By René Ferrán | Photo by Ken Waz
The Oregon high school football season continued last week with Week 7 action around the state.
Here’s what stood out during the seventh weekend of action.
11 down, 55 to go: Who has mathematically wrapped up playoff berths in the state’s top three classifications?
The introduction of at-large spots to the playoff fields has thrown a wrinkle into determining who has clinched berths with two weeks remaining in the regular season.
However, we do know that 21 teams in Class 6A, 12 in 5A and 15 in 4A gain automatic entry into the postseason regardless of their OSAA ranking.
While many teams have virtually clinched spots, based on what should realistically happen over the final two weeks, if we’ve learned anything the past two seasons, it’s that what seems sure now can change in an instant.
A COVID outbreak within a program could rearrange its postseason picture in a heartbeat. Quirky results could drop a team’s OSAA ranking below the cutoff line for qualification if it doesn’t snatch one of its league’s automatic berths.
So, how many teams have mathematically clinched spots with two weeks left in the season? Not accounting for league tiebreakers that might already account for what we call the “merry-go-round” scenario (Team A beat Team B, which beat Team C, which beat Team A), here are the teams whose postseason tickets have been officially punched:
Class 6A: Grant (PIL), Sherwood (Pacific), Central Catholic (Mt. Hood), Roseburg (Southwest)
Class 5A: Wilsonville (NWOC West), Canby (NWOC West), West Albany (Mid-Willamette), Silverton (Mid-Willamette), Thurston (Midwestern), Crater (Midwestern)
Class 4A: Tillamook (Cowapa).
We’ll check in a week from now to see how many more teams have cinched up automatic spots.
Grant shows off its resilience with wild 2OT victory over Roosevelt to clinch share of PIL title
The Generals assured themselves of a fifth consecutive Class 6A playoff berth with a wild 42-41 double-overtime PIL victory at Roosevelt. They were missing eight defensive starters because of COVID-19 quarantine and injuries but rallied in the final two minutes and overtime for the victory.
“The mentality of playing good teams the last couple of years has definitely helped,” Grant coach John Beck said. “Our coaches who are Grant grads really instilled the mentality of ‘our standard does not change just because we’re missing a number of starters. We expect to win, period.’ That really has resonated. No excuses.”
The Roughriders rallied from a 21-7 halftime deficit and took a 35-27 lead with two minutes remaining on a 15-yard run by Lindell Betts. The Generals answered with a 53-yard drive capped by junior quarterback Kellen Segel scoring on a 1-yard keeper with 30 seconds left. Segel then ran in the tying two-point conversion.
After Roosevelt held Grant on its first overtime possession, Max von Arx recovered a Roughriders fumble to send the game to a second overtime period. This time, Roosevelt had the ball first and scored on Imarion Kelly’s 2-yard run, but the Generals stopped the two-point conversion.
That proved the difference when Jae’Sean Pete answered Kelly’s touchdown with a 3-yard run to tie the score. Junior Oliver Thake then kicked the PAT to provide the winning margin.
“It really says a lot for the resilience of this team,” Beck said. “We’re very inexperienced — 90 percent of the kids who played in this game have played football for two years or less. But this group believes they have a standard of past teams to perform and win, no matter who the competition is.”
One of those newcomers is Segel, who took over for two-year starter Logan Going and has quietly put together a solid season, completing just over half of his passes (57 of 113) for 886 yards and 10 touchdowns while running for 209 yards and four scores.
Kellen Segel (Grant) photo by Rockne Andrew Roll
Segel is better known for his prowess on the baseball field, and Beck said “all his baseball training prepares him for those moments. He is not flustered given the situation. Kellen is always poised in pressure situations.”
Although the Generals have clinched a playoff spot and a share of a third consecutive PIL title, they know they still have unfinished business. After a nonleague game this week with Barlow, they finish with archrival Jefferson looking for a 13th consecutive league win.
They’d love nothing more than to climb three spots in the OSAA rankings to secure a home first-round game, but the Generals have shown they’re not afraid to play anyone, adding a game with Clackamas (after Wells forfeited their Week 6 matchup) to previous nonleague games at Silverton and Sheldon.
“The kids know we still have two games to play before the playoffs,” Beck said. “We have work to do to keep improving.”
Sheldon alive and kicking in Southwest title race after edging North Medford
Sheldon coach Josh Line didn’t have to say anything to senior kicker Sam Poole after he missed a PAT early in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth Southwest Conference battle with North Medford.
He retained complete trust in his kicker, who rewarded that faith with 1:39 remaining by kicking the go-ahead 26-yard field goal in a 37-35 victory that kept the Irish in line for a third consecutive conference title.
Poole took over this season from Jay Kartub, who made several clutch kicks before signing with Air Force.
“I have all the confidence in the world in Sam to be prepared to execute regardless of a mistake he may have made,” Line said. “Sam prepares every week to make big field goals, and I had no doubt that he would make the field goal in that situation.”
The Irish improved to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play heading to this week’s matchup with No. 10 Roseburg, which improved to 7-0 by snapping a 10-game losing streak to South Medford with a 35-26 victory.
“I am not surprised about the way Roseburg is playing,” Line said. “The reality is they have a proven winner as a head coach (Dave Heuberger), and they have improved every year since he’s been there. They are big, physical and fast, and that coupled with great coaching is a recipe for success.”
The Irish will counter with one of the top quarterbacks in the state in junior Brock Thomas, who ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 145 yards and a score against the Black Tornado. He’s nearly compiled a double-double of 1,000 yards rushing (981 with 15 TDs) and passing (1,474 with 16 TDs).
Brock Thomas (Sheldon) photo by Leon Neuschwander
What impressed Line more Friday, though, was Thomas’ response after North Medford regained the lead at 35-34 midway through the fourth quarter. He led the Irish on a long drive, several times escaping heavy pressure for big gains, to set up Poole’s game-winner.
“Brock would probably tell you last week’s game was not his best,” Line said. “But I would tell you that last week was the most impressed with him I have been as a leader. It’s easy to compete when things are going well, but to keep competing your hardest when things are not going as well as you want them to is a hallmark of great character.
“We challenged Brock to be a better vocal leader before the season, and although he’s got room for growth in that area, last Friday he really showed how good of a leader he has become. His resolve under pressure is rare in a young man. He has all the potential in the world.”
Dominant defense has Clackamas on track for potential Mt. Hood title tilt with Central Catholic
Clackamas’ 6A-leading scoring defense posted its third shutout in the past four weeks Friday, blanking Barlow 28-0 to improve to 6-0 in Mt. Hood Conference play and 8-0 overall.
The Cavaliers’ record is skewed a bit by having two forfeit wins and picking up a last-minute game against Grant in Week 6, but their prowess on defense is no fluke. After giving up 30 points in a season-opening victory at defending Washington Class 4A champion Camas, the Cavaliers have allowed three touchdowns since — only one to a conference opponent, when the cornerback fell on a long pass play.
“They have done a tremendous job being students of the game and learning what other teams are trying to do,” Clackamas coach James Holan said. “Our scout team takes great pride in giving us a good look. We celebrate big plays on the scout team the same way we would if a starter makes a play.”
Holan credits the Cavaliers’ ability to stop the run with much of their success. Only two opponents have hit the century mark in rushing yards — Camas with 104 in Week 1 and Barlow last week with 137 on 49 carries.
“We take pride in stopping the run and creating turnovers,” Holan said.
While known quantities such as senior linebacker Kaden Ludwick, who’s committed to Colorado, and interior lineman Logan Chastain have performed as advertised, a couple of junior linebackers — Sully McDaniel and Tyler King — have stepped up alongside Ludwick to solidify the run defense.
Kaden Ludwick (Clackamas) photo by Leon Neuschwander
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have brothers KJ and Keontae Johnson-Gibson and senior Ben Moffett roaming in the secondary.
While Clackamas is among the many teams who have their playoff spot pretty much wrapped up, the program has its sights set much higher. The Cavaliers take on Sandy in their home finale this week, and the Pioneers — 6-1 overall, 5-1 in MHC play — can’t be overlooked, even with a much-anticipated matchup with fellow unbeaten Central Catholic (8-0, 6-0) looming in the regular-season finale.
“Sandy is a really good team, and we have a short week to prepare,” Holan said. “We’ve done a great job all season worrying about the week at hand. I would expect us to continue to keep the focus on us and getting better each day.”
‘We didn’t see any panic.’ Canby turns corner as program with road victory over Scappoose
When Jimmy Joyce took over at Canby three years ago, he knew one of his biggest tasks would be to transform a losing culture that had taken over the once-proud program.
The Cougars had five consecutive losing seasons before his arrival, and they lost their first seven games in 2019 before closing the year with back-to-back wins.
It wasn’t until Friday night, though, that Joyce could start to see that work changing the culture taking hold. The Cougars had just seen Scappoose whittle a 27-0 lead to 27-14, and Joyce acknowledged that in the past, “I am not sure we always exhibited the mental toughness to hold on to a lead or even play loose in a close game. In some ways, we were like Chicken Little, always waiting for the sky to fall.”
With Scappoose building momentum, the Cougars put together a game-clinching drive, capped with sophomore Tyler Konold’s third rushing touchdown of the night, and went on to a 33-21 victory that clinched their first playoff spot since 2014.
“Friday night, we didn’t see any panic or pressure from our kids,” Joyce said. “All we saw was players coming together, lifting each other up and not tearing anyone down, and understanding that while Scappoose played a near-perfect quarter, a lot of our struggles were self-inflicted, and we could change the course of the game back in our favor.”
Konold, who put up what Joyce called “Madden-like numbers” playing freshman football in the spring, has continued his strong play this season. He went over 1,000 yards rushing with his 225-yard performance Friday. He has 13 touchdowns.
“If we would have had a normal fall season in 2020, he probably would have played varsity,” Joyce said. “We just felt in a six-game season, it would be best to keep our freshmen together.”
Tyler Konold (Canby) photo by Leon Neuschwander
Joyce said the Cougars also tweaked their running attack this season, going from a zone-read scheme to a power spread attack in anticipation of adding Konold and senior backup Bryce Oliver to the lineup.
“This (scheme) fits Tyler’s running style very well,” Joyce said. “And having a skilled offensive line that has really been impressive and two quality backs really have allowed us to click offensively. Bryce’s style of running complements Tyler and allows us to keep both fresh for most of the game.”
Joyce also pointed to the Cougars’ Week 2 loss to West Albany as a “wakeup call” that has led to their current five-game win streak — their longest since 2011 — heading to this week’s game against Forest Grove, with a Week 9 showdown with Wilsonville looming that will decide the NWOC West title.
“We are not in a position to take any game lightly,” Joyce said. “Of course, we look forward to a matchup with Wilsonville, but I have tremendous respect for (Vikings) Coach (Dominic) Ferraro, who I battled for years as an opposing offensive coordinator in the Metro League. I know first-hand what he can do with an offense, and we have to be ready because I know they will be.”
‘It is all about the team.’ Mazama survives injury to standout RB to position itself for 8th consecutive Skyline crown
Mazama coach Vic Lease knew his team would face a steep learning curve early this season after winning the Class 4A Showcase championship — the program’s first state title.
The Vikings returned only three starters on offense and two on defense, and they had two challenging opponents — Marshfield and Cascade — in the first three weeks of the season.
“Those are two very good teams that had everyone back from the spring season,” Lease said. “They had three months off and were back at it with the same kids. That was not the same for us.”
The Vikings played the Pirates and Cougars close, falling 35-20 in their opener to Marshfield and 31-28 to Cascade in Week 3. The key lesson they took from those defeats, Lease said, was that “it taught our boys that we don’t have success just because our jerseys say Mazama on them.
“Most of these boys were JV starters or backups that didn’t get a lot of playing time last year. They learned fast that varsity football is a huge step up from JV. They have to work and get better every day.”
That improvement has been on display during a three-week stretch that has put Mazama in the driver’s seat toward earning an eighth consecutive Skyline Conference title. The Vikings trounced rival Henley 41-14 in Week 5, then blasted Hidden Valley 42-7 on Friday to improve to 3-0 in conference play.
“We knew we had the talent to be a good football team — how good is always the question,” Lease said. “At Mazama, it does not matter the talent level. It is all about the team and being selfless. Once a group becomes a team, then we develop from our talent. It took us a month to become a team, and now you are seeing our talent level.”
Vic Lease (Mazama) photo by Taylor Balkom
That talent includes senior fullback Zeke Heaton, who led Class 4A in rushing yards through three weeks. He sustained a leg injury during a Week 4 victory against Eagle Point, but junior Trevor Anderson has stepped in and has kept the Vikings’ veer attack humming.
He ran for 119 yards and a touchdown in Friday’s win over Hidden Valley, giving him 399 yards and five scores in the four games since taking over for Heaton.
Lease said the Vikings hope to get Heaton back soon, but as they look ahead to a probable playoff run — a win this week at winless Phoenix would wrap up a berth — they are prepared to go on if he can’t return.
“Too many times, you see a program base everything they do on one or two talented athletes, and when something happens, they can’t adjust because the focus is on talent and not team,” Lease said. “We are a team program. Zeke’s injury was a blow for us, but Trevor is our starter right now and is getting better every week.”