By René Ferrán
SBLive will be coordinating the balloting for the official Class 6A, 5A and 4A all-state teams that will be published on SBLive Oregon and OregonLive next month. Coaches will be voting for the all-state teams in football, volleyball, and boys and girls soccer in the next couple of weeks, with the announcements coming in mid-December.
In anticipation of the all-state football awards, we wanted to offer our thoughts on who the coaches would consider their favorites for the big honors — classification offensive and defensive players of the year.
We made our predictions in the preseason, and while many find themselves on this list, many contenders have emerged over the course of the past 12 weeks.
Here’s a look at 15 of the likely top candidates for Class 4A defensive player of the year.
Daevon Vereen (Banks) photo by Leon Neuschwander
LB Brayden Duke, Sr., Crook County
The Tri-Valley defensive player of the year finished second in the state with 95 tackles during the regular season.
DB Jamar Flippen, Sr., Banks
Flippen finished as the team leader in tackles with 96 and interceptions with three while breaking up six passes as a safety.
LB Mitchell George, Jr., Marshfield
George ranked among state leaders in tackles (67, ninth) and tackles for loss (16, fifth) for an underrated defensive unit.
LB Jazeon Hammick, Sr., Gladstone
Hammick led the state with 111 tackles (12 for loss) and had three sacks to lead the Gladiators to the playoffs.
LB Tulson Higgins, Sr., Henley
Higgins improved from a second-team all-Skyline selection as a junior to the conference defensive player of the year this season, finishing with a team-high 71 tackles (second in the conference) with 7.5 for loss.
DL Cole Jorgensen, Sr., La Grande
Jorgensen is better known as one of the state’s top catchers — he was a first-team 4A all-state selection as a junior, when he hit .643 and led the Tigers in RBIs. He made a name for himself on the gridiron this fall, earning Greater Oregon defensive player of the year honors with 43 tackles (eight for loss) and three sacks.
LB Blake Lewis, Sr., Cascade
Lewis had a team-high 73 tackles and four sacks and shared the team lead with 10 tackles for loss as the Cougars rolled to the Oregon West championship.
DL Dominic Nacoste, Jr., Estacada
The Tri-Valley lineman of the year was a disruptive force in the interior of the Rangers defense, finishing with 28 tackles (9.5 for loss) and 2.5 sacks.
DT Santi Roque, Sr., Woodburn
Roque led the state in tackles for loss with 23 and had a team-high 61 tackles and 5.5 sacks in earning Oregon West lineman of the year honors.
DE Isaac Schnepp, Sr., Cascade
The Oregon West defensive player of the year finished the regular season with 26 tackles (five for loss), a sack and a blocked punt.
LB Lucas Tuski, Sr., Marist Catholic
Tuski was a two-way standout for the Spartans, sharing Sky-Em defensive player of the year honors and recording 35 tackles (five for loss), two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
DL Daevon Vereen, Jr., Banks
Vereen announced himself as an early favorite for 2022 defensive player of the year with his performance this season, finishing with 70 tackles (21.5 for loss), nine sacks and 14 hurries.
LB Ezra Waterman, Sr., Marshfield
Our preseason pick shared Sky-Em defensive player of the year honors, finishing third in the state with 93 tackles (19.5 for loss) during the regular season and adding 18 (four for loss) through two playoff games.
LB Charlie White, Sr., Banks
White swept the Cowapa League’s top honors, adding defensive player of the year to his resumé this fall with 95 tackles (15.5 for loss) and three sacks.
DL Chris Woods, Sr., Hidden Valley
Woods was a force in the middle of the Mustangs line, finishing with a Skyline-leading 17.5 tackles for loss and five sacks among his 35 total tackles.