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

By Mike Wilson

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.

Churchill Lancers photo by Leon Neuschwander

NORTHWEST OREGON CONFERENCE EAST

Hood River Valley

Can the Eagles make it through what looks like a tough midseason stretch of the schedule so that their games at the end of the regular season have playoff significance?

Hood River Valley travels in Week 3 to Redmond to play Ridgeview (which defeated the Eagles last season), then plays host to Pendleton before heading to Redmond again in Week 5 to face the Panthers. After that, the schedule appears on paper more manageable. Hood River Valley ends the regular season with a home game against La Salle Prep.

La Salle Prep

How will the Falcons handle having essentially an entirely new group of skill-position players?

Junior Zach Frazier is the only returning running back who had an appreciable number of carries last season. Even with the departures of important playmakers, though, the Falcons of Milwaukie have what first-year coach Dustin Janz calls “some incredible talent.”

Parkrose

Who will be the Broncos’ quarterback?

Senior Harry Vu and sophomore Kenji Johnson were competing for the No. 1 spot as preseason practices began. Brian Jackson, in his second season as head coach, doesn’t want to settle for moral victories — he said he wants wins. To achieve that, the Broncos of Northeast Portland will probably need more than the 10.3 points per game they scored in the spring.

Pendleton

How will the Buckaroos overcome a general lack of size?

Pendleton’s best defensive player (and one of the best in Oregon) is linebacker Kyle Liscom, who last season was listed at 5-feet-10, 180 pounds. But that didn’t stop him from being voted NWOC East defensive player of the year. “We’re not overly big,” coach Erik Davis said, “but we’re pretty fast and pretty athletic.” That’s a combination that has been shown to work well.

Putnam

Can the Kingsmen exploit the size and talents of Jackson Brown now that he’s back at tight end?

In the spring, Brown (6-feet-2, 205 pounds) played quarterback even though he rose through the system as a tight end. This season, he’s back to tight end, providing an inviting target to junior quarterback Konnor Bickford. On defense, Brown will continue to play at linebacker, where he was voted second-team all-NWOC East in the spring.

Redmond

The Panthers’ defense put its stamp on opponents in the spring; is it the offense’s turn in the fall?

We probably can’t expect four shutouts for every six games, as the Panthers registered in the spring. Regardless, their offense looks as if it could drive the team’s success this season. Hayden Parrish returns for his senior season, having begun starting at quarterback as a freshman. Dylan Lee was the team’s second-leading rusher in the spring season. Seniors Nate Mundy and Aiden Gebhard and 6-foot-3 junior Nathan Wachs provide targets for Parrish at wide receiver.

Ridgeview

How quickly will first-year starters adapt to the varsity level?

Ridgeview will have to find new starters on the offensive line to team with senior Joe Martin and junior Logan Hobbs. Other positions, too, will be manned by players who haven’t started for the Ravens of Redmond. “Those juniors who didn’t play a lot of varsity snaps last year need to learn the speed and physicality of the varsity game fast for us to have success,” coach Patrick Pileggi said.

The Dalles

Can the Riverhawks establish some momentum before conference play starts?

The Dalles opens at home against Forest Grove and then plays at St. Helens in Week 2, before opening NWOC East play in Week 3 against Redmond. Those two nonconference games appear winnable based on spring results (the opponents combined to go 1-11 in the spring) and should give The Dalles a chance to find its stride.

NORTHWEST OREGON CONFERENCE WEST

Canby

Do the Cougars have enough behind their starters to go on a long run?

As preseason camp approached, Canby coach Jimmy Joyce said he wasn’t losing sleep over the starting 11 on either side of the ball. Beyond the starters, though, the team needed to find some answers, he said, and building that depth was going to be a focus during the preseason.

Forest Grove

How far can the senior class take the Vikings?

Among the bright spots for first-year coach Dominic Ferraro during the summer sessions with his team was the senior class, including tight end/defensive end Jake Steltenpohl and running back/cornerback David Johnson. Forest Grove likely won’t be competing for championships this season, but Ferraro sees the seniors as having a chance to make a lasting impression nonetheless. “I think they have the opportunity to leave a legacy that turned the program around in the right direction,” Ferraro said. “They have that opportunity to leave that mark.”

Hillsboro  

What can the Spartans expect from sophomore quarterback Calvin Perkins in his first full season starting?

Though 5-feet-6, Perkins stood tall as a freshman, taking over in Week 3 after an injury sidelined the Spartans’ starter. Coach Dan Shuff said Perkins has a strong arm, is smart and responds to coaching. Having been indoctrinated to varsity football in the spring, Perkins should be on an upward trajectory this season.

McKay

Who will step up to help anchor the offensive line?

Sophomore Alec Salgado played on the junior varsity in the spring and will be expected to play a leading role up front. Elsewhere along the front line, there was opportunity for newcomers to grab a starting spot. What coach Brandis Piper saw at a team camp this summer bolstered his confidence. “I thought our linemen there did a great job of being able to hold their own and compete,” he said. Quarterback Kyrin Fuimaono’s intelligence at the line of scrimmage in making presnap reads also will be of help to the line, Piper said.

North Salem

How many yards will Josiah Davis gain?

As a sophomore, Davis averaged 128 yards per game and eight yards per carry. His only games with fewer than 100 yards rushing were against West Salem and McNary, both Class 6A schools. Defenses will perhaps have to pay more attention this fall to quarterback TC Manumaleuna II, and that could open things up more for Davis.

Scappoose

Who is the most exciting player to watch on Scappoose’s offense?

Strong candidates include senior quarterback Luke McNabb, junior running back D’Angelo Macedo-Becker and senior wide receiver Colin Stoddard. McNabb passed for more than 1,200 yards with 15 touchdowns (against three interceptions) and ran for five scores in the spring. Macedo-Becker averaged more than 10 yards per carry and had five rushing touchdowns. Stoddard led Scappoose with 22 catches (three for touchdowns) and is likely to see more balls thrown his way this season.

St. Helens

Can the Lions build on their one win from the spring?

One rival NWOC West coach said it would be a mistake to sleep on St. Helens, which he called a different team at the end of the spring season compared with the start. The Lions had five seniors in the spring, and although the fall roster isn’t all that much older, if the developmental slope continues to be positive, St. Helens would appear to be heading in the right direction.

Wilsonville

Can the Wildcats find their rhythm in time for conference play?

In finding replacements at 19 of the 22 starting positions, Wilsonville had the jamboree and can use its two nonconference games (against Lebanon and at Pendleton) as, essentially, tryouts for starting spots. It’s not until Week 4, at Scappoose, that Wilsonville is likely to face a stern test in a game that will have an impact on the standings.

Wilsonville Wildcats photo by Leon Neuschwander

MID-WILLAMETTE CONFERENCE

Central

Can the Panthers overcome limited numbers to move back toward .500?                         

Central had seven seniors during the spring season. Coach Joel Everett said the incoming freshman class is smaller than normal. On the positive side, this season’s team has varsity experience from the spring, and a strong group of juniors and three sophomore offensive linemen bode well for the future. “They are hungry to get back on the winning track,” Everett said.

Corvallis

Can the Spartans challenge for the conference championship?

Corvallis has an experienced quarterback in senior Carter Steeves. Seniors Weston Tucker, Edgar Crump and Ismail Abdullah head a deep group of linemen. The running and receiving games appear to be in good hands. Coach Chris McGowan said he thinks his team potentially could be dicing it out with the best in the Mid-Willamette this season.

Crescent Valley

If everything starts up front, are the Raiders headed for success?

As preseason practices began, first-year coach Andrew McClave said Crescent Valley had about 15 linemen out of its total of 50 players. “I’ve got a lot of kids who want to get out on the field and block and move people,” McClave said. Their job also includes protecting sophomore quarterback Rocco McClave (son of the coach), who earned the starting spot midway through the spring season.

Dallas

What is the next step for the Dragons?

Dallas was 2-7 in 2018, coach Andy Jackson’s first season, 6-4 in 2019 and 5-1 in the spring. Heading to the fall season, the Dragons boast three big-time seniors: offensive and defensive lineman Justin Parnell, running back Logan Person and quarterback Ashton Foster. “We have a few guys that are some of the best at their positions in the state, and they are surrounded by a bunch of kids that work their butts off,” Jackson said. “The thing for us is we don’t have a ton of kids in the program, so the people that will really make or break the success of this group will be all the other kids who have prepared themselves for this.”

Lebanon

Will Lebanon demonstrate that the one-win showing in the spring was an anomaly?

Lebanon’s 1-5 record in the spring was, to say the least, deceptive. The Week 1 loss came by one point in a modified-rules game against Class 6A Sprague in which there was a running clock in the second half and no kicking. Two other games — a 40-34 loss to North Bend and a 28-26 loss to Class 4A Estacada — also were one-possession games that could have gone either way. Lebanon was that close to a 4-2 mark. This season, senior tight end Waylon Wolfe, senior fullback Brayden Burton and senior linemen Mark Workman and Todd Swanson head a roster that could make a quick rebound.

Silverton

It’s 30 years since Silverton won the state title; is this the season the drought ends?

“We may not say this a lot, but we do this to win a championship and be the best,” coach Josh Craig said. Such goals are more justifiable when there is talent to support them, and the Foxes have that. Quarterback Jordan McCarty will display improved mechanics, make better reads and handle games more smoothly in his senior season, Craig said. Senior wide receivers Austin Ratliff (limited to one game in the spring because of injury) and Vandon Fassler provide McCarty with targets. Senior lineman Orie Schaffers is a third-year varsity starter.

South Albany

What signs of a quick rebound are there for the RedHawks?

South Albany lost seven seniors to graduation, so a lot of players with varsity experience return. The team will be more familiar with a new offense installed during the trying times of the pandemic. The turnouts for offseason weight workouts and for 7-on-7 events were encouraging. “Our team goal is to put together a winning season and be in position to earn a playoff spot,” co-coach Jeff Louber said.

West Albany

Will the team’s success be predicated on the play of the front lines?

Coach Brian Mehl likes the team’s depth in the defensive front seven, on the offensive line and at tight end. “In the trenches, we should be really good on paper, and we like that,” Mehl said. “I think that’s going to be the strength of our football team, and usually when that’s the case you have the opportunity to do well.” The Bulldogs have proven players in plenty of other places, including quarterback (senior Michael Cale returns) and with DeMarcus Houston, whose offensive position was to be determined.

MIDWESTERN LEAGUE

Ashland

Can the Grizzlies go from playing a four-game junior varsity schedule to making the OSAA Class 5A playoffs?

Though limited to four games in the spring, Ashland’s players got experience. And the hope is that that experience is the foundation of a team that challenges the rest of the league this season. Coach Beau Lehnerz believes the Grizzlies have a chance to climb the standings as some of their Midwestern League rivals will be fielding younger, less experienced teams. “If we’re in the middle of the pack, I think we’re on the right track,” he said.

Churchill

Will teams be able to stand up to the Lancers’ offensive line?

The Lancers of Eugene are loaded on the offensive line, where they return a wealth of experience. The leader of that group is senior Brycen Thomas, who started at center and guard last season. Twins Elliott and Adam Bloom started at center and left tackle as sophomores, and Jaeden Frye and Dylan Bowles give Churchill two more proven linemen. This group could set the template for a highly successful offense. “We’re going to be line-led,” coach AJ Robinson said. “We have a good line this year that we’re excited about.”

Crater

The Comets faced one league opponent in the spring; what will this season hold?

Eagle Point was the only Midwestern League opponent Crater played in its six-game season (winning 28-7). Besides that, there are some question marks about league rivals this season. “There’s been a ton of coaches turning over in the conference,” coach Berk Brown said. “It will be interesting to see what things look like as we head into the season.”

Eagle Point

Can the Eagles exploit their experience?

Eagle Point returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense. In a league filled with generally younger teams that have questions to answer, the Eagles will be one of the most experienced teams in the Midwestern. “This is their time,” coach Erik Johnson said.

North Bend

Can the Bulldogs overcome their youth and make the OSAA Class 5A playoffs?

The Bulldogs have one of their smallest senior classes in recent memory. Juniors aren’t abundant, either. But North Bend’s 3-3 record in the spring was deceiving. The losses were to Class 4A powers Marist Catholic (Eugene) and Marshfield (Coos Bay) and to Class 6A Grants Pass. Making the postseason might not entail quite as much of a bounce as a 3-3 record would indicate.

Springfield

Will the Millers start so many sophomores out of necessity or by choice?

Heading to preseason practices, coach Miles Haley said nine sophomores would be among the 22 offensive and defensive starters. Four of those sophomores got varsity experience in the spring — a statement about their talent — including Connor Dye, a second-team all-league running back as a ninth-grader. Moreover, that sophomore class was undefeated in its middle school years. “It’s a talented group that knows how to win,” Haley said.

Thurston

Do the Colts have the best running back tandem in Class 5A?

All along, Thurston counted on having running back Gavin Knights this fall. Then Bryce Indell transferred from Willamette, on the west side of Eugene, giving the Colts of Springfield a huge boost on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Thurston averaged 38.8 points per game in the spring and undoubtedly left some points on the table in games that got out of hand. With Indell in the fold, and tight end Jacob Newell (who recently committed to Nevada) among the receiving targets, the Colts could hang some remarkable numbers on Midwestern League scoreboards.

Willamette

The Wolverines’ personnel losses weren’t broad but were deep; how do they react?

Willamette lost running back Bryce Indell, who transferred to Thurston of Springfield, and starting quarterback Dane Woodcock, one of four seniors on the team in the spring. Part of the answer will be to rely on an offensive line anchored by senior Matt McGarth and to exploit the talents of wide receiver/linebacker Griffen Bushnell.

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