Oregon’s top high school football players: Meet the state’s best defensive linemen

By René Ferrán, Mike Wilson, Bob Lundeberg, Paul Valencia and Jarrid Denney

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at some of the top players in Oregon high school football. Our sixth list focuses on the defensive linemen. (Quarterbacks | Running backs | Wide receivers | Tight ends | Offensive linemen)

There are hundreds of standout football players in Oregon and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive! Use the comments section to discuss the other defensive linemen worthy of fans’ attention in 2021.

Find our team-by-team breakdowns for every 6A, 5A and 4A team in Oregon at this link

Jimmy Jordahl (Crater) photo by Leon Neuschwander

Aiden Johnson, 6-1, 230, Sr., Tillamook

His father and coach, Kye Johnson, considers Aiden one of the best football players in the Class 4A Cowapa League. He earned all-state recognition on defense in the spring and had 11½ tackles in the Cheesemakers’ first two games this season.

Ben Thornbrue, 6-6, 230, Sr., Glencoe

Thornbrue is better known as a post player on the basketball court, twice making the all-Pacific team on the hardwood, but Crimson Tide coach Ian Reynoso thinks he is ready to blossom as a football player after making the all-conference second team on defense in the spring. “He’s got phenomenal slippery tendencies to get after the quarterback, and he’s just starting to embrace the physicality of the game,” Reynoso said. “He has a lot of upside and is still growing into his body.”

Braden Rohde, 6-1, 220, Sr., Churchill

Rohde had four sacks in the spring season, tied for second in Class 5A. Lancers coach AJ Robinson wasn’t shy about his expectations for Rohde entering this season. “I expect him to be the top defensive player in the league,” Robinson said in August. “He is extremely physical and was hard to block last season. He has a college future.”

Bryson Cannon, 6-5, 200, Sr., Cascade Christian

Cannon was an all-league defensive tackle for the Class 3A champion Challengers in the spring, finishing with 17 tackles and a sack. Coach Jon Gettman said Cannon, a three-year starter, uses his length and athleticism to effective use on defense. “Bryson has been a great asset to the team,” Gettman said. 

Campbell Sager, 6-5, 250, Jr., Westview

Sager’s big sophomore season ended with him moving up to the varsity squad for the final two games, making seven tackles (two for loss) and announcing himself as a leader of both lines this fall. “He plays with a high motor and is a physical player,” Wildcats coach Ryan Atkinson said.

Carl Bailey, 6-1, 200, Jr., Ridgeview

As a sophomore, Bailey received honorable mention all-NWOC East on the defensive line — even though he missed two games because of a foot injury suffered in a farming accident. Ravens coach Patrick Pileggi said Bailey is dedicated to the weight room. “He’s a physical specimen with an amazing work ethic,” Pileggi said.

Carson Benedict, 6-5, 245, Sr., West Albany

Benedict has an ideal body for offensive tackle and the defensive line. “He is long, lean and very versatile,” Bulldogs coach Brian Mehl said. “He definitely makes his presence known on the defensive side.” 

Carson Benedict (West Albany) photo by Leon Neuschwander

Chris Woods, 5-9, 260, Sr., Hidden Valley

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,” Mustangs coach Mike Fanger said.

Cole Jorgensen, 6-2, 220, Sr., La Grande

Jorgensen went from JV swing player as a sophomore to a disruptive force in the middle of the line at nose tackle during the spring. “He is physical and fast and plays with a lot of intensity,” Tigers coach Rich McIlmoil said. 

Daevon Vereen, 6-2, 185, Jr., Banks

Vereen has not played a lot of football in his life. His coaches had him changing positions, as well. He got moved to defensive end and simply shined. He started the spring season on JV. That did not last long, and by season’s end, he led Banks with 4.5 sacks among his 25 tackles. “He has got some unbelievable speed from that position. He’ll chase guys down from across the field,” Banks coach Cole Linehan said. “He learned on the fly, and it’s going to be great to see what he can do for us.”

Demitri Harris, 6-4, 225, Sr., Dallas

Harris is an explosive senior lineman who will start at defensive end and offensive tackle. “He used to be a tight end and outside linebacker for us, so he’s very fast,” Dragons coach Andy Jackson said. “Demitri is pretty quiet; he just goes about his business. He’s a great lifter and he plays at an extremely fast speed.” 

Devin Gotchall, 5-10, 240, Sr., Estacada

Gotchall was a 4A second-team all-state selection in the spring and provides a physical presence who clogs up the interior to free linebackers to make plays. “Super consistent, super physical and tough, and he gets the job done in the trenches,” Rangers coach Andy Mott said.

Dominick Menegas, 6-2, 250, Sr., Southridge

Menegas made his mark on defense in the spring, finishing with 25 tackles (seven for loss), 12 hurries and three sacks to draw the attention of several small colleges. He should make more of an impact on offense this season. “He’s a big, strong kid with good hands,” Skyhawks coach Kevin Bickler said. “He will be a force on both sides of the ball.” 

Donovan Gallardo, 5-7, 180, Sr., Century

Gallardo, honorable mention all-Pacific Conference on the defensive line last season (21 tackles, six for loss, six hurries), is one of the few Century linemen with varsity experience. “We will lean on him to help get the line on track,” Jaguars coach Danny Kernan said.

Ethan Finnigan, 6-0, 210, Jr., Gladstone

Finnigan had a strong debut season with the Gladiators, ranking among state leaders in tackles for loss (eight) and sacks (three) and finishing with 25 total tackles as he displayed his prowess as an edge rusher. “Just a guy who creates havoc consistently,” Gladstone coach Cam Sommer said. “He’s probably got the best motor I’ve ever seen from a high school defensive lineman.” 

Gavin McGuire, 6-1, 210, Sr., Lake Oswego

McGuire broke through during the Lakers’ run to the 2019 state final and continued his strong play during the spring season, receiving all-TRL honorable mention on defense. “Gavin has really developed as a leader of the team,” offensive coordinator Nick Halberg said. “He will be one of the most valuable players on our team, and it will be hard to get him off the field.” 

Gavin McGuire (Lake Oswego) photo by Taylor Balkom

Graham Joshi, 6-1, 205, Sr., Lincoln

The Cardinals will rely on Joshi for big contributions on the side opposite standout linebacker Brady Kopetz. “He’s grown and gotten a lot stronger,” Lincoln coach Matt Caruso said.  

Hayden Murphy, 6-2, 225, Sr., Marshfield

As a junior, Murphy racked up 29 tackles and had seven hurries while playing on the defensive line. He’s very much a leader for the Pirates. For all the talent the team boasts at the skill positions, Murphy provides crucial stability in the trenches on both sides of the ball. 

Jacob Newell, 6-5, 220, Sr., Thurston

Newell is better known as a tight end who has committed to the University of Nevada as the state’s No. 4 recruit, but he also is a dominant defensive end who had 13 tackles (four for loss) and two sacks during the spring season. “He’s obviously super high profile and plays at a really high level,” Colts coach Justin Starck said. 

Jake Steltenpohl, 6-4, 185, Sr., Forest Grove

Steltenpohl is a returning starter on offense, but opponents shouldn’t sleep on him when he’s playing defense. “I think he’s going to give our opponents a little bit of trouble coming off the edge,” Vikings coach Dominic Ferraro said. Steltenpohl ranked second on the team in tackles for loss in the spring season.

Jimmy Jordahl, 6-4, 230, Sr., Crater

Jordahl was among a handful of juniors in the state who played in the Les Schwab Bowl this summer. A hard-nosed player on both sides of the ball, Jordahl is unbelievably athletic for a player his size. “He’s flying under the radar in terms of recruiting,” Comets coach Berk Brown said. “He’s got a huge wingspan and is the strongest person on our team by leaps and bounds.” 

Josh McClatchey, 6-2, 200, Sr., Newberg

McClatchey last season finished among the team leaders in tackles with 16 in earning all-Pacific honorable mention. Tigers coach Jeremy Johnson called him “a pillar of our offensive and defensive lines, a very cerebral kid who pushes himself in the weight room and will fill whatever position we need.”

Kaden Krieger, 6-3, 175, Sr., Powder Valley

Krieger has been a key part of the Badgers defense for the past couple of seasons. He had a career day to open his senior season, sacking Dufur quarterbacks seven times in a 42-14 victory. 

Kaden Schell, 6-4, 245, Sr., Central Catholic

The mobile, powerful and persistent Schell started on both sides of the ball last season. He’s rated by 247Sports among the top defensive line prospects in the state and as the No. 69 overall prospect in the class of 2022. “We’re looking for big things from him,” Rams coach Steve Pyne said in August.  

Kale Paslay, 6-4, 280, Sr., Marist Catholic

A two-way star for the Spartans on the offensive and defensive lines, Paslay has been a force for the past two years and is the team’s emotional leader. He had 25 tackles as a junior. “He’s strong, aggressive and motivated,” coach Frank Geske said. “He’s got good size.”

Leif Beers, 6-3, 250, Sr., Tigard

Beers was a second-team all-Three Rivers selection on defense as a junior. “He’s become bigger, stronger and more athletic as his career has progressed,” Tigers coach John Kemper said.  

Logan Chastain, 6-0, 250, Sr., Clackamas

Chastain started both ways as a junior and turned in what Cavaliers coach James Holan called an all-state-caliber season on the defensive line. “He’s the definition of lead by example, a hard-nosed, kind of old-school kid,” Holan said, adding that Chastain packs considerable power into his frame. “I’d be shocked if he wasn’t one of the strongest kids in the state. The guy is an absolute warrior.”

Logan Chastain (Clackamas) photo by Leon Neuschwander

Myale Jones, 6-5, 320, Sr., Central Catholic

Jones reaped valuable experience during the truncated spring season and has become a run-stuffing interior lineman in the Rams’ defensive scheme. 

Nui Tovey, 6-3, 240, Sr., Lakeridge

Tovey was one of the most dominant linemen in 6A during the spring season, finishing with 51 tackles (nine for loss), two sacks, nine hurries and six pass breakups. He was named to the all-TRL first team and the SBLive Oregon all-state third team. “Nui is one of the best kids I have had the pleasure of being around,” Pacers coach Spencer Phillips said. “He works extremely hard in the weight room and did everything possible this offseason to take his game to the next level.” 

Padraig Owens, 6-1, 180, Sr., Sunset

Owens was the lightweight champion at this summer’s Metro Area Lineman Challenge, winning the 40-yard dash and farmer’s carry events. That success came after a junior season in which he led the Apollos in tackles for loss (7.5) and sacks (4.5) among his 32 tackles. “He’s an undersized lineman but a really exceptional athlete,” Sunset coach Damien Merrick said. 

Richie Anderson, 6-4, 220, Jr., Tualatin

Anderson had a stellar debut season with the Timberwolves, making the all-TRL second team. He’s ranked the No. 4 recruit in the state for the class of 2023 by 247Sports. “He has long arms and is very physical coming off the edge,” Tualatin coach Dan Lever said.  

Sam Cadenas, 6-1, 245, Sr., Hermiston

Cadenas followed a sophomore season during which he had 50 tackles (10 for loss) and four sacks by finishing with 20 tackles and having more tackles for loss (seven) and sacks (four) than the rest of the team combined. He earned all-conference honorable mention on defense. “He’s just a go-to guy for us to make a big defensive stop or to make a block,” Bulldogs coach David Faaeteete said. 

Sam Willis, 6-4, 275, Sr., Silverton

Willis is a three-year starter on the defensive line who can play in the interior and on the edge. “He’s very versatile,” Foxes coach Josh Craig said. “Sam is a strong kid and he gets into your pads quickly.”

Sam Willis (Silverton) photo by Leon Neuschwander

Taholo Vainuku-Johnson, 6-0, 233, Sr., Grants Pass

Vainuku-Johnson’s 29 tackles ranked fourth on the team in the spring. Six of the tackles were for loss. “Taholo is the emotional leader of our defense,” Cavemen coach John Musser said. “He is a relentless, physical player on the edge of our defense.” 

Tiger Black, 6-4, 250, Jr., Roseburg

Black was a first-team all-Southwest Conference defensive lineman as a sophomore. Roseburg coach Dave Heuberger called him “a massive motor guy for us.”

Tilman Ritchie-Tuisue, 6-3, 290, Sr., Sheldon

Ritchie-Tuisue was a first-team all-conference pick on defense last season and had a terrific offseason, setting up for a senior season that started with 12 tackles and a sack in the Irish’s first three games. He is a team leader and will be Sheldon’s best all-around lineman. “He suffered an injury last year that didn’t prevent him from playing, but I know it hindered him,” coach Josh Line said. “He’s a guy that we’re really going to depend on.” 

Tomas Salcedo Hernandez, 6-1, 200, Sr., Aloha

Salcedo Hernandez last season was a disrupter on the perimeter of the Aloha defense, finishing third on the team with 27 tackles (six for loss). He added 1½ sacks and a forced fumble. He’s another player who is starting to receive interest from local colleges. “He’s a fantastic leader on and off the field,” Warriors coach James Mitcham said. “He uses his speed and strength to be an anchor on one side of the D-line.” 

Zach Schlottmann, 6-3, 235, Sr., Glencoe

As a junior, Schlottmann made the all-Pacific Conference second team on the defensive line. He showed his readiness for the fall campaign with a dominant performance at the Metro Area Lineman Challenge, winning four categories and earning MVP honors. “He has grown so much this last season,” Crimson Tide coach Ian Reynoso said. “The spring season we got was huge for him, and he’s gotten a lot of exposure over the summer.”

Find our team-by-team breakdowns for every 6A, 5A and 4A team in Oregon at this link

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