Mike Fanger heads south for Hidden Valley football job, inherits QB star in Nate Vidlak, team with great ‘vibe’

By René Ferrán

SBLive Oregon will break down every 6A, 5A and 4A team in the state leading up to the 2021 fall football season. Here’s our look at the Hidden Valley Mustangs of the Class 4A Skyline Conference. 

HIDDEN VALLEY TEAM PAGE

HEAD COACH

Mike Fanger, first season (57-66 in 12 seasons at La Salle Prep, West Linn, Lincoln and Glencoe)

PAST 3 SEASONS

2021 (spring): 4-0 overall, 3-0 in 4A Skyline 

2019: 12-1 overall, 5-0 in 3A Special District 2 South (lost in 3A final) 

2018: 6-4 overall, 3-2 in 3A Special District 2 South (lost in first round) 

ALL-LEAGUE PLAYERS DEPARTED 

DB Gabe Burchfield, first team defense

WR Jeremiah Noga, first team offense

WR Lawrence Matusik, first team offense

LB Matthew Iwamizu, first team defense

RB Tobias Powers, first team offense

OL Isaac Buckmaster, honorable mention offense

PLAYERS TO WATCH 

QB Nate Vidlak, 6-1, 190, Sr.

This is the season Vidlak was expected to take over the reins of the offense from big brother Sam, but like for many families, the pandemic changed plans in a hurry. Sam signed with Oregon State and enrolled early to get a head start on his college career, skipping his senior season and allowing Nate to move from receiver to quarterback a season earlier than planned. He made the all-conference second team after a solid first season, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes (68 of 98) for 897 yards and 11 touchdowns with two interceptions. He ran for 105 yards and five touchdowns. “Great fundamentals, good arm strength, good athlete,” Fanger said of Vidlak, also the conference’s player of the year during the baseball season. “When Sam graduated early, he stepped into that role, and that was great for him because it had been a while since he’d played meaningful downs at quarterback. So, it was great for him to get those (four) games.”

OT/DT Aidan Moon-Reed, 6-5, 220, Sr.

Moon-Reed entered the starting lineup last season, taking over at right tackle and defensive tackle (11 tackles, 1.5 sacks). He made the all-Skyline honorable mention list on both sides of the ball. “He’s a good athlete on the field, and he works hard in the weight room,” Fanger said.

TE/LB Blake Schubert, 6-1, 190, Sr.

Schubert transferred from North Medford and was a bit of an unknown entering the spring, but by season’s end, he’d earned all-Skyline honorable mention on defense, finishing with 19 tackles (five for loss) and 2.5 sacks. He’ll take on more of a role on offense as a senior. “He has pretty soft hands and is a hard worker,” Fanger said.

OL/NT Chris Woods, 5-9, 260, Sr.

Woods was away all summer on the wrestling circuit, competing at Fargo Nationals and other regional and national tournaments after winning a district title and reaching the 4A state semifinals before going out on a medical forfeit. He’ll look to repeat his performance from the spring, when he was a second-team all-Skyline nose tackle, clogging the middle of the line and making nine tackles (two for loss). “He’s a big, physical kid who will anchor our defensive line,” Fanger said.

WR/SS Noah Stone, 5-11, 187, Sr.

When Vidlak moved under center, a spot opened for Stone to enter the lineup as a slot receiver after being a swing player for the 2019 Class 3A finalists. Playing alongside SBLive Oregon all-state second-teamer Jeremiah Noga and first-team all-leaguer Lawrence Matusik, Stone earned second-team all-Skyline honors with 11 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. He had 10 tackles and a sack at strong safety. “Hidden Valley had an exceptional corps of receivers who took most of the publicity,” Fanger said. “Noah has dropped a bit of weight and gotten faster, and he has some of the best hands that I’ve seen. Over the course of the summer, he’s made a ton of plays.”  

P/K Spencer Fiske, 5-10, 180, Sr.

Fiske earned all-Skyline recognition in both of his sports during the spring, making the second team as a goalkeeper for the soccer team and the first team in his first season playing football. He made 20 of 24 PATs and two field goals, including a game-winner from 42 yards against Henley. He’ll add punting duties full-time after averaging 26 yards on his three punts last season. “He’s worked hard at his craft this summer and has got a strong leg,” Fanger said.

C/DL Ayden Kanott, 6-0, 245, Jr.

Kanott transferred from Foothill in Pleasanton, Calif., before his sophomore year, and he had an immediate impact with the Mustangs, starting at center and receiving all-conference honorable mention. He made three tackles as part of the rotation at defensive tackle. “We have him for two more years, and I couldn’t be happier,” Fanger said. “He’s a really intelligent kid who’s like having another coach out there, making all the calls.”

RB/DB Daniel Iwamizu, 5-11, 175, Jr.

Iwamizu, the younger brother of two-time all-Skyline linebacker Matthew Iwamizu, will take over in the backfield for another two-time all-leaguer in Tobias Powers. Daniel played primarily on the JV team last season, carrying the ball twice and making three tackles in his limited varsity action. “He has really sure hands in the backfield,” Fanger said. “I love how he moves around back there. He’ll be a real dual threat.”   

FB/LB James Elmore, Jr.

Elmore moves up from the JV squad this season and offers positional flexibility for Fanger. “He’s a pretty good player who we can get into any personnel group,” Fanger said.

OUTLOOK

Fanger is a longtime coach in the Portland area who spent the past two years as offensive coordinator at Tigard, but his wife, Joelle, and her brothers are Hidden Valley graduates, so when James Powers stepped down in late May, Fanger immediately expressed interest in the Mustangs job.

He was hired in early June but had to complete the school year at Glencoe, where he taught PE, so he commuted from Hillsboro to Grants Pass and spent 3½ days each week working with the players until moving permanently in early August.

“I like the vibe of the team,” Fanger said. “These kids are super coachable and love being out here. They take coaching really well and are eager to improve.”

Fanger inherited a team somewhat in transition, especially at the skill positions, where four standout players — Noga (Oregon State walk-on), Matusik (Western Oregon), Gabe Burchfield (Western Oregon) and Tobias Powers (Linfield) — have departed.  

To help break in a new crop of skill players, Fanger has Vidlak, who gained valuable experience during the spring season and impressed enough to move up to No. 12 on 247Sports’ statewide recruiting rankings and draw offers from Idaho State and Southern Oregon.

“When you take over a team, you go by what your quarterback’s strengths are,” Fanger said. “He’s a team leader, one of the best I’ve seen at the high school level, and he throws the ball really well on the run. There’s nothing I can look at that I’d say, ‘Oh, I don’t have the quarterback with that skill set.’ I won’t have to hold anything back, so that’s exciting.”

Stone and Iwamizu offer the potential of blossoming into special players, while role players from a season ago such as senior receivers Logan Dove (5-9, 155) and Tai Clouser (5-9, 140) and sophomore tight end Cody Simmons will get the chance to share the spotlight.

Defensive coordinator Randy Keith stayed on staff, meaning that while Hidden Valley will adjust to Fanger’s more run-oriented attack that led Tigard to the No. 1 seed in the 2019 Class 6A playoffs, there shouldn’t be much change on the other side of the ball.

“We have a lot of work to do to figure ourselves out before we can start figuring out our opponents,” Fanger said. “We start with Elmira in Week 1.”

Expect the Mustangs to figure themselves out in plenty of time to grab one of the Skyline’s three state playoff berths and challenge Mazama for the conference title.

COACH SAID 

“I think we will be super competitive. Our depth won’t be fantastic, so we’ll need to stay healthy. A league title is always the goal. We’ll start from there, and if we make the playoffs, we’ll start with a clean slate.” — Mike Fanger

MORE TEAM PREVIEWS

2021 SPRING FOOTBALL

Thank you for joining the discussion on SBLive!

%d bloggers like this: