inviting target at 6-feet-2 and is perhaps the team’s most improved player. Senior Mikah Posey has an impact disproportionate to his 5-9 frame.

Sprague

Did the pandemic rob the Olympians of a chance to prove themselves?

After Sprague’s consecutive two-win seasons, it’s understandable why coach Jay Minyard was so excited about the 2020 fall season. The Olympians had 17 of 22 starters returning and a roster full of promising skill position players and linemen. Competing for a conference championship and a postseason victory or two appeared to be achievable goals. Then … COVID-19. The Olympians boast excellent team speed and have four returning starters on the front lines. “We have got a lot of dudes back up front,” Minyard said. “We were young and had a tough schedule the past two years, and those guys have been through the battles.”

Summit

Can the Storm succeed if four quarterbacks see action?

Early in the calendar year, coach Corben Hyatt said it was likely that the four quarterbacks competing for the starting job — senior Daniel Dionne, junior Ben Woodward and sophomores Hogan Carmichael and Kemper Treu — would receive playing time. Dionne is the only one among them who got legitimate varsity experience last season, and even in his case it was limited. “I wouldn’t say I’m concerned,” Hyatt said. “We just have to figure out where we’re going to go with it.” Whoever starts at quarterback will be surrounded by what appears to be a solid support structure. Summit is up to 23 seniors — a program high, Hyatt said — and has eight returning starters on defense.

West Salem

What can the Titans accomplish if they stay healthy?

West Salem was a four-point loss to McNary away from winning the Mountain Valley Conference championship last season. And that was with Northern Arizona-bound two-way lineman Holden Whipple out for a chunk of the season with a knee injury and tight end/defensive end Anthony Pugh sidelined after Week 3 by a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Holden is back. Pugh, regarded as among the conference’s top defensive players, moved to Arkansas to play his senior season in the fall. Senior Jackson Lowery returns as the starting quarterback, and Nate Garcia returns as a starting running back. “We have a great group of seniors who are not only great players, but most importantly great people and students,” coach Shawn Stanley said.

Lakeridge / Taylor Balkom

SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE

Grants Pass

Who will surround the Cavemen’s first-year starting quarterback?

Senior Hunter Gonzales is projected to take over for Chase Coyle, who received honorable mention on The Oregonian/OregonLive Class 6A all-state team in 2019. Gonzales threw passes in two games last season, so he has varsity experience. Kai Perez, Andrew Prulhiere and Logan Vinyard are returning starters on the offensive line, so Gonzales should have protection. Wide receiver Devik Chaing and tight end Dante Haven give Gonzales proven targets.

North Medford

Instead of reaching the expected crescendo, what chord will the Black Tornado strike?

It was set up to be a memorable fall season for the Black Tornado. With 13 starters back — the majority of whom received all-Southwest Conference recognition in 2019 — from a team that won an OSAA Class 6A playoff game, North Medford had aspirations far beyond securing the program’s first conference championship since 2013. Players such as running back/linebacker Devin Bradd, running back/defensive lineman Jayden Sandusky and senior wide receiver Luke Pugliano have proven to be among the best in the Southwest. “We have a lot of kids returning that have played some good football and got two playoff games in (last season),” coach Steve Turner said. “And that’s usually the hump, learning how to play an extended season when you’re playing good teams at the end.”

Roseburg

Can Roseburg take a step forward?

A season-ending seven-game losing streak in 2019 punctuated a fifth consecutive season without a playoff berth. Fifth-year coach Dave Heuberger cites increased depth and athleticism among the program’s younger players as indicators of improving fortunes. “I think we have more playmakers than we’ve had across the board, guys that can take a hitch and go to the house,” Heuberger said. “We have a lot more of those types of kids in our junior and sophomore classes.” The emergence of a clear No. 1 quarterback — the competition was undecided early this year — would make for another reason for optimism.

Sheldon

Can the Irish continue to succeed despite significant graduation losses?

An accomplished senior class that included 16 all-conference honorees has moved on, but that has become the norm with the Irish. New players will be plugged in with the expectations remaining the same for the Eugene power. “We’ve got a lot of pieces, and I think we are a typical Sheldon team that graduated a bunch of guys,” coach Josh Line said. “We pride ourselves on being a senior-heavy team. Our kids stay in the program and wait their turn.” Sheldon will go with a new starting quarterback, most likely senior Larsen Helikson or sophomore Brock Thomas.

South Medford

What is the Panthers’ path to success without a proven quarterback?

For the first time in a while, South Medford is entering a season without an experienced quarterback. Sophomore Deacon Edgar shows promise but is unproven at the varsity level. He will compete with Jeremy Gaut, a senior who got hurt early in his freshman season and focused on basketball the past two years. Whoever wins the quarterback competition can count on help. Seniors predominate on the offensive line. Juniors Carson Joe and Brycen Guches and senior Garrett Henderson make running back a unit of strength. Carson Cota offers a 6-foot-4 target at wide receiver.

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

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