By Mike Wilson, René Ferrán and Bob Lundeberg
This month, SBLive Oregon is previewing every Class 6A, 5A and 4A high school football team in the state leading up to the 2021 fall season.
Today, we examine the quarterback situation for each of the 48 Class 6A teams in Oregon. Who are the starting signal-callers? Who are the backups expected to push the starters for playing time?
Note that the information provided here reflects where things stood as camps opened. Be sure to follow SBLive Oregon throughout the season for the latest on what’s happening with each team!
Dondrae Fair Jr. (Jefferson) photo by Taylor Balkom
PORTLAND INTERSCHOLASTIC LEAGUE
Senior Thomas Oh, who received varsity time in the spring, will take snaps in the Warriors’ shotgun-based offense. With Oh having a full offseason of preparation, the hope is that the Warriors can mount a better attack than they had last season. In their five games, the Warriors scored 27 points after the team had a late coaching transition and had preparations complicated by the pandemic. Oh is among three seniors who were on Cleveland’s roster heading into preseason practice, a trio Trevor Smith said rank among the best seniors he has had in his 30 years as a high school coach.
Zander Garner had perhaps his best day — statistically speaking — in Week 5 of the spring season, and the projection for his senior season is a continuation of the progress he made as a junior. Coach Jesse Thompson said Garner has a much stronger grasp of the position than he did six months ago. “It’s like night and day from when I first got here,” the second-year coach said. Garner was 24 of 41 for 196 yards with three touchdowns and one interception in Week 5 last season against Aloha. Garner also can help with his legs and ran for two scores in the spring.
Entering preseason practices, Grant had two players competing for the starting quarterback spot, held the previous two seasons by Logan Going: junior Kellen Segal and sophomore John Kent. Coach John Beck said via email that one player has separated himself, but he didn’t want to identify the starter until after the Generals’ jamboree Friday. Whoever wins the competition will be a first-year varsity starter at quarterback, but that doesn’t diminish Beck’s outlook. “I have a lot of confidence in our quarterbacks,” he said. “I think people are going to be shocked with how they play.”
After two seasons in which Dondrae Fair Jr. at times shared snaps at quarterback, the No. 1 spot is clearly his in his senior season. Last season’s offense frequently revolved around Damir Collins and the running game, but the Democrats will probably look to exploit Fair Jr.’s talents more this season. “Dondrae’s full potential hasn’t been tapped yet,” coach Anthony Stoudamire said. Stoudamire said Fair Jr. has the ability to hurt a defense with his arm and his legs, and it’s the coaching staff’s job to put him in a position to succeed.
Junior Carson Wacker is the projected varsity starter after backing up Mario Ambrose last season. The Cardinals averaged fewer than 10 passes per game in the spring, and first-year coach Matt Caruso makes it sound as if Lincoln will look more to the air this season. “His ceiling is really high, especially with the offense we’re going to be coming in with,” Caruso said. “It gives us the opportunity for a prolific passing game.”
Precamp conditioning week began with three players under consideration for quarterback: seniors Moses Farmer and James Bell and sophomore Jake Brewer. After the first week of preseason practice, Bell separated himself and solidified his place, coach Joe Salvador said. “His familiarity with our offense has allowed him to settle in quick,” Salvador said via email. “His athleticism gives us another weapon out there on the field.” The 6-foot-3 Farmer was the team’s biggest deep receiving threat in the spring and, Salvador said earlier, would start at another skill position if not the No. 1 quarterback.
Throwing for six touchdowns in the spring opener made for an auspicious junior season debut for Imarion Kelly. Unfortunately for him and the Roughriders, an injury two weeks later put a damper on his season. Now fully healthy, Kelly looks capable of finishing his high school career with a flourish. Colleges are noticing Kelly, coach Ryan McCants said. “His ceiling is really high,” he added.
Parker Feld-Gore returns after starting last season as a sophomore. Senior Tom White is also in the mix. “We have two experienced quarterbacks who can both come in and lead the offense,” coach Keith Bennett said. “They are both students of the game and are great football players. Look to see them both on the field at the same time.”
Imarion Kelly (Roosevelt) photo by Taylor Balkom
Hunter Gerard was the Warriors’ man in the spring until he suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior is drawing interest from Northwest colleges. “He’s an intelligent player who understands how to read the defense,” first-year coach James Mitcham said. Elijah Manriquez got time at quarterback after Gerard’s injury and was competing with the now-healthy Gerard for the No. 1 spot heading into preseason practices.
After the first week of preseason practices, two upperclassmen continued to compete for the starting quarterback job: senior Jay Keuter and junior Hunter Borter. Last season, Keuter threw the bulk of the team’s passes until the final week, when Borter had his best statistical game (12 of 19 for 161 yards and a touchdown against Aloha). Coach Bob Boyer listed Keuter’s pluses as his arm strength, speed and athleticism, and he said Borter is “smart, with a good understanding of the offense and a good arm.”
Quarterback was the biggest question mark entering preseason practice. The leading contenders were senior Porter Harris (6 feet, 165 pounds), who started on the junior varsity in the spring, and sophomore Jacob Hutchinson (6-1, 180), a lacrosse standout playing football for his fall sport. “Porter did an excellent job playing JV last season, and Jacob is a very talented athlete,” coach Ken Potter said. The position is a potential growth area after the Crusaders completed 37 percent of their passes with eight interceptions and two touchdowns in the spring.
Senior Brian Mannion has been starting at quarterback since midway through his sophomore season. He is on the shortlist of virtually any talent evaluator’s list of best high school quarterbacks in Oregon. In the spring season, he completed more than 62 percent of his passes (87 of 140) for 1,102 yards and 12 touchdowns (three interceptions). Pacific-12 Conference schools are among those showing interest in him.
Senior JC Klee is a second-year starter who passed for multiple touchdowns in three of the Skyhawks’ six spring games. The experience in the spring should only help Klee as he orchestrates Southridge’s offense this season. “He understands the offense well and is very effective in delivering the ball where it needs to go,” coach Kevin Bickler said. “He’s a great kid and teammate and is very coachable.”
Heading to Sunset’s jamboree, the competition to succeed Kyle Jaekel (16 touchdowns with no interceptions in the Apollos’ undefeated spring season) remains a three-way competition among seniors Jackson Knight and Grady Newsom and junior Jeff McMillan. “All three played really well in our scrimmage on Saturday,” coach Damien Merrick said via email. “All three bring a little something different in terms of skill sets to the table.”
Junior Sam Leavitt has returned to Westview after playing in fall 2020 at Pleasant Grove High School, a Class 6A school (for schools with the largest enrollments) in Utah. Leavitt passed for 1,672 yards and 17 touchdowns (against eight interceptions), completing 53 percent of his passes. “He has a great arm and high IQ, with the ability to read defenses,” coach Ryan Atkinson said. Leavitt reportedly has received a scholarship offer from Florida State.
Senior Tyler Mahlman will move to quarterback after an all-Pacific Conference season at receiver in the spring, during which he got time — for the second year in a row — at quarterback. He will succeed Zach Boehler, who was the Jaguars’ second-leading rusher last season. “(Mahlman) was asked to step in at receiver last year, as it fit our game plan, and he bought right in,” coach Danny Kernan said. “This year, he will get the opportunity to show all of his hard work at the quarterback position.”
The Crimson Tide have an in-season succession plan at quarterback. Senior Royce Fasel, who moved from running back to quarterback in Week 4 in the spring, is targeted to start the fall season at quarterback with the hope that sophomore Trevor O’Leary will be ready to take the wheel by midseason. That would allow Fasel to go back to punishing defenses from his tailback spot and give O’Leary room to show his wares. “Trevor has a really strong arm and is an athletic kid,” coach Ian Reynoso said. “He has the potential to be one of the most dynamic quarterbacks we’ve had at Glencoe.”
Hiro Diamond, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound senior, is back for his third season starting under center after he earned second-team all-Pacific Conference recognition in the spring. As a junior, he completed 58 percent of his passes (44 of 76) for 526 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions. He rushed for 284 yards and five scores. He also has shown the ability to orchestrate late comebacks, doing so against Grant in an OSAA Class 6A playoff game as a sophomore and against Century in the spring. “He’s a smart and focused player on the field who can hurt you with the pass and the run,” coach Eric Mahlum said.
Senior Ky Hoskinson sat out the spring as he prepared for a junior baseball season in which he was voted Pacific Conference pitcher of the year. Hoskinson, who has committed to Cal State-Bakersfield for baseball, returns to the Grizzlies’ football team this season. He was an honorable mention all-Pacific Conference selection as a sophomore. “In my 21 years of coaching high school sports, he is one of the best-looking quarterbacks I have ever had the opportunity to coach,” first-year McMinnville coach Ty Tomlin said. “He is a leader, and the team looks up to him for that role. It seems as though Ky is ready for it and excited to showcase his talents as a quarterback.”
Levi Durrell enters his third season as the Tigers’ No. 1 quarterback. Perhaps lost in the focus on Newberg’s running game last season was that Durrell had two games in which he threw for three touchdowns. He finished the season having completed 49 percent of his passes for 754 yards with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions (all in two games) and earned first-team all-Pacific Conference honors. “I can’t wait to see Levi really stand out in our passing game, with the way we like to get the ball to the perimeter and get it downfield,” first-year coach Jeremy Johnson said.
Even with Kevin Hastin taking over for Greg Lawrence — who retired after 27 seasons as head coach — the offense should look familiar to senior Bjorn Bergstrom. He’s a third-year starter in the Bowmen’s wing-T attack, which should see only minor tweaks this season. Bergstrom is expected to fend off challenges from junior Austin Hannan and sophomore Kasen Covert.
Hiro Diamond (Liberty) photo by Taylor Balkom
MT. HOOD CONFERENCE
Ethan Jones received varsity time at quarterback last season behind starter Cyle Calcagno. “He can run and throw — and he’ll do both,” first-year coach Tracy Jackson said. “I watched him on film and saw him do some things as a backup quarterback that were a great fit for what we’re running.” Jackson is implementing a double-tight end, physical offensive scheme. “He’s also got that leadership component to him,” Jackson said. “He understands what leaders do.”
Hayden Boyd was ticketed to play wide receiver in the spring season — “He probably has the best hands in the program,” coach Butch Self said — but was moved to quarterback after presumptive starter Langston Williams-Lomax moved to Texas. “(Boyd) did a great job in the couple of games we got in,” Self said, recalling the Eagles’ abbreviated spring season. Boyd has put in the work in the offseason to prepare for what could be a big junior year for the Eagles of Gresham, who, Self said, pass more than many triple-option teams. “I’m expecting a really, really big season out of him,” Self said.
After the first week of preseason practice, the Rams had two players competing for the starting job: 5-foot-10 sophomore Cru Newman and 6-3 senior Emerson Dennis. Coach Steve Pyne said a decision on the starter will be made after the team’s jamboree Saturday. As a freshman, Newman completed 14 of 18 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions playing behind Luke Johnson, who as a first-year starter helped Central Catholic to a 5-1 record in his junior season.
Junior Blake Baker, new to the varsity quarterback position, received the most first-team practice repetitions heading into preseason camp. Junior Mateo Maehara, who attended Clackamas as a freshman and returned after a year at Central Catholic, was also in the mix. The Cavaliers lost their leading receiver, Nick Kennewell, to graduation but feature the ground-gobbling ability of junior running back Luke Ash.
The Scots will enter their jamboree with three players competing for the No. 1 spot: senior Mychael Winchester, junior Amare Tanner and sophomore David Franco. Coach Cal Szueber said a starter would be tapped after the jamboree.
Senior Zach Kaufman got his first significant taste of varsity action at quarterback as a sophomore, and one thing that has impressed his coaches in the time since has been his levelheadedness. This season, the Gophers are implementing an offense that is designed to set up passing via the running game and capitalize on mismatches with tight ends over the middle. “I have no doubts that Zach will be able to pick up our new offense quickly,” first-year coach James Allen said.
Entering preseason practices, juniors Alex Nita and Jackson Osborne and freshman Avirey Durdahl were in the mix for the starting position, and after one week of practice, Nita had the edge over Durdahl, with Osborne pushing them both. Nita was a freshman at La Salle Prep in 2019, Nelson coach Aaron Hazel’s next-to-last season at his former coaching job. “He’s got a strong arm. … (The ball) comes out of his hand hot,” Hazel said, referring to Nita. Osborne is a transfer to the Happy Valley school from Arizona. Hazel called Durdahl “the total package” but added that the staff won’t put the freshman in a situation detrimental to his long-term growth.
The Raiders of Troutdale will have their fourth starting quarterback in the past four seasons. This season’s QB will operate a new offense designed by first-year coach Kelly Murphy, who said the team will pass much more than last season, when Reynolds averaged fewer than 10 passes per game. As practice launched, Murphy said three players were in competition for the No. 1 spot, but he declined to identify the candidates. “People will know after our scrimmage with Canby and before the first game,” he said via email.
Teague Clemmer played two games at quarterback in the spring, and what he did in those two games has the Pioneers excited about what he might be able to do in a full nine-game senior season. Completing 26 of 47 passes (55 percent) with four touchdowns and no interceptions, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound Clemmer boosted hopes for the coming season. “In that small amount of time, he really stepped up and was pretty special,” coach Josh Dill said. “He throws the ball with great accuracy. He can drive the ball down the field.” Clemmer is also a threat with his feet.
THREE RIVERS LEAGUE
Senior Jack Layne (6-feet-2, 190 pounds) returns at starter after receiving all-Three Rivers League honorable mention in the spring. “Being able to play in just those four games in the spring was massive for his development,” Lake Oswego offensive coordinator Nick Halberg said. “He’s a fast decision maker, and we trust him to make certain decisions on every play. He’s also a guy the other players gravitate toward.”
Junior Ryan Oliver returns after making the all-Three Rivers League second team. As a sophomore, he completed 63 percent of his passes for nearly 1,200 yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions in five games. Oliver accomplished this despite switching throwing hands before the season and not being anointed as the Pacers’ starter until the week before the opener.
Senior Camdyn Stiegeler is one of three players who were competing for the No. 1 spot as preseason practices began. Stiegeler (6-feet-3, 210 pounds), who played at Sheldon and Churchill in Eugene, was battling junior Jake Lopez (5-9, 165) and freshman Ben Schneider for the starting job. First-year coach Shane Hedrick has been impressed with how well Stiegeler takes control of the huddle and how quickly he’s learning the offense. “I really like what he brings as a runner and passer,” Hedrick said.
After the first week of practice, what started as a three-way competition was down to two players: 6-foot-2 junior Cameron Masters-Doble and 6-foot senior Pat Vialva, a transfer from California powerhouse Long Beach Polytechnic. Senior Kellen Jolley has moved to wide receiver and “is doing great there,” coach John Kemper said in a text message.
Jackson Jones returns for his senior season after being voted first-team all-Three Rivers League in the spring. In his first season as the Timberwolves’ full-time starter, Jones in the spring passed for 16 touchdowns and four interceptions. “He has a cannon for an arm,” coach Dan Lever said.
After the first week of practices, the Lions still had a three-way competition to succeed Blake DeBisschop: senior Chase Harmon, junior Earl Ingle and sophomore Nick Sakys. Harmon (the varsity backup in the spring) is the most experienced, and Sakys might have the most potential, with a quick release and great anticipation of routes. If Ingle ends up one of the odd players out, coach Chris Miller will create packages for him to take advantage of his toughness and cannon arm.
Jack Layne (Lake Oswego) photo by Rockne Andrew Roll
MOUNTAIN VALLEY CONFERENCE
Seve Castillo, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior, enters his third season on the varsity. Castillo has a big arm and throws an excellent deep ball.
Entering preseason practice, senior Tyler Copeland had the inside track to win the starting quarterback position after he led the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in the spring. “Tyler is a pretty physical player, and he can really run,” coach Jeff Auvinen said.
Senior Jakoby Moss will be a third-year starter at quarterback. In the spring, he passed for 943 yards with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions in leading the Cougars to an undefeated season. Coach Brian Crum said Moss might be the best quarterback he’s had in 25 years of coaching. “He doesn’t have the amazing measurables or a super powerful arm, but there are so many things about the intangibles of playing quarterback, and he checks every single one of those boxes,” Crum said. “He’s smart, he’s knowledgeable about the game, what defenses are doing and what we want to do on offense. He is able to react without having to overthink. … Jakoby is just wired different.”
After quarterbacking the junior varsity in the spring, Daschel Smith will take the wheel of the varsity offense this season. Coach Scott Dufault believes Smith has all the tools to run the Saxons’ offense. “The scheme we run is pretty quarterback-centric, so if he progresses, that bodes well for us offensively,” Dufault said.
The 6-foot-4 Logan Smith passed for more than 900 yards with 12 touchdowns and three interceptions in the spring and projects to build on that showing in his senior season. “Logan is very athletic and has a strong arm,” coach Jay Minyard said. Backup Will Hassoun, a junior, also has impressed the coaching staff. “They both are great leaders and have great work ethics,” Minyard said. “Logan has a good amount of experience at the varsity level, and Will is a natural athlete and a very good runner. Either of these young men could lead us to a strong season. Having great depth at that position is always nice.”
Hogan Carmichael earned the starting quarterback job as a sophomore and gained valuable experience. The 6-foot-5 Carmichael could be headed toward a breakthrough junior year. “You saw all the physical tools, but the game needed to slow down for him and he needed to gain some confidence,” coach Corben Hyatt said. “He’s really starting to get the nuances of playing quarterback. His leadership has also improved, which we are excited about.”
Brooks Ferguson, a 6-foot-6 senior and son of Western Oregon University head coach Arne Ferguson, will take over for Jackson Lowery. “He has the most physical tools of any quarterback we have ever had, and we have had some pretty good ones,” 17th-year coach Shawn Stanley said. “We are really excited for his senior year.”
Junior Jace Blanchard takes over at quarterback from Hunter Gonzales, who passed for 1,387 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions in the spring. Blanchard is described as smart and athletic and boasting a strong arm and great accuracy.
The Black Tornado entered preseason practices with senior Mason Warren and juniors Ty Carpenter and Aiden Horsley in competition for the starting quarterback job. After a week-plus of practice, first-year coach Nathan Chin said Warren might be slightly ahead of Carpenter, “but both are still competing for the position.”
Junior Evan Corbin and senior Dom Tatone shared the quarterback position in the spring. Senior Colton Marsters, who was an impact player at multiple positions in the spring in his first season of varsity football, is also in the running to win the starting quarterback job. “Colton has really put himself into the conversation at summer workouts,” coach Dave Heuberger said before preseason camp.
Brock Thomas earned first-team all-conference recognition as a sophomore and boasts a skill set that belies his relative youth. “He’s got the decision-making ability, he can run, he’s got a good arm, and he’s really accurate,” Irish coach Josh Line said. “We’ve been trying to create opportunities for him to use his skill set.”
Deacon Edgar started as a sophomore and received all-Southwest Conference honorable mention. Coach Bill Singler said Edgar showed tremendous growth in South Medford’s five spring games. “We’re just looking for Deacon to be more consistent,” Singler said. “I think you’ll see even more on his plate this year … and we will continue to utilize his legs, because he can really run.”
Brooks Ferguson (West Salem) photo by Leon Neuschwander