After more than a yearlong wait, high school football is back
After a 14-month layoff, high school football is back in the state of Oregon this weekend.
This football season will be unlike any other as some schools have opted out of playing, while those playing will do so on a shortened schedule with no state championship on the line. Fans are still not allowed at games, although most will be broadcast on the NFHS network or YouTube TV.
"We’re super excited and I know the kids at all levels of our program are grateful to play any amount of games," West Salem head coach Shawn Stanley said. "I haven’t heard a single player say, 'We only get six games,' they’re just happy to play."
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The marquee game of the week locally will be Silverton traveling to take on West Salem on Saturday night. Silverton lost in the state semifinals last year in Class 5A and West Salem made it to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
"None of the players are taking Silverton lightly and they’re a great program, they're well-coached and they play hard," Stanley said. "They’ll be all that we can handle. We always want to play the best and they’re one of the best teams if not the best team in that league so we’re looking forward to the challenge."
West Salem may be the team that finally wrestles the Mountain Valley Conference crown from McNary. Returning quarterback Jackson Lowery passed for 1,813 yards and 17 touchdowns last season as a junior and was named First Team All-Mountain Valley Conference. He is currently rated as a two-star prospect by 247Sports and has scholarship offers from Pacific and Linfield to play QB at the next level.
On the ground, Nate Garcia rushed for 1,015 yards and 10 touchdowns and was named Second Team All-MVC. West Salem also boasts Holden Whipple, who is also a two-star prospect by 247Sports and signed to play at Northern Arizona next season.
McNary lost a lot of talent from last year’s conference winning team, but did return senior linebacker Dyami Rios, one of the best two-way players in the state. Rios committed to Princeton as a three-star prospect by 247Sports. He’s one of the conference’s best linebackers and tight ends. McNary does return starters on the offensive and defensive line but will be breaking in new quarterback Jack McCarty. The senior also plays defensive back for the Celtics.
South Salem will be led by senior Gabe Johnson who landed on the First Team All-Mountain Valley team at wide receiver after making 25 catches for 459 yards and five touchdowns. He is the son of Olympic decathlete Dave Johnson.
The Sprague Olympians had a rough 2019 season after finishing 2-7 overall but look to bounce back in this pandemic shortened spring season and return 17 starters.
Leading the way in the Mid-Willamette Conference is the Silverton Foxes who lost 44-14 in the semifinals to eventual state champion Thurston.
Jordan McCarty enters his junior season as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the state. Last year he threw for 1,783 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also ran for 11 touchdowns and was named First Team All-Mid-Willamette Conference. Silverton also returns all-state linebacker Owen Magill and defensive back Tyler Pfeifer.
Central will be led by new head coach Joel Everett. The team is young and it may be another year or two out of contention. Dallas will be returning John Hofenbredl, who was an honorable mention all-conference pick at defensive back last year and was an all-league kicker and kick returner. The Dragons had a state playoff berth last year, but did lose 17 all-conference players.
TC Manumaleuna is an incoming freshman who will take over the reins of the North Salem quarterback position. Manumaleuna has received high praise nationally and is one of the top dual-threat quarterback prospects in the country after attending several camps nationwide. The offensive line will be one of the team’s strengths as they return all-league Kobe Hubbard in the trenches.
McKay will look to improve on a 2-7 campaign a year ago. Their strong suit will be the defensive line with all-league players Giovanni Perez and Janderi Perez.
Jacob Hage from Cascade is a junior signal caller who has been a starter since his freshman season. As a sophomore last year, he was named First Team All-Oregon West Conference after throwing for 1,011 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Cougars won the Oregon West Conference last season and will be favorites to win again this season.
Stayton hopes to remain a contender in the Oregon West after losing several key players from their second-place finish in the conference last year and first round playoff exit. The Eagles lost a lot of talent from the team last year and will be breaking in a new quarterback and running back.
North Marion’s Tanner Saucedo was named All-State on offense and defense last year and will be a force to be reckoned with for the Huskies. The Huskies are coming off Tri-Valley Conference winning season and fell in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
Kennedy has had a stellar run at the Class 2A level after winning the state championship in 2018 and finishing second in 2019. The Trojans return senior Dylan Kleinschmit who threw for 1,580 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, while leading the Trojans to the 2A state championship game. He was named Third Team All-State for his efforts. Overall, they’ll have five all-state performers, including defensive back David Reyes, offensive lineman/defensive lineman Camryn Biegel, offensive lineman/linebacker Cole Boen and wide receiver Isaiah Basargin.
St. Paul finished 12-1 and lost in the state championship a year ago. They will lean on Bryce Williams on offense and Clancy Koch and Payson Weise on defense. Lance Tuck will step in as a first year starting quarterback for the Buckaroos.