4A/3A/2A prep football teams eager for action
Most football seasons find Cascade Christian making a run at the Class 3A state championship.
In this era of COVID-19, that isn’t an option.
No league championships. No state playoffs. Six weeks to play their games.
Nevertheless, coach Jon Gettman likes the way the Challengers have approached a year of fits and starts leading up to Friday’s opener against Brookings-Harbor at 7 p.m. at U.S. Cellular Community Park.
He has 11 seniors on the roster, all of whom have played varsity, including six returning starters.
“They’re a group of kids who have been at the school all this time,” said Gettman, “a lot of kids who have been in the program and know the expectations and have been working hard the entire time here.”
Despite the challenges during a pandemic.
“It’s been hard,” said Gettman. “Throughout the whole year, kids would ask me, ‘Coach, do you think we’ll have a season.’ My answer has been, ‘We’re just going to prepare as if there is one.’ They’ve been great at preparing, great at showing up and doing their stuff.”
That “stuff” is one of the reasons Cascade Christian has enjoyed much success.
In their most recent campaign in 2019, the Challengers went 9-2 overall and 4-1 in the District 2 South Division. Their final game was a 51-30 state semifinal loss to league foe Hidden Valley, which earlier in the season ended Cascade Christian’s string of 30 league wins in Gettman’s 10th year at the helm.
Over that decade, the Challengers have twice claimed state titles, twice been runners-up and three other times made it to the semifinals before losing.
Gettman’s career win total reached 100, against 24 losses, by the end of last season.
Cascade Christian has a five-game regular-season schedule, mostly against District 2 South foes. Sutherlin, from the North Division, replaces Hidden Valley, which is playing in the Class 4A Skyline Conference.
The sixth, or culminating week, will likely involve a game against the North Division, but details haven’t been worked out.
Whatever carrot awaits the district’s top team, Gettman expects the Challengers to be in the chase.
Leading the way is multi talented senior Kristian Fralich, a 5-foot-8, 160-pounder whose versatility will cause headaches for opponents.
As a junior, Fralich was first-team all-state as a kick returner and second-team all-state at wide receiver and defensive back.
“He’s real dynamic,” said Gettman. “You could really play him just about anywhere, he’d fit right in. He’s our most explosive player.”
Fralich caught 45 passes for 910 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2019. He rushed for 185 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 14.2 yards per carry.
Defensively, he posted a team-high 76 tackles to go with seven interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Seniors Matt McPheeters (6-2, 170) and Will Pierson (6-1, 165) provide more receiving weaponry. McPheeters is long striding and fast and can go up and catch passes over defenders, and Pierson showed similar traits in an offseason passing league.
Austin Waits (6-2, 230) gives Gettman options at tight end the Challengers haven’t had before. He’s a strong blocker with good hands and will play on the line instead of spreading wide like tight ends of the past.
“We’re able to put him down as a tight end with his hand in the dirt,” said Gettman. “The goal, hopefully, is to be able to run the ball better than we have previously.”
Senior Titus Miller (5-8, 165) will handle the ball carrying duties. He knows which holes to hit, which cuts to make and runs with toughness, said Gettman.
Like Miller, senior quarterback Sam Martin (5-9, 150) will start for the first time. He’s athletic enough to make something happen if plays break down, has the arm to make necessary throws and commands the huddle.
“The guys respond to him well,” said Gettman.
Most of the experience is in the skill positions, while the offensive and defensive lines are younger.
Right guard Christian Brehm (6-0, 190) is the foundation of the offensive front. He’s quick enough to get ahead of backs and strong enough to clear a path for them.
Defensively, senior outside linebacker Davis Federico (6-0, 170) will join most of the aforementioned, who play both ways.
“I like the makeup of the kids,” said Gettman. “It’ll come down to chemistry and how our offensive and defensive lines jell together. That’s where the game’s won.”
Mar. 5BROOKINGS-HARBOR, 7 p.m.
Mar. 12 at St. Mary’s, 7 p.m.
Mar. 19 DOUGLAS, 7 p.m.
Mar. 26 at South Umpqua, 7 p.m.
Apr. 2 at Sutherlin, 7 p.m.
Crusaders coach Jamie Young would like to have a strong showing in this abbreviated 3A District 2 South Division season, but that isn’t the end all, be all.
Simply having a season is the greater goal.
St. Mary’s opens the five-game regular season at 7 p.m. Friday at South Umpqua.
“Most importantly,” said Young, “we have some seniors on our team that I want to see finish their careers in a St. Mary’s uniform. That’s important to them, that’s important to us. We want to see them finish their career on the field. These are the kids who have been to the state playoffs two of their first three years and been a part of some really good football teams. They’ve contributed tremendously, and it would be heartbreaking to see them not have the opportunity to do that.
“Other than that, we want to go out and get these kids doing something they love and help develop those younger players in our system and our program for the coming years.”
St. Mary’s, playing in the same league with powerhouses Hidden Valley and Cascade Christian, nevertheless went 6-4 overall and 3-2 in the district in 2019. The Crusaders’ losses were to four of the eight state quarterfinal teams, including a first-round setback to Clatskanie.
In 2018, they made it to the first round before falling to Scio.
The turnout in this Season 2 is about 10 players down from normal years, which is not uncommon throughout the prep ranks. St. Mary’s has 22 players on its roster.
“We’ve been really fortunate,” said Young. “We’ve had some really good senior classes, and we have some really good seniors now.”
Returning senior starter Jonah Hadley (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) played key roles at wide receiver and safety and “is one of the guys who will be a leader,” said Young.
Two-way senior lineman Lance Parrish (6-0, 170) has started since his sophomore year and anchors the offensive front.
He’ll throw blocks for returning running back Will Heycke (6-0, 180), who also plays safety. The senior will be the featured ball carrier, using a fluid, slashing, north-south style to pick up yards.
Junior Beau Aldrich (6-1, 240) returns after significant playing time as a sophomore wingback and linebacker. He’ll be called on to block as well as catch the ball.
Junior Eli Haynes (6-2, 170) takes over at quarterback after serving as a backup last season.
“He’s getting his first really significant time,” said Young, “and we’re excited about him. Hopefully, we’re going to have a normal senior year (in the fall), and he’s going to have an opportunity to develop a little this year and get a little game time.”
Senior Brady Reed (5-9, 160) will see plenty of time at wide receiver and cornerback.
Among the younger set, sophomore tackle and nose guard Ty Kronenberg (5-11, 230) has shown well in workouts, and sophomore Heemir Patel (6-0, 180) will play tight end and defensive end.
Sophomore center and linebacker Kyan Hidde (6-0, 205) “has impressed us tremendously,” said Young, while sophomore Tyson Delplanche (5-10, 165) is expected to make his mark at running back and cornerback.
The Crusaders suffered a loss when sophomore Jaden Foster broke a collarbone while snowboarding, said Young, and will miss the season.
His teammates will carry on.
“We don’t have state playoffs, we don’t have a state championship, but we still have our program on our campus, and we care about that a lot,” said Young. “We want kids to leave feeling like they had a great experience with their playing time at St. Mary’s.”
Mar. 5 at South Umpqua, 7 p.m.
Mar. 12 CASCADE CHRISTIAN, 7 p.m.
Mar. 19 at Brookings-Harbor, 7 p.m.
Mar. 26 SUTHERLIN, 7 p.m.
Apr. 2 DOUGLAS, 7 p.m.
Phoenix was hit with a double whammy in the past year. COVID-19 took its toll, of course, then the Almeda wildfire ravaged the town in September.
The Pirates’ football team lost 11 players between the two, including a handful of starters, said coach Dave Johnson.
“A lot of kids whose homes burned, they just kind of got in the wind and they’re gone,” he said. “But it is what it is. We’ve got to battle through it and keep playing. What we’re really looking for on Friday night is, we just want to get better. We know it’s going to be a really tough situation.”
Phoenix hosts Hidden Valley in its opener at 7 p.m. Friday. The loaded Mustangs were Class 3A runners-up last season but are playing against the 4A Skyline Conference this spring.
It’s hard to tell what play will look like in the early going, said Johnson.
“I don’t think any teams right now are in football shape,” he said. “We’re trying to keep as many guys as we can from going both ways. We’ve been out of the weight room for a while and haven’t been able to do any of the stuff you’d like them to do prior to a football season. The only saving grace about that is, I don’t think anybody else has, either.”
Phoenix managed only 2-6 overall and 0-4 league records in 2019, Johnson’s first year. But the Pirates proved competitive in all but a couple games.
The team will be hamstrung as it fields a quarterback, Eli Page (6-foot-1, 180 pounds), who has not played the position before. A converted wide receiver who also plays in the secondary, Page replaces junior Colton Samis, who transferred to South Medford, said Johnson.
“It’ll be interesting,” said Johnson. “We were looking around after he left, and I said, ‘Guys, we need to find a quarterback.’ The only guy who said I’ll try it was Eli.”
The offensive playbook will be scaled back to basics, said Johnson.
As fortune would have it, the offensive line is a strength, returning good size, talent and experience, with four starters back.
Senior center Huntyr Croy (5-10, 205) will be flanked by senior guard Kyle Braun (5-10, 230) and junior guard Fa Masalosalo (6-3, 375). Sophomore tackle Charles Butcher (5-10, 220) is back, and junior tackle Trevor Sharrar (6-2, 195) joins the first unit.
Others who saw action last season include senior receiver/defensive back Cole Kinser (5-9, 165), senior tight end/linebacker Marcello Valadez (6-1, 215), senior receiver Martin Scala (5-7, 150) and junior tight end/outside linebacker Joey Baynard (6-0, 225).
Johnson characterized his skill players as young.
Running backs Alexis Mazano (5-8, 175), a junior, and sophomore Will Greenwood (5-7, 150) are making their varsity debuts, as is freshman receiver Dominic Crenshaw (5-7, 150).
“We have excellent but untested younger players who we need to step up and be counted,” said Johnson.
Mar. 5 HIDDEN VALLEY, 7 p.m.
Mar. 12 HENLEY, 7 p.m.
Mar. 19 at Klamath Union, 7 p.m.
Mar. 25 MAZAMA, 7 p.m.
Apr. 2 at North Valley, 7 p.m.
Mike McCormick takes over for Rogue River, replacing Ryan Riggle.
The Chieftains went 4-5 overall last season and were 2-2 in the Class 2A District 5. They tied for third place with Lakeview but beat the Honkers head-to-head, 24-8.
Rogue River finished a game behind co-champions Glide, which it also defeated, 22-13, and Lost River. It was No. 22 in the final Oregon School Activities Association rankings.
The Chieftains will compete in 2A District 4 this spring, beginning with the opener at 4 p.m. Saturday at Bandon. All the Chieftain games will be played on Saturdays.
Mar. 6 at Bandon, 4 p.m.
Mar. 13 GLIDE, 7 p.m.
Mar. 20 at Lakeview, 2 p.m.
Mar. 27 COQUILLE, 5 p.m.
Apr. 3 at Ashland, TBD
Butte Falls, Prospect
The two Class 1A schools will not be fielding teams this school year.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org.