By René Ferrán, Paul Valencia and Jarrid Denney
The Oregon high school football season kicks off this week, and SBLive has rolled out a comprehensive statewide preview.
Here, we examine each 4A team’s most irreplaceable player. Who is one player that if he were to miss a game, his team’s chances would take a massive hit? We answer below.
Lucas Tuski (Marist Catholic) photo by Leon Neuschwander
Astoria: TE/DL Colton McMaster, Sr.
Most know McMaster as a tight end, or even as a defensive lineman, but he could line up this fall at running back, wide receiver or linebacker. A Division I prospect as a discus and shot thrower who moved to No. 12 on the all-time state list with a 192-foot discus throw in the spring, McMaster’s athletic ability makes him a dominant football player, too.
Banks: TE/LB Charles White, Sr.
Just how often is a tight end voted the offensive player of the year in a league? That’s the talent that White, a second-team SBLive Oregon all-state selection, showed off in the spring, when he led Class 4A with 604 receiving yards on 32 catches (nine for touchdowns). He also ranked among the state leaders in tackles for loss (six) and sacks (four).
Milwaukie: RB/LB Zane Garvey, Sr.
On offense, Garvey did not get the ball much during the spring season, but that’s about to change. Garvey is known more for his defense, though. He led the team in tackles (53, third-most in 4A) and tackles for loss (eight) last season.
Seaside: RB/LB Lawson Talamantez, Sr.
Talamantez was a tight end in the spring, but the Seagulls have moved him to running back. No change needed on defense, though. The two-time all-league linebacker will be doing his thing from that position again.
Tillamook: OL/DL Aiden Johnson, Sr.
Johnson will be a four-year starter on offense. He received second-team all-state honors on offense and defense in the spring.
Valley Catholic: RB/DB Luke Howes, Sr.
First-year head coach Michael Snyder came up with a new nickname for Howes. “I call him Mr. Everything,” Snyder said. Howes can do it all, and Snyder is going to get him the ball in many different ways as he expects a breakthrough season from the versatile senior.
Crook County: RB/LB Brayden Duke, Sr.
Duke had 41 tackles and three sacks manning the middle of the Cowboys defense during the spring campaign. Duke also is instrumental on offense as a fullback. He was all-league on both sides of the ball last season.
Estacada: OL/DL Devin Gotchall, Sr.
Consistent physical play. That’s what you get from Gotchall. Oh, and at an all-state level — he made the all-conference first team on offense (opening holes for four backs who each gained at least 299 rushing yards) and second team on defense.
Gladstone: TE/DL Ethan Finnigan, Jr.
Finnigan is strong enough to play inside but he also is the team’s best edge rusher, finishing the abbreviated spring season with eight tackles for loss and three sacks. On offense, look for Finnigan as a tight end or the rare H-back.
Madras: WR/DB Cael White, Jr.
One of the most athletic players on the team, White has great hands and a knack for ensuring he gets the ball. White had several highlight grabs in the spring and finished with 10 catches for a team-high 149 yards.
Molalla: QB Tucker Ward, Jr.
Molalla can move Isaac Thomas-Klementis to running back because Ward is ready to take over as quarterback. Ward was going to get some reps during the spring, but he was injured early in the campaign. Healthy, he’s the starter now.
North Marion: RB/DB Marcus Ledesma, Jr.
Ledesma scored seven touchdowns and averaged six yards per carry (277 yards on 44 rushes) in the spring season. A tall running back with a great stride, Ledesma is one of the most athletic players on the team.
Charles White (Banks) photo by Leon Neuschwander
OREGON WEST CONFERENCE
Cascade: QB/DB Jacob Hage, Sr.
At 5-8, 170 pounds, Hage is pure toughness. If there is a defender between him and the goal line, Hage doesn’t want to run around the defender. Sure, Hage is lightning quick and could run around the defender. But no, he wants to run right through the defender. Plus, he’s brilliant at the position — a dual threat who last season threw for 837 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 475 yards and eight scores.
Newport: QB Markus Everitt, Jr.
Everitt is a three-sport athlete who also plays baseball and basketball and possesses a leadership quality about him — even as a sophomore during the spring campaign. He completed almost 66 percent of his passes (31 of 47) for 607 yards and six touchdowns as a first-year starter.
Stayton: TE/LB Brock Hubert, Jr.
Hubert passes the eyeball test with his 6-5, 270-pound frame. On defense, let’s call him a linebacker for now, but he can play anywhere the coaching staff puts him. In the spring, dealing with COVID, there were a lot of lineup changes. Hubert played nose tackle, outside linebacker and inside linebacker.
Sweet Home: OL/DL Tucker Weld, Sr.
A lineman at heart but he will play some at linebacker, too. That’s the type of player Weld is, doing whatever he can to help the team.
Woodburn: RB/DB/K Tomas Veliz, Sr.
Veliz received all-conference recognition as a receiver, where he caught 12 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns, but he’s listed as a running back this season — he did carry the ball 62 times for 245 yards in the spring. He also intercepted two passes to tie for team-high honors.
SKY EM LEAGUE
Cottage Grove: OL/DL Ayden Freeman, Sr.
When coach Joe Polamalu arrived at Cottage Grove before the spring season, Freeman was one of the players he said immediately caught his eye. Freeman will provide a boost in the trenches for the Lions on both sides of the ball.
Elmira: OL/DL James Evans, Sr.
Evans was second-team all-league on both sides of the ball last season and is the leader of a talented, experienced offensive line. He will slot in at right tackle on offense and defensive tackle on defense.
Marist Catholic: RB/LB Lucas Tuski, Sr.
Tuski isn’t just one of the top players for Marist Catholic; he is one of the top returning players in the state — at any level. Only two players in 4A ran for more yards than his 717 last season, and only one scored more rushing touchdowns than his 12. His impact at linebacker was just as significant (16 tackles, three for loss, two sacks).
Marshfield: RB/LB Ezra Waterman, Sr.
Waterman has been the heart and soul of Marshfield’s defense the past few seasons. The 74 tackles he tallied in the spring were the second-most in 4A, and he led the state with 13 tackles for loss in earning SBLive Oregon first-team all-state honors. The Pirates will rely on him to take on a larger offensive load at running back to help supplement their dynamic passing attack.
North Eugene: WR/DB Nolan Wyers, Sr.
Wyers was a North Eugene co-MVP last season and a major difference-maker on both sides of the ball. He had 26 receptions for 400 yards, ranking among the top 10 in 4A in both categories, and has drawn attention from Montana and Southern Oregon. An ultra-speedy, athletic pass-catcher, he placed third in the 100-meter dash at the 5A state meet in the spring.
Henley: RB/LB Tulson Higgins, Sr.
Higgins ranked among 4A leaders in tackles most of last season, finishing with a team-high 45 (six for loss) and three sacks in earning second-team all-Skyline honors as an inside linebacker. He was second on the team with 147 rushing yards on 29 carries with a team-high five touchdowns.
Hidden Valley: QB Nate Vidlak, 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 completed 68 of 98 passes for 897 yards and 11 touchdowns with two interceptions. He also ran for 105 yards and five touchdowns.
Klamath Union: WR/S Jaymus Dutra, Sr.
Dutra was a midseason JV callup as a sophomore and has started in the secondary since. He’ll be a key two-way contributor for the Pelicans this season after earning second-team all-conference honors on both sides of the ball in the spring.
Mazama: RB/LB Zeke Heaton, Sr.
Whoever starts at fullback in the Vikings’ veer offense will be the team’s most indispensable player. This fall, that role falls to Heaton, who shared time at fullback during the spring but showed he’s capable of carrying a heavy load by rushing for 571 yards and eight touchdowns on 108 carries en route to first-team all-state honors.
North Valley: OL/DE Joey Comyford, Sr.
Comyford is a three-year starter at guard who last season earned all-conference recognition on both sides of the ball, being named to the second team on offense and receiving honorable mention on defense.
Phoenix: OT/DE Trevor Sharrar, Sr.
Sharrar was one of the Pirates’ top players last season, making the all-Skyline honorable mention list at defensive end and excelling as an offensive tackle. New coach Michael Robinson II is considering moving Sharrar to tight end to take advantage of his athleticism.
Zeke Heaton (Mazama) photo by Leon Neuschwander
GREATER OREGON LEAGUE (4A/3A)
Baker: RB/LB Gauge Bloomer, Sr.
Bloomer was one of the top running backs in 4A during the spring season, rushing for 682 yards and two touchdowns on 116 carries. Coach Jason Ramos called him “a gritty downhill runner and savvy linebacker, a workhorse who will get the bulk of our carries and be a major component of our offense.”
Burns: QB/WR/S Dalhton Proffitt, Sr.
Proffitt is battling junior Levi Epling, who got some snaps under center as a freshman in 2019, and two others for the starting quarterback job. Proffitt, an Iowa transplant whom coach Terry Graham called “one of the better athletes we have on the team,” also shifted from cornerback to safety during the spring to provide more run support.
La Grande: RB/LB Braden Carson, Sr.
Carson had quite the workload during the compressed high school sports seasons. Besides being one of the top players on the football team in the spring, he won a 4A state wrestling title at 138 pounds in June, helping to lead the Tigers to a runner-up finish.
McLoughlin: QB/S Nick Herndon, Sr.
Herndon acquitted himself well in his first season playing quarterback, completing 14 of 41 passes for 280 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions in six games. Like most first-time quarterbacks, Herndon was quick to abandon his reads when the pocket collapsed, but as the season progressed, he could run more of the RPO (run-pass option) action that coach Jorge Estrada prefers.
Nyssa: WR/S Landon McDowall, Sr.
After McDowall, who had started at quarterback since Week 7 of his freshman season, lost the job to Andrew Enders, he transitioned to receiver, where the duo quickly formed a connection. He had nine catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns in the two rivalry games against Ontario and Vale. McDowall could be on the move again this season, either to running back or slot receiver.
Ontario: G/DE Manny Ramirez, Sr.
Tigers coach Greg Simmons has watched Ramirez develop as a lineman since his freshman year, working with him as a position coach for two seasons before taking over as head coach last spring. A three-year starter on both sides of the ball, Ramirez will be counted upon as a leader of a young group this fall, and Simmons believes he can repeat on the all-state team after earning honorable mention on defense in the spring.
Vale: QB/DB Tanner Steele, Sr.
Steele moved up from the JV squad, for which he started as a sophomore, to become the varsity starting quarterback in the spring. That experience should serve him well this season. He also is a starter in the secondary.