Full of athleticism and determination, Brayden Massey still wasn’t completely sure how his debut as a slot receiver would go when he took the field for South Medford’s football team last Friday.
He wasn’t nervous or worried, mind you, just intrigued about the unknown.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long to answer the senior’s question.
Only two plays into last week’s road opener at Sunset High, Massey hauled in a perfect pass from quarterback Craig Contreras and took it 63 yards for a score that helped set the tone for a 47-28 triumph.
“Heading into the game I kinda just was going to go out there thinking I’m not getting the ball a lot but with the mindset to do whatever I can to help the team,” said the 6-foot-1, 170-pound standout. “That play Craig audibled at the line because he read the defense and I just ran the route and burned the kid. That was pretty awesome for my first catch ever for varsity. It was such a good feeling running into the end zone.”
It was a feeling Massey would duplicate soon after, hauling in a 77-yard scoring strike from Contreras to put the Panthers in prime position at 21-0 over Sunset. He finished with five catches for 198 yards — good for 39.6-yards per catch — and the two scores, with all his offensive production coming in the first half.
“It’s early in the year and only the first game,” said South Medford head coach Bill Singler, “but Brayden’s an athlete and you always like having athletes on your team.”
“He is an outstanding kid and player,” added the coach. “There’s a lot of good things to talk about with him.”
Massey is a college prospect as a guard on the basketball team, leading South to a sixth-place showing last year. As a freshman, however, he was quarterback on a team that lost only one game and saw Contreras shining as tight end and backup QB. Massey stepped away from football as a sophomore to concentrate on basketball, but returned a year ago to serve as starting free safety.
“All the coaches just kinda put it in my head that I needed to be out there with everyone and play again,” Massey said of returning to the gridiron. “Football’s just that one sport everyone loves and everyone loves playing under the Friday night lights. Every one of my friends played football so I decided to go play and I’ve had the best time out there. It was probably the best decision I’ve made.”
Massey led the team with five interceptions last year but has definitely welcomed a return to the offensive huddle.
“I love it; it is awesome playing offense again,” he said. “It’s so much fun running around and catching the ball. Since I play basketball, I’ll jump up for anything and catch it. I tell Craig all the time, ‘Just throw me the ball and I’ll just jump up and get it.’”
Such an effort on a leaping grab set up the first of two TD passes from Contreras to fellow senior David Garcia.
“We’ve always known he could play,” said Singler of Massey. “Mark Winans did a good job last year inside the slot so Brayden could concentrate on defense. This year, he’s come right over and you could just see his athleticism and aggressiveness at going for the football. You saw the same with David Garcia, both of those kids really attacked the football like you’d like to see.”
For his part, the 17-year-old Massey said he was merely the beneficiary of steady blocking by the offensive line and perfect passing by Contreras.
“I was just kinda playing,” he said. “I didn’t really think about it or how it was going. I thought I’d be covered a little better but we ran the right routes and Craig just put the ball in the right places. And when they started double-teaming me, that just opened it up for David and Chase (Cota) and I was perfectly fine with that. I think I was more excited for their touchdowns than mine.”
Overall, Contreras completed 15 of 18 passes for 337 yards and five touchdowns, with the Panthers also rushing 32 times for 170 yards in a balanced attack.
“Everyone’s moving on from here,” he added. “It’s going to get harder and harder every game and I’ve just got to play my hardest every time. You get past that first one and now we’ve got to lock down on Lake Oswego.”
Beyond that, Massey said he isn’t looking too far ahead when it comes time to decide whether he has options to continue playing football or basketball. He enjoys both and it will likely come down to whatever is the best situation for him.
“I always kid him because he’s one of these guys I call gym rats,” said Singler. “That’s great and I’m thrilled about how Brayden has an opportunity to maybe go play basketball, but I tell him, on the second hand, don’t discount yourself as a football player either because you’re an athlete. I think he went out and showed who he is last week at Sunset.”
“I even kidded him in the locker room at halftime that what you’ve done in a half is like scoring 30 points in a basketball game,” added the coach. “I told him now I’ve seen you go for 200 yards in football but I sure haven’t seen you score 30 points in a basketball game.”
It’s all in good fun, and exactly the way Massey wants it to be.
“We’re more of a family and have a brotherhood this year where we’re closer to each other,” he said. “I’m just super excited for this year. We have a good team and I’m excited for it. I feel like we can go on and win some games and hopefully go further in the playoffs this year.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry