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A New Challenge

With consecutive semifinals appearances, the Cascade Christian football program has cemented itself as one of the state's best in Class 3A.

This season, it'll be up to a first-year interim coach and a crop of inexperienced but talented players to carry on the Challengers' recent success.

"For us, as a team, we are in the same spot," said coach Jon Gettman, a 2003 Cascade Christian graduate who takes over following the retirement of 19-year coach Andy Maurer. "This is a new deal for them being up on varsity, and for me as a first-year head coach. We have the same mentality that we've got to prove and keep things going that previous teams have set up. There are a lot of expectations and a lot of unknowns."

Cascade Christian is coming off the second undefeated regular season in school history and were close to capturing the school's second state title. The Challengers, who spent part of the year ranked No. 1, fell 21-17 to eventual champion Amity, which won its 14 games by an average margin of 38 points.

Cascade Christian welcomes back just three starters in running back/linebacker Tyler Stickler, fullback/middle linebacker Garrett Banks and guard/defensive end Brock Scott.

"Tyler, Garrett and Brock are guys we are going to lean on to bring pretty inexperienced guys through some pretty tough battles," Gettman said.

Stickler is in his fourth year as a starter. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season and 15 touchdowns as Cascade Christian's leading ground gainer. Gettman said Stickler should receive around 20 carries per game this year.

"He's champing at the bit for more carries and to set the tone for the whole team," Gettman said. "He brings a tough, downhill style of running. He's a physical runner, yet he can make people miss. Defensively, he'll be our playmaker."

Scott is in his third year as a starter. Gettman said Scott is Cascade Christian's top pulling lineman and possesses good quickness for his size. Banks is in his third season on varsity.

The strength of Cascade Christian is a talented junior class of linemen, including Daniel Killiam, Dustin Polan, Paul Milliard, Daniel Bohn and Dillon Huntley. This group went undefeated as freshmen and lost just one game on JV.

"They are all in the mix," Gettman said. "We are expecting quite a bit of those guys and they need to step up for us to be successful. The biggest key is they have been together and have good chemistry. They are all hard workers. They just put their heads down and plow away."

Other linemen in contention include seniors D.J. Clarke and Evander Elam. Senior Tyler Beard is a capable backup behind Stickler at running back and is one of the top linebackers on the team despite standing just 5-foot-6 and weighing 160 pounds.

Gettman is also pleased with the play of junior Andrew Sha, who is vying for time at running back and in the secondary, and Mason Smith, a tight end and cornerback who played soccer at Crater the last three years.

A pair of seniors are battling for the quarterback position. Mikel Mann moves from tight end and fullback last season and Wyatt Sosey is in his first season on the varsity level.

"We are looking for one guy to step up and win that position," Gettman said.

Despite having to replace the bulk of last year's team, Cascade Christian was tabbed to win the Southern Cascade League this season in a recent coaches' poll.

"I think we are absolutely going to be the target," Gettman said. "With the success we've had over the last five years, we haven't tailed off. The kids understand that now and they've always known success at Cascade Christian."

Luke Andrews is a freelance writer who lives in Beaverton. Reach him at lukeandrews21@hotmail.com

Tyler Stickler, left, and Brock Scott hope to lead Cascade Christian to a Southern Cascade League championship this season. - Andy Atkinson