What we learned in Week 4 of Oregon high school football

By René Ferrán | Photo by Ken Waz

The Oregon high school football season continued last week with Week 4 action around the state.

Complete Week 4 recap

Here’s what stood out during the fourth weekend of action. 

Lake Oswego shows it can handle the pressure with big road win at Sheldon

On the one hand, Lake Oswego coach Steve Coury appreciated that his team had gotten off to a 3-0 start to a season that started with heavy hearts.

On the other hand, he knew the Lakers’ first three opponents — Mountainside, Sherwood and South Medford — had a combined 0-9 record through three weeks.

Just how good his young and untried team really was would be learned in a Week 4 showdown with fellow unbeaten Sheldon in Eugene in the latest meeting of these unlikely rivals — 10 playoff meetings since 2002, including two wins each in the Class 6A state final.

“Every game, we mature a little bit, but when you’re inexperienced like we are, I wanted to see how we handled the pressure of a big game on the road,” Coury said.

What he learned — as did the rest of the state — is that his team can handle that pressure just fine. Lake Oswego blew open a close game with 28 consecutive points to defeat the Irish 48-17.

“They made a couple of big plays, but we stayed the course,” Coury said. “We didn’t shake in our boots. It was a growing-up experience for everybody.”

Cade Waller (left) and Tobia Tagliabue (Lake Oswego) photo by Taylor Balkom

One unit in particular that stayed the course was an offensive line that broke in three starters this season around left tackle Gavin McGuire and center Austin Leykam, a three-year starter with an offer from Lewis & Clark.

Newcomers Paul Stephens at left guard, Matteo Tagliabue at right tackle and Grant Onaitis at right guard — Onaitis is the only junior among the five — have more than held their own, allowing the Lakers to post the second-highest scoring average in Class 6A (44.3 points) through four games.

“They’re a group that needed to play together as a unit, and you can’t get the experience they needed just at practice,” Coury said. “They’re coming together and showed improvement against Sheldon. They have some big kids up front, and we did a good job against them.”

The Lakers open Three Rivers League play Friday against 2019 league champion Tigard, which has bounced back from an 0-2 start to win its past two games. 

“We have great respect for their program and know they’ll be ready to play,” Coury said. “They play a physical brand on both sides of the ball, so we need to be ready to match up with their physicality.”

Next 5 weeks ‘to be a lot different’ after Pacific Conference struggles in first month

The first four weeks of the season have not been kind to the Pacific Conference.

Its two bellwether programs, Newberg and Sherwood, are both 0-4 going into their Highway 99W rivalry matchup this week, having each faced a brutal schedule — the records of their combined opponents is 23-8.

The only one of the six conference teams with a winning record entering conference play is Glencoe, which improved to 3-1 with a 28-7 victory over Reynolds.

“It doesn’t change anything going into league,” said Crimson Tide coach Ian Reynoso. “Newberg is the defending champ, and Sherwood is a storied program. I would expect it to be a lot different going into the next five weeks.”

Glencoe continues to have senior Royce Fasel, a two-time all-conference running back, play quarterback, and considering the Crimson Tide are 5-2 since making the change during the spring season, with Fasel averaging 220 rushing yards per game, “any coach would say it’s stupid to switch things up,” Reynoso quipped.

Royce Fasel (Glencoe) photo by Leon Neuschwander

He was quick to point out that staying with Fasel at quarterback is not a reflection on the development of sophomore Trevor O’Leary, whom Reynoso still considers his quarterback of the future.

Fasel, though, continues to improve as a passer, complementing the power running game even more. He threw for 166 yards and a touchdown against Reynolds, and the defense held the Raiders to 114 yards of total offense. The special teams got a punt return for a score and blocked two punts, leading to a safety on one of them.

The Crimson Tide open conference play Friday against district rival Liberty, and Reynoso takes nothing for granted as his team vies for its first conference title since 2007, when Glencoe reached the Class 5A state final.

“We have the most experienced group in the league, and we still have four sophomores starting and five first-year starters,” he said. “I’m not sure there is any one dominant team. I think everyone in our league can beat each other, so it’s going to be a nightly battle in the Pacific Conference.”

Summit defense exhibits selflessness, sacrifice to propel Storm to 3-1 start

The evolution of the Summit defense started during the pandemic-shortened six-week season in the spring. 

With limited time to prepare for the campaign and despite returning eight starters, Storm coach Corben Hyatt and defensive coordinator Scott Clements decided to simplify their play calls “and let our athletes play fast and aggressive,” as Hyatt described it.

After giving up 33 points in an opening-week loss to Mountain View, the Storm gave up just 10 points per game the rest of the way, finishing 3-3 — their most wins in a season since moving up to Class 6A in 2018.

The improvement on defense has continued this season, with the Storm allowing the second-fewest points in 6A through four games (nine per game) and getting off to their first 2-0 start in league play since 2016.

“The success has just carried over with our players playing with confidence in our system,” Hyatt said after Friday’s 26-6 win over Sprague. “We don’t have big players, but we are athletic and fast and play great team defense. Great defenses are selfless and sacrifice, and this group loves to see their teammates have success. All 11 players do their jobs.”

The strength of the defense is the secondary, where three starters from the spring are back — two-time all-conference cornerback Ryan Powell, fellow senior Joe Schutz and junior Charlie Ozolin — while the leader of the group is senior outside linebacker Jack Clemans.

“He makes plays all over the field,” Hyatt said. “I may be biased, but I think Jack is one of the best overall players in our league.”

On the other side, senior Grant Smith is back at outside linebacker after missing most of the spring with an injury.

“Each week, he gets better, and he brings a physicality to the defense,” Hyatt said.

Up front, the Storm had to replace their entire defensive line, but Hyatt praised how the group — senior Henry Hagan, who didn’t play in the spring, and juniors Spencer Elliott, Chip Allers and Hank Brundage — has jelled and stepped up as a unit. 

The offense hasn’t posted big numbers, but junior quarterback Hogan Carmichael has quietly taken on more of a leadership role after getting his feet wet as a starter during the spring season. 

Hyatt described how at practice a couple of weeks ago, Carmichael completed a long corner route, then ran 20 yards downfield to review the play with the receiver and discuss how to set up the route better.

“When I saw that, I knew he had taken the next step,” Hyatt said. “And the guys are seeing him differently. It’s exciting to know that we have another year with him.”

The next three weeks will test the Storm’s resurgence as they seek a first league title since 2016. They play host to South Salem this week, followed by a road game at consensus favorite West Salem and a home game with crosstown rival Mountain View.

Wilsonville gets contributions across the board to overcome inexperience in 4-0 start

Three. That’s the number of returning starters Wilsonville had entering this season.

Yet through four weeks, the Wildcats have hardly skipped a beat. They pulled out a 52-41 victory Friday at Scappoose to improve to 4-0, overcoming penalties and discipline issues to post their most significant victory so far.

“We are very pleased with the progress of our team to date and look forward to seeing how the rest of this crazy adventure of a season goes,” Wilsonville coach Adam Guenther said. “I wouldn’t say we are surprised by the progress we’ve made. It was what we were expecting and hoping for. The guys have not disappointed.”

Jacob Ogden (Wilsonville) photo by Dan Brood

What has especially pleased Guenther is that he has received contributions all across the board. Whether it’s senior Chase Hix efficiently running the offense (61% completion rate, 1,033 yards, 11 touchdowns), a deep stable of running backs — four backs have between 18 and 28 carries, with Rochne Beecham’s 243 yards leading the pack — or the play of an underrated defense led by two-way standouts Nick Cooper (37 tackles, two sacks) and Jack Johnson (22 tackles, interception), “it has truly been an entire team effort,” Guenther said. 

While the Wildcats gave up 41 points to Scappoose, Guenther isn’t worried about his defense, especially with how well the offense is clicking right now.

“We are at our best when we simply let the game come to us and don’t press the issue,” said Guenther, whose defense faces another test this week when North Salem comes to town. “I think both sides of the ball are simply going to keep getting stronger as the year goes along.”

Stork brothers help Henley start 4-0 with rivalry game looming

One of the pleasant surprises of the first four weeks of the season has taken place hundreds of miles outside the bright lights of the big city.

Henley coach Alex Stork didn’t know what to expect from his team after graduating quite a bit of talent. He knew he had an athletic group, as it showed during team camp, but it was relatively untested at the varsity level.

With Friday’s 16-12 victory over La Pine, the Hornets improved to 4-0, and Stork has marveled at how quickly the team has come together.

“It is a testament to our leaders and the time they put in the offseason,” Stork said. “This is a confident team. My prayer for this group has been that we remain confident but have humility. Sometimes, we tend to move from confidence to arrogance, where pride and individual agendas start to take precedence over the team.”

One of those leaders is Stork’s younger brother, Shaw, who moved from receiver to quarterback over the summer and has had a solid start to the season. He has more than 1,000 yards of total offense and has accounted for 14 touchdowns (eight passing, six rushing).

“His demeanor as a quarterback has certainly helped,” Alex Stork said. “He is very calm and collected. I think the only time he really gets stirred up is when big brother loses my cool, which happens more than I would like to admit. But I’m very proud of him.”

Next for the Hornets is their annual Southside Series matchup with Mazama. The schools are less than five miles apart in Klamath Falls, and while Henley leads the all-time series 16-13, the Vikings have won seven of the past eight, including a 35-0 romp during the spring season en route to their seventh consecutive Skyline Conference title.

“It definitely makes for a fun hometown rivalry,” Stork said. “My hope is that the boys compete their tails off but not let their identity be wrapped up in playing football so much that winning or losing this game would dictate how they feel about their season.”

Especially since win or lose, the Hornets still will have plenty to play for. Three Skyline Conference teams will qualify for the Class 4A playoffs, and the Hornets appear likely to be one of those qualifiers.

This and that …

With its 41-0 victory over McMinnville, Roseburg (4-0) already has matched its highest win total since 2014. It opens Southwest Conference play this week against Grants Pass in search of a first league title since 2005. … McNary improved to 4-0 for the first time in the past 14 years with its 41-21 victory at Bend to kick off Mountain Valley play. The Celtics will hope to close this year in better position than in 2007, when they went from 4-0 to 5-5 and missed the playoffs. … While the West Linn-Oregon City “Battle for the Bridge” rivalry bills itself as the oldest rivalry game west of the Mississippi River, the annual Civil War rivalry between Marshfield and North Bend might have it beat. The Coos Bay rivals first met in 1907, and the 141st edition Saturday went to the Pirates 55-6 — improving their record in the series to 89-42-10.

Our complete high school football preview:

Breaking down every 6A, 5A, 4A team in the state

Our Week 4 predictions:

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