By René Ferrán
SBLive Oregon will break down every 6A, 5A and 4A team in the state leading up to the 2021 fall football season. Here’s our look at the Aloha Warriors of the Class 6A Metro League.
Photo by Taylor Balkom
James Mitcham, first season
PAST 3 SEASONS
2021 (spring): 4-2 overall, 3-0 in Metro
2019: 9-2 overall, 4-1 in Metro (lost in second round)
2018: 5-5 overall, 2-3 in Metro (lost in first round)
WR/DB Tanner Volk
WR/DB Adrian Mashia
OL Vidal Cruz
DB Diego Soto
RB/LB Logan Moore
WR Zak Hurley
OL/LB Elijah Forkner
OL/DL KJ Riley
PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB Hunter Gerard, 6-2, 215, Sr.
Gerard was one of three players to take snaps at quarterback for the Warriors in the spring, splitting time with Tanner Volk (a second-team SBLive Oregon all-state safety now at Central Washington) and current senior Elijah Manriquez (5-10, 180). Gerard was 25 of 47 for 305 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions before breaking a collarbone in Week 2 against Mountain View. The former Westview player is 100 percent and drawing interest from Northwest colleges. “He’s an intelligent player who understands how to read the defense,” Mitcham said.
OL/DE Tomas Salcedo Hernandez, 6-1, 200, Sr.
Salcedo Hernandez last season was a disrupter on the perimeter of the Aloha defense, finishing third on the team with 27 tackles (six for loss). He added 1½ sacks and a forced fumble. He’s another player who is starting to receive interest from local colleges. “He’s a fantastic leader on and off the field,” Mitcham said. “He uses his speed and strength to be an anchor on one side of the D-line.”
RB/FS Hayden Deegan, 5-11, 160, Sr.
Deegan played primarily on defense in the spring, making 20 tackles in the secondary. He ran the ball eight times and caught two passes out of the backfield while backing up leading rusher Logan Moore. “Hayden is a two-way player who brings speed and versatility to our offense, defense and kicking game,” Mitcham said.
WR/S Anthony Liggins, 5-9, 160, Sr.
Liggins carved out a role as a slot receiver during the spring season, catching four passes as a backup behind four seniors. He’ll take on a bigger role in the offense this fall and get time at safety.
LB Mataio Payne, 5-10, 210, Jr.
Payne was a breakthrough star for the Warriors in the spring, finishing second on the team with 42 tackles and putting himself on college radars. “He’s a disciplined player who always finds his way to the football,” Mitcham said. “He will make his presence known again.”
WR/SS Joshua Lee, 5-10, 170, Sr.
Lee was a swing player in the spring. He impressed Mitcham with his play during the offseason. “His speed, athleticism and physicality will make him a threat on either side of the ball,” Mitcham said.
RB/DB Damien Lopez, 5-9, 170, Jr.
Lopez appears poised to move up from the JV squad and play a big role in the backfield rotation. “Damien is a strong downhill runner, and he’s expected to see a good amount of time,” Mitcham said.
RB/DB Jacob Boyce, 5-6, 140, Jr.
Boyce will be a jack-of-all-trades for Mitcham, getting time at slot receiver and running back on offense and primarily free safety on defense. “He is fast, physical and confident,” Mitcham said.
WR/CB Marsean Williams, 5-5, 135, Sr.
Don’t let Williams’ size fool you — Mitcham raved about his ability to play much bigger than his listed 5-5, 135. He worked his way into the rotation at cornerback last season and is a likely starter this fall. He’ll also get touches at slot receiver and as a kick returner.
C Myles Pankratz, 5-9, 250, Jr.
Pankratz entered the starting lineup as a sophomore taking over for the graduated Ethan Kennedy and was not overwhelmed. He’s now an entrenched leader on what will be a young group breaking in three new starters.
Coming off their best season in a decade, when they won a share of their first Metro League title since 2010 and their first playoff game since 2012, there figured to be a little bit of a dropoff for the Warriors regardless of the pandemic.
After a 1-2 start during which both of their top quarterbacks went down with injuries, they rallied with three consecutive wins to close the season. A few weeks later, Bill Volk stepped down as head coach, and Mitcham took over after serving as an assistant in the Aloha program since 2005.
“His resignation was something I knew was coming. I just didn’t know when,” Mitcham said. “It was still a tough moment as reality hit, and the opportunity to become the next head coach at Aloha is something I had not anticipated in my 16-year career. I am incredibly blessed to be coaching at Aloha and eager for what this season has in store for us.”
Mitcham doesn’t plan on making many changes to the program, either schematically or philosophically. Volk emphasized the Aloha FAMILY (an acronym for “forget about me; I love you”) during his eight seasons, and the Warriors just posted back-to-back winning records for the first time since 2009-10.