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

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

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been taking a position-by-position look at some of the top players in Oregon high school football. Our ninth list focuses on the specialists (kickers, punters, long snappers and returners).

Quarterbacks | Running backs | Wide receivers | Tight ends | Offensive linemen | Defensive linemen | Linebackers | Defensive backs

There are hundreds of standout football players in Oregon and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive! Let us know the other special teamers worthy of fans’ attention in 2021.

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

Jack Wagner (Tualatin) photo by Dan Brood

KR Kyron Albright, 6-1, 190, Sr., Beaverton

Albright has all the tools to be considered one of the premier receivers and defensive backs — and returners — in the state this fall. He returned three kickoffs for touchdowns through five games, including a 90-yarder in Week 5 at Mountainside. “Big, fast, athletic — he’s one of the fastest kids in the state,” Beavers coach Bob Boyer said. “He should be a long-ball threat for us.”

K Kaleb Bartel, 6-1, 180, Sr., Seaside

The kicker of the year in the Cowapa League a season ago, Bartel put more than 50 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone. This season, he started 15 for 16 on PATs. “He consistently makes teams start at the 20, which is a huge weapon,” Seagulls coach Aaron Tanabe said.

K Kadyn Butcher, 5-11, 145, So., Jesuit

Butcher has shined early in his career with the Crusaders. Through four games, he had hit on 10 of 11 PATs and 2 of 3 field goals. “I think he will be a great one by the time he is done here,” Jesuit coach Ken Potter said.  

LS Roice Cleeland, 6-2, 265, Jr., Jesuit

Cleeland, a transfer from Skyview in Vancouver, Wash., took over the starting center spot from the graduated Brody Marler and was thrust into becoming the Crusaders’ deep snapper when Patrick Papé suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2. “Roice has stepped up and gotten better each week,” coach Ken Potter said.

P Charles Estrada, 6-4, 190, Sr., Dayton

Estrada ranks among the top punters in the state this season, averaging 44.8 yards per punt with a long of 62 yards through four games.

P Charlie Evans, 5-10, 170, Sr., Newberg

Evans is a state champion wrestler who has made an impact on the football field the past couple of seasons. In the spring, he was a first-team all-Pacific punter who averaged 35.6 yards per punt. “Talk about a firecracker of a kid,” Tigers coach Jeremy Johnson said. “He has a lot of energy and competitive juice. He seizes a challenge and rises to it.” 

Charlie Evans (Newberg) photo by Taylor Balkom

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

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 added punting duties full-time this season 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,” Mustangs coach Mike Fanger said. 

K/P Joey Friedman, 6-1, 170, Sr., Wilsonville

Friedman has proven a capable replacement for all-conference kicker Jacob Hausserman, who graduated in 2020. Friedman went 24 for 24 on PATs and 5 of 6 on field goals as a junior, and through four games this fall, he was 24 for 24 on PATs and had made his only field goal attempt. He’s added punting duties, averaging 31.7 yards per punt, and he averages nearly 55 yards on kickoffs.

K/P Nick Frith, 6-2, 185, Sr., Stayton

Frith is quite the weapon as a kicker and a punter. He is 5 for 6 in PAT opportunities this season. “The nice thing about having him back there as punter, if something goes wrong, he has the ability to fix it because of his athletic ability,” coach Randy Nyquist said.

P Dawson Gillespie, 6-1, 170, Sr., Roseburg

Gillespie was a first-team all-Southern Oregon punter during the spring season. He’s a versatile player who wears many hats for this season’s most surprising team, off to a 6-0 start.

KR Cody Hall, 5-10, 165, Sr., Sherwood

Hall last season made his biggest mark on special teams, where he was a first-team all-conference kick returner, but he’s also a two-way standout at cornerback and receiver. “We know what he can do,” Bowmen coach Kevin Hastin said. “He can fly. He has big-play speed.”

Cody Hall (Sherwood) photo by Taylor Balkom

K/P Sam Harker, 5-10, 155, Sr., Sunset

Harker is on the short list of top placekickers in the state. More than 75 percent of his kickoffs during the spring season went for touchbacks, and he made 31 PATs and two field goals. He has been injured for much of this season. “Sam has an explosive leg and was a true weapon for us as a junior,” Apollos coach Damien Merrick said. 

KR Cade Heitschmidt, 5-10, 165, Sr., Oregon City

Heitschmidt was a second-team all-Three Rivers kick returner during the spring, and Pioneers coach Shane Hedrick entered this season with plans to use him at multiple positions. “Right now, we’re just moving him around, and every time we try him at a new position, he takes it over,” Hedrick said in August.  

K/P Wyatt Hesselman, 5-11, 160, So., Banks

Hesselman was an all-state infielder in the spring for the Banks baseball team, and after going 33 for 37 on PATs during the spring football season, he was perfect on kicks through four games this season — 5 for 5 on PATs, 3 for 3 on field goals with a long of 36 yards. He’s also averaging 35 yards per punt with a long of 45.

P Brady Huff, 6-4, 180, Jr., North Valley

Huff performed triple duty for the Knights in the spring, starting at tight end (four catches for 68 yards) and defensive end and handling punting duties, averaging nearly 31 yards per kick.  

KR Trenton Hughes, 5-11, 175, Sr., Hood River Valley

Hughes was a first-team all-NWOC East kick returner during the spring. He has drawn interest from FCS schools as a returner and wide receiver.

K Gage Hurych, 5-11, 155, So., West Linn

Hurych took over placekicking duties from Ben Siegel and has been unfazed despite his youth. He was perfect through four games, making all 17 of his PATs and both field goal attempts, and he was averaging about 51 yards per kickoff — a number that should improve as he matures and gains leg strength.

Gage Hurych (West Linn) photo by Taylor Balkom

P Jacob Hutchinson, 6-2, 165, So., Jesuit

Hutchinson earned the starting quarterback job with the Crusaders, and he’s also taken over as punter, averaging 34.4 yards per punt with a long of 41. “He’s an excellent athlete and has done an admirable job with his punting,” coach Ken Potter said.

K/P Cade Johannsen, 6-8, 215, Sr., North Eugene

Johannsen is getting Division I looks as a kicker and punter — he was 15 of 19 on PATs as a junior and started 6 for 6 this season while averaging more than 34 yards per punt. “Cade’s athletic and getting some serious looks from schools on special teams,” Highlanders coach Rick Raish said.

KR Jack Johnson, 5-11, 170, Sr., Wilsonville

Johnson has added kick return duties to his extensive resumé this season, and he’s helped fuel the Wildcats’ 6-0 start by regularly setting them up with good field position. He’s averaging nearly 22 yards per kickoff return and 17.1 yards per punt return, including a 49-yarder for a touchdown against Lebanon.

P Aidan Kindt, 5-8, 160, Sr., Mazama

Kindt was a second-team all-Skyline punter in the spring, averaging 32.2 yards per punt. He’s shown consistency this season, averaging 32.4 yards per punt and putting four inside the 20-yard line.

K/P J.T. Knobloch, 5-9, 160, Jr., Cascade Christian

Knobloch had a big spring season for the Challengers to help them win the 3A Showcase title. He averaged 37.2 yards on punts with a long of 57, made 15 of 19 PATs and one field goal, and put five of his 34 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. “JT has a strong leg and is one of the more athletic players on the team,” coach Jon Gettman said.  

K/P Gavin Levesque, 5-9, 180, Sr., Thurston

Colts coach Justin Starck describes Levesque as “all-state everything.” As a freshman in 2018, he kicked the winning field goal to secure Thurston’s first of back-to-back Class 5A state titles. “We’re really excited to have him back for his senior year,” Starck said. “It’s always nice to have a good kicker and be strong in the kicking game.” 

K Rayan Mahin, 5-9, 185, Sr., Westview

Mahin has kicked for the Wildcats for two seasons, getting a lot more work this season during their 5-1 start. He was 7 of 9 on PATs as a junior and started 23 of 26 through four games as a senior.

K Brandt Maiden, 5-10, 185, Sr., Clackamas

The Cavaliers have a strong tradition of producing placekickers — Jeffrey Nelson was an all-state selection before joining Oregon State — and Maiden has held the job the past two seasons. He was 20 for 20 on PATs and had hit on two field goals through three games this season, and he averaged 56.8 yards on 20 kickoffs with 14 touchbacks.

K/P Soren McKee, 6-0, 180, Sr., Summit

One of the country’s highest-rated specialists, McKee nailed a 50-yard field goal last season against Bend. Chris Sailer Kicking rates him as a five-star prospect and the state’s No. 1 kicking prospect. McKee also plays goalie for Summit’s soccer team. “He’s a weapon for us and we’re just waiting for the first Division I school to make an offer, because right now he’s hearing from a lot of schools,” Storm coach Corben Hyatt said in August. “Anytime we cross the 50, I can go, ‘All right, we can kick a field goal.’ We’ve had some great kickers, but he’s different.” 

K/P Kane McNabb, 6-1, 195, Sr., Liberty

McNabb handles all of the kicking duties for the Falcons. In the spring, he hit on 7 of 11 PATs, made a 21-yard field goal and averaged nearly 30 yards per punt. 

K Sebastian Nogales, 5-10, 180, Jr., Marist Catholic

Nogales has solidified the Spartans’ kicking game after the stunning news that Class 4A all-state kicker Ty DePaoli would miss the season after being diagnosed with a rare type of cancer. Nogales had converted on 20 of 20 PATs through four games.

K/P Landen Parker, 6-0, 180, Sr., Crescent Valley

A college kicking and punting prospect who transferred from Elmira before his junior year, Parker began the spring season at quarterback before moving to receiver. “He is very talented, probably the best overall athlete on the team,” Raiders coach Andrew McClave said in August. “He will be contributing on every side of the ball.” 

K/P Logan Person, 6-1, 190, Sr., Dallas

A tremendous all-around football player, Person is one of the top talents in Class 5A. He handles all kicking, punting and return duties for the Dragons.

Logan Person (Dallas) photo by Taylor Balkom

K/P Sam Poole, 6-2, 160, Sr., Sheldon

Poole took over for all-state kicker Jay Kartub this season, and the Irish haven’t skipped a beat in the kicking game. He started 18 for 18 on PATs and kicked his first field goal (from 31 yards) in Week 4 against Lake Oswego. He also put 14 of his first 24 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks, and he’s averaging 35.5 yards per punt.

KR Jaxon Pullen, 6-0, 165, Sr., The Dalles

Pullen was the team’s second-leading receiver and a second-team all-NWOC East selection as a returner in the spring. “You look at him and you can tell he has athleticism,” coach Lynn Helyer said, also noting Pullen’s leadership on both sides of the ball. “He’s willing to do whatever it takes.”

K Logan Ready, 6-3, 180, Sr., McNary

Ready lived up to his name in a Week 2 overtime victory over Newberg, booting a 43-yard field goal that is the highlight of a senior season in which he started 17 for 19 on PATs.

KR Matthew Rincon, 5-9, 180, Sr., Jesuit

Rincon, a lacrosse commit to Binghamton University in New York, has seen his role increase with the football team this season. He has two interceptions playing in the secondary and is averaging 17.3 yards on punt returns and 33.7 on kickoff returns, including a 93-yarder against Westview that turned that game around

LS Luca Rodarte, 6-0, 215, Sr., Central Catholic

Rodarte is one of the top long snapping prospects in the Northwest. He is a 4.5-star prospect according to Rubio Long Snapping and has offers from Lewis & Clark, Pacific, Puget Sound and the University of St. Francis in Illinois. 

KR Malik Ross, 6-0, 185, Sr., Tualatin

Ross is an electrifying talent who makes plays in all three phases of the game, earning first-team all-Three Rivers honors as a kick returner (23.3 yards per kickoff return, 11.3 per punt return) during the spring. “Hold your breath when he touches the ball,” Timberwolves coach Dan Lever said. “He has the ability to make teams pay on both sides of the ball as well as in the return game.”

K Zack Schlottmann, 6-3, 230, Sr., Glencoe

Schlottmann is a standout in all three phases, including on special teams, where he’s twice made the all-Pacific team as a kicker — second team as a sophomore and honorable mention during the spring. He is a four-star kicking prospect according to Chris Sailer Kicking.

Zack Schlottmann (Glencoe) photo by Taylor Balkom

P Jeremiah Schwartz, 6-2, 170, Jr., Ridgeview

Schwartz was an honorable mention all-NWOC East punter in the spring. He’s averaging 37.3 yards per punt this season. “Once he realizes his potential and puts in the extra work, he could be a recruitable athlete,” Ravens coach Patrick Pileggi said.  

P Kellen Segel, 6-1, 180, Jr., Grant

Besides taking over at quarterback for two-year starter Logan Going this season, Segel has split punting duties with senior Max von Arx, averaging 42.7 yards with a long of 62 yards.

K Colin Smittle, 6-3, 190, Sr., Cascade

Cougars coach Brandon Bennett thinks Smittle has an NFL-caliber leg, which he’s shown off this season — he was 16 for 17 on PATs through four games and had made his only field goal attempt.

LS Dane Sorensen, 6-1, 225, Jr., Oregon City

Sorensen is drawing national attention, ranking No. 7 on ProKicker.com’s list of top junior long snappers and garnering a 4-star rating from Rubio Long Snapping. “He’s a really solid deep snapper, a next-level type, one of those unique kids who can really fire it back there,” said Pioneers coach Shane Hedrick.

P Carter Steeves, 6-1, 170, Sr., Corvallis

Steeves has developed into one of Class 5A’s top punters. He averaged 36.3 yards per punt as a junior and has bumped that average to a Class 5A-leading 43.1 this season.

KR Stryder Todd-Fields, 5-11, 170, Sr., Central Catholic

Todd-Fields announced himself as a top returner in the Rams’ opener against Camas, taking the opening kickoff of the season 98 yards to the end zone. He later returned a punt to the end zone, but it was wiped out by penalty.

Stryder Todd-Fields (Central Catholic) photo by Ken Waz

K Daniel Valdez-Espinoza, 5-10, 190, So., Newberg

The left-footed kicker not only is a standout on the soccer field for the Tigers — he scored two goals in a recent win over McNary — but he’s also shored up the kicking game for the football team. Through five games, he was 11 for 13 on PATs and had made two field goals.

P Jack Wagner, 6-4, 180, Jr., Tualatin

As a sophomore, Wagner received all-league honorable mention at punter, where he averaged 31.7 yards per punt. He’s also the Timberwolves’ quarterback-in-waiting who stepped in while starter Jackson Jones was sidelined with an injury.

K Dakota Wedding, 5-7, 165, Jr., Redmond

Wedding ranks among the state leaders in kicking this season, making 17 of 18 PATs through four games and converting on his only field goal attempt, from 30 yards.

KR Miles Williams, 6-0, 185, Sr., Clackamas

Besides being a standout receiver and cornerback for the Cavaliers, Williams is a game-breaker returning punts. His 54-yarder for a touchdown against Camas was a crucial play in that game, and he was averaging 24 yards on eight returns through three games.  

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

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