By René Ferrán | Photo by Leon Neuschwander
6A Championship semifinals | Bracket
No. 5 Central Catholic Rams (10-1) vs. No. 1 West Linn Lions (10-1)
7 p.m. Friday, Pioneer Stadium, Oregon City
Last meeting: The Rams won 42-35 in the quarterfinals of the 2019 6A state playoffs en route to the first of back-to-back state championships.
About the Rams: Coach Steve Pyne jokingly described his team as “youthful, with a fair amount of unproven talent that needs to mature, led by an old guy past his prime. The Bad News Bears comes to mind.” This band of “unproven talent” has won 36 of its past 37 games against in-state foes and boasts one key player who keeps it moving — junior QB Cru Newman, who can dominate games with his arm (2,110 yards, 62.7% completions, 25 touchdowns, 1 interception) and his legs (775 yards, 11 TDs), as Jesuit found out in the Rams’ 23-20 quarterfinal win. He spreads the ball around, with six receivers making 13 or more catches, led by sophomore phenom Zhaiel Smith (30-690-12). Senior DE Solomon McDaniel (57 tackles) and junior RB/LB Cade Gehlen, a University of Portland baseball commit who had 12 tackles against the Crusaders, lead the defense, which will face its biggest test since Week 2 against St. John Bosco. “They have great team speed and are exceptional at the skill positions,” Pyne said of the Lions. “Defensively, they play an aggressive style, but are fundamentally sound within the scheme. They are a complete team.”
About the Lions: West Linn has been on a roll since its Week 2 loss to Sheldon, winning nine in a row while averaging 50.9 points — including five consecutive games scoring 55 or more. As coach Jon Eagle said, “I really like our team right now. We’ve had great practices and film sessions. Our players are playing with confidence and speed. Our focus is sharp, and we hope we are peaking at this point in our season.” Despite so much focus on a passing game led by Washington State commit QB Sam Leavitt (2,373 yards, 28 TDs, three interceptions) and WRs Mark Hamper (57-1139-17) and Wiley Donnerberg (37-505-4), the Lions offense is actually quite balanced, gaining 1,996 yards on the ground led by senior RB Koffi Kouame (113-737-10). The defense has stiffened since giving up 30 points in a Week 6 win at Tualatin, allowing 40 over the next five weeks combined. Central Catholic presents an elevated challenge. “They’re athletic and well-coached — a dangerous combination,” Eagle said. “They are the defending champions and look like it on film. They have multiple playmakers on both sides of the ball. We will have to play our best ball of the season to make it competitive.”
No. 3 Tualatin Timberwolves (9-2) vs. No. 2 Sheldon Irish (11-0)
7 p.m. Friday, McNary High School, Keizer
Last meeting: The Irish won 45-21 in the second round of the 2013 6A state playoffs.
About the Timberwolves: SBLive Oregon had Tualatin No. 3 in our preseason 6A Top 25, and the Timberwolves have lived up to their billing, thanks to a high-octane offense averaging 409 yards and 35 points per game. Coach Dominic Ferraro calls them “a physical football team that plays with a lot of energy and passion. More importantly, they support each other and have each other’s backs.” Idaho-bound QB Jack Wagner has thrown for 2,426 yards and 27 touchdowns with just five interceptions, spreading the ball among four receivers with 22 or more catches led by AJ Noland (35-553-8) and Jayden Fortier (32-428-4). Colorado State commit TE/DE Richie Anderson is a two-way threat, catching 31 passes (eight TDs) for 546 yards to go with 52 tackles (18 for loss) and 12 sacks. Other defensive standouts include senior DB Naasei Lynn (five interceptions), senior LB Kevin Interian (team-high 80 tackles) and senior DL Drew Corcoran (13 tackles for loss, six sacks). As for Sheldon, it should provide the Timberwolves their biggest test since West Linn in Week 6. “They have blown out teams all year long,” Ferraro said. “They are well-coached and fly around the field. They will give us challenges in all phases of the game.”
About the Irish: Sheldon is the only undefeated team in Class 6A and one of only seven left in the state across seven divisions. “My team really has come together and cares about each other’s success more than they care about their own,” coach Josh Line said. “We seem able to handle the highs and lows of football in stride, and we can always keep moving forward no matter what.” It all starts with dual-threat senior QB Brock Thomas, who has amassed more than 3,200 yards of total offense and accounted for 54 touchdowns. Then, there’s senior TE/DE Teitum Tuioti, an Oregon commit and offseason transfer from Lincoln, Neb., who has 28 tackles for loss and 11½ sacks. Senior WR Cade Welch leads a balanced receiving corps with 34 catches for 432 yards and 10 TDs, while classmates Luke Leighton (33-581-8) and Zach McEwen (32-383-6) aren’t far behind. Senior DL Josh Merriman (15 tackles for loss, five sacks, four forced fumbles) and Leighton (45 tackles, eight for loss) also have developed into defensive leaders, while Teitum’s younger brother, Mana, anchors the middle as a sophomore linebacker (43 tackles, seven for loss, three interceptions). The Irish have steamrolled every opponent since Week 2 against West Linn, but Tualatin might be their toughest test in the past nine weeks. “They don’t appear to have a lot of weaknesses from a personnel standpoint,” Line said. “They have weapons all over the field. We will just have to do our best to try to slow them down enough to beat them.”
6A Columbia Cup semifinals | Bracket
No. 28 North Salem Vikings (7-4) vs. No. 17 Liberty Falcons (7-4)
7 p.m. Friday, Randall Stadium, Wilsonville
Last meeting: This is the first meeting between the teams.
About the Vikings: North Salem has made the most of the second chance the Columbia Cup afforded it. The Vikings have reached the semifinals of an OSAA-sanctioned tournament for the first time since 1963, leaning on their experience at the skill positions. “We didn’t lose any starters there from last year,” coach Jeff Flood said. “When we’ve been able to run the ball effectively, we’ve had success.” That’s been true during their first two Columbia Cup games. Senior RB Josiah Davis, who missed several weeks with an ankle injury, has gone over 100 yards in each game to raise his season totals to 1,189 yards and 15 touchdowns. Junior RB Jerrik Wangler (104-473-8) has offered a change of pace to Davis in the backfield. Junior QB TC Manumaleuna II has thrown for 1,184 yards and 12 touchdowns, with senior WR Erick Gonzalez (27-620-8) and junior Pierce Walker (16-294-3) his top targets. “They have a number of athletes that can make plays both running the ball and passing,” Falcons coach Eric Mahlum said. “We need to make sure we are playing good, sound football.”
About the Falcons: Liberty had reached its postseason ceiling of the quarterfinals on three previous occasions before finally breaking through this fall, taking advantage of being the top seed in the inaugural Columbia Cup to get past Mt. Hood Conference teams Reynolds and Clackamas in the first two rounds. “I love our team,” Mahlum said. “We aren’t built around two or three guys. We are 11 strong on every play, coming at you from all directions.” That flexibility starts at quarterback, where the Falcons rotate between junior Tytan Rekow and sophomore Reid Linkmeyer, who have combined for 533 passing yards and five touchdowns and 666 rushing yards and 13 TDs. Senior Vincent Cabezudo leads a balanced rushing attack (six players between 39 and 72 carries) with 589 yards and nine touchdowns. Junior LB Taku Diamond has made a team-high 78 tackles (four for loss), and classmate DL Houstyn Lee-Perry has 72 tackles (team-high nine for loss). Senior DT Ryan Berger leads the team with four sacks among his 54 tackles. “Liberty is big up front and has dynamic skill players,” Flood said. “Their defense is aggressive and comes up with big plays.”
No. 22 Lakeridge Pacers (5-6) vs. No. 18 Westview Wildcats (6-5)
7 p.m. Friday, Hillsboro Stadium
Last meeting: The Pacers won 79-67 in the first round of the 2014 6A state playoffs.
About the Pacers: Three years ago, the Pacers advanced to the 6A quarterfinals as a 22-seed. Now, they’ve made it to the Columbia Cup semifinals as a No. 22 — the first time they’ve gotten this far in the postseason since 1994 — despite entering Friday’s game under .500. “We are finally playing together as a team in all phases of the game,” coach Spencer Phillips said. “Our defense is playing the best they have played all year.” The Pacers posted their first shutout since Week 1 in their first-round win over Sandy and have allowed just 23 points over the past three weeks. Juniors Ethan Biondine (147 tackles, 13 for loss) and Tashi Crofut (124 tackles, 10 for loss) have led the way. On offense, senior QB Ryan Oliver has completed more than 73% of his passes (210 of 286) for 2,345 yards and 26 touchdowns, with senior Baylor Corbin (64-760-9) and junior Joey Olsen (32-578-9) his top targets. Senior Donald Stephens (75-472-4) and freshman Ansu Sanoe (68-470-7) share duties in the backfield. “Lakeridge is a talented, athletic group of players that we have a lot of respect for,” said Westview coach Ryan Atkinson. “They play in a tough league and battle week in and week out. They have handled adversity and are on a roll.”
About the Wildcats: When asked about his semifinal opponent, Phillips said simply, “Jordan Fisher! He leads the state in rushing!” While Westview is more than just the senior running back — the Wildcats posted shutouts in each of their first two Columbia Cup games — the Metro League offensive player of the year has the potential to lead his team to its first OSAA postseason championship. “We’re a senior-led tight group who competed in a tough schedule to prepare them for the playoffs,” Atkinson said. “They were able to handle adversity and continue to improve.” Fisher has moved to 30th on the state’s all-time single-season list with his 2,354 yards on 267 carries, scoring 32 touchdowns. His success has eased the burden on sophomore QB Nolan Keeney, who has thrown for 799 yards and seven TDs and run for 311 yards and three scores. Senior DL Campbell Sager leads the team with 48 tackles (18 for loss) and 14 sacks, and seniors Gunner Jorgenson (10 tackles for loss, five sacks) and Jason Cephus (seven sacks) also wreak havoc in opposing backfields.
5A semifinals | Bracket
No. 4 Thurston Colts (9-2) vs. No. 1 Summit Storm (10-1)
7 p.m. Friday, Willamette University, Salem
Last meeting: The Storm won 48-10 in Bend in Week 2 of the regular season.
About the Colts: Thurston is one win from becoming the first school since Sherwood (2010-13) to reach the state final in four consecutive seasons. Unlike the Colts’ previous finalists, this one was virtually a brand-new group at the start of the season, with only two starters back from last year’s runner-up. “The team’s growth and success can be attributed to the program’s workmanlike culture,” coach Justin Starck said. “Our kids have developed through our subvarsity program and benefited from deep playoff runs that allowed them to be a part of big-game environments.” The two returning starters — RB/DB Darien Witham (561 yards, six TDs; 41 tackles, two forced fumbles) and Midwestern League defensive player of the year RB/LB Vaun Halstead (458 yards, six TDs; 91 tackles, 19 for loss, five sacks) — have had big seasons, but the development of players such as sophomore QB Noah Blair (1,499 yards, 22 TDs), junior WR Walker Bonar (51-599-8) and senior OL Brian Dally have made an enormous difference, as did the addition of senior LB Romynn Schaeffer (65 tackles, 13 for loss), a transfer from Churchill. “Thurston is a different team than we saw in Week 2,” Summit coach Corben Hyatt said. “They were breaking in a lot of new players, and you could tell they might have been a little overwhelmed by our experience. Their players have grown and gained a bunch of confidence. Their physicality from Week 2 to now is much different.”
About the Storm: As Hyatt noted, Summit entered the season with an experienced group coming off a 6A quarterfinal appearance dropping to 5A. As a result, “we know every day of practice and games what we are going to get out of them,” he said. “This team is very intelligent, consistent and driven. It’s very rare for a high school football team not to have ups and downs during a season, but this team shows up every day to put in the work and make themselves better.” It starts with senior QB Hogan Carmichael, who has completed two-thirds of his passes (154 of 231) for 2,191 yards and a school-record-tying 31 touchdowns. Junior RB Sam Stephens has rushed for a school-record 1,218 yards and 17 TDs, and seniors Charlie Ozolin (39-758-9) and Ethan Carlson (32-492-10) are top targets in the passing game. On defense, senior LB Carter Nelson has a team-high 119 tackles, while DE Chip Allers (68 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, 30 hurries) has demonstrated why the service academies have made him offers. Senior OL/DL Spencer Elliott (69 tackles, 22 for loss, nine sacks, 25 hurries) might be one of the state’s most underrated interior linemen.
No. 3 Bend Lava Bears (10-1) vs. No. 2 Wilsonville Wildcats (9-2)
7 p.m. Friday, Barlow High School, Gresham
Last meeting: The Wildcats won 41-21 in the first round of the 2017 5A state playoffs.
About the Lava Bears: Bend has not drawn the same notice as other top 5A teams, but the Lava Bears are the complete package, leading 5A in scoring offense (40.4 points per game) and defense (5.7). Like their counterparts at Summit, they are a senior-driven team that has developed chemistry over the past two seasons. “Most of these kids grew up playing together, and they truly enjoy one another,” coach Matt Craven said. “Our team chemistry is complemented by great speed and physicality.” Bend emphasizes both those traits as one of the few big-school powers to run the wing-T, with senior Malakai Nutter leading a balanced attack with 1,087 yards and 22 touchdowns. Jack Sorenson averages 8.1 yards per carry, rushing for 766 yards and 12 TDs, while Austin Baker gains 9.4 yards per run (60-564-5). Senior QB Logan Malinowski attempts just 9.4 passes per game, but 15 of his 54 completions have been for touchdowns. When the Lava Bears throw, expect Blake Groshong (32-639-9) to be the main target. On defense, seniors Kaleo Kelly (100 tackles) and Erick Samayoa (60 tackles, 10 sacks) and sophomore Victor Karpstein (64 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles) lead the charge. “They are good at what they do, well-coached, fast, and get the most out of their kids,” said Wilsonville coach Adam Guenther. “The wing-T is tough to prepare for because, unless you run it every day, there is no way to get a great look. So, we have to be able to get caught up to game speed quickly.”
About the Wildcats: Wilsonville has been knocking on the door of adding a second title to the one it won in 2004, reaching the semifinals five times in the past six postseasons, losing in the 2016 and 2018 finals. Since its Week 4 loss at Summit, it has won seven in a row and dethroned Silverton 39-26 at home in the quarterfinals. “Our guys are playing well together and continue to get better each week,” Guenther said. “We are usually not the biggest team on the field, but we are fast and smart. Our kids put themselves into the proper places to be successful, then let their athletic abilities do the rest.” That perfectly describes junior dual-threat QB Kallen Gutridge, who has 2,682 yards of total offense and has accounted for 41 touchdowns. Senior RB Jacob Ogden (105-659-5) and WR Cooper Hiday (47-992-16) complement him well, while sophomore Mark Wiepert is a jack-of-all-trades, catching 26 passes for 427 yards and seven touchdowns while leading the team with 108 tackles. “Their speed on offense has been a real problem for people,” Craven said. “There is not a slow kid out there. They take 10-yard gains and turn them into 50 yards.” The return of senior DL Jonny Lazaro (13 tackles for loss and 5½ sacks in six games) from injury bolstered a defense led by Wiepert and seniors Ryder McElroy (18 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, 14 hurries) and Dylan Nance (100 tackles, seven for loss).
4A semifinals | Bracket
No. 8 Scappoose (9-2) vs. No. 5 Estacada Rangers (10-1)
5:30 p.m. Saturday, Hillsboro Stadium
Last meeting: The Rangers won 48-19 at Scappoose in Week 2 of the regular season.
About Scappoose: Scappoose has returned to bullying the 4A ranks after a four-year run in 5A. It won three consecutive titles from 2000-02 and made 19 playoff appearances in 22 seasons from 1996-2017. Last week, it traveled to Klamath Falls and ousted top seed Mazama 28-27 in overtime. “Our guys know the opportunity together is short, so they choose to make the most of it and play the game of football like it is meant to be played,” coach Sean McNabb said. Sophomore QB Max Nowlin has successfully answered the question of who would replace Luke McNabb, last year’s NWOC West offensive player of the year, completing 65.4% of his passes (178 of 272) for 1,779 yards and 22 touchdowns, and senior RB D’Angelo Macedo went over 1,000 yards rushing in last week’s victory. Change-of-pace back Trey Dieringer had his first 100-yard game last week and has a team-high 13 touchdowns. Senior WR Ben Rintoul leads the team with 54 catches for 653 yards and three TDs. Dieringer leads the team with 105 tackles (15 for loss) and five pass breakups, and senior LB Warren Haatia (15 tackles for loss, 12 sacks) has been limited the past few weeks. The Week 2 loss to Estacada coincided with the retirement of former Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson’s jersey. “Estacada handled us, but our team is excited about the challenge and rematch,” McNabb said.
About the Rangers: It’s been 69 years since Estacada made its only appearance in a state final, with Saturday marking its sixth semifinal since. The Rangers lost to Marist Catholic 42-8 in last year’s semifinals, but most of their starters returned this season. “Physical toughness comes to mind when I think of our team,” coach Andy Mott said. “We want to play physically every down on both sides of the ball. The offensive line is a veteran group that has a ton of experience. Defensively, we want to be disruptive and count on everyone to do their job.” Senior QB Cory James hasn’t put up huge numbers (more than 700 rushing yards, 12 TDs; 545 passing yards, nine TDs), but he’s the engine who makes the wing-T hum. Senior FB/LB Waylon Riedel has run for 725 yards, leads the team with 18 touchdowns (13 rushing, five receiving) and has a team-high 66 tackles (15 for loss) and three interceptions. Senior OL/DL Dominic Nacoste might be 4A’s top lineman. He leads the Rangers with 18 tackles for loss and six sacks among his 45 total tackles.
No. 6 Tillamook Cheesemakers (9-2) vs. No. 2 La Grande Tigers (9-2)
5 p.m. Saturday, Barlow High School, Gresham
Last meeting: This is the first meeting between the teams.
About the Cheesemakers: Saturday marks Tillamook’s fourth semifinal appearance and first since 1989 as it seeks its first trip to the state final since its only appearance in 1977. The Cheesemakers are led by what coach Kye Johnson called “a competitive group of seniors — our captains are all basically three-year starters. We’re playing with confidence right now, and it’s been a really enjoyable fall.” Despite their veterans, it took the Cheesemakers two weeks to find their footing, but they’ve won nine in a row since an 0-2 start, led by a stingy defense that has allowed no more than 20 points in a game en route to the program’s first league title since 1999. Junior QB Tanner Hoskins has thrown for 1,346 yards and 12 touchdowns, and senior RB Judah Werner has returned from a midseason injury to rush for 231 yards in two playoff games (1,079 yards and 10 TDs for the season). Senior WR Zeyon Hurliman is the top receiver with 38 catches for 698 yards and six touchdowns.
About the Tigers: La Grande went 45 years between championships before it won the 2019 title with what was considered a golden generation of players. This fall’s group is similar in longevity of playing together, and it kicked off its run at another football title by winning the state baseball championship in June. Senior QB Logan Williams, who started at third base for the baseball champions, leads the Tigers on the gridiron — he ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns in last Friday’s 28-13 quarterfinal win against Pendleton, one week after throwing for three touchdowns and running for two in a first-round win over Cascade. Senior Jace Schow is listed as a wide receiver but makes plays in the running and passing game. He also is a threat in the return game. Defensive leaders include Williams and senior defensive linemen Jack Sunderman (six tackles, two sacks vs. Pendleton) and Jarrett Armstrong (three tackles for loss). “La Grande is a really good-looking team,” Johnson said. “They have size, speed, playmakers, and they do a lot of things really well.”
3A semifinals | Bracket
No. 4 Banks (11-0) vs. No. 1 Kennedy Trojans (11-0)
11 a.m. Saturday, Hillsboro Stadium
Last meeting: The Trojans won 19-13 in Week 3 of the 1967 season.
About Banks: It’s not a tremendous surprise to see Banks in the semifinals in its first season since dropping from 4A. The 2018 state champion and 2019 runner-up would have been a contender if it had stayed up this fall despite graduating star players such as TE/LB Charlie White (now at Portland State), RB/S Jamar Flippen and QB Cooper Gobel. It’s also no surprise that coach Cole Linehan praised his defense, which has allowed just 4.8 points per game and allowed more than one touchdown just once. “We are a team that plays great defense,” Linehan said. “Our guys always play hard and have improved each week. They have a lot of love for our program, and we work really hard to be successful.” Senior Christian Lyda took over for Gobel behind center and has thrown for 1,423 yards and 15 TDs, and junior Ashton Crossen has run for 11 touchdowns. Senior Logan Kind is the primary receiving threat (47-694-7) and leads the team with 68 tackles (13 for loss). Senior Daveon Vareen (48 tackles, 19 for loss, five sacks, 15 hurries) and sophomore Luke Bigsby (41 tackles, 19 for loss, three interceptions) lead six players who have 10 or more negative plays. “Defensively, they bring a lot of pressure, so we will have to make smart checks and take care of the ball,” said Kennedy coach Joe Panuke. “Offensively, they try to spread you out, run some RPO’s and use their athletes in space.”
About the Trojans: Kennedy, like Thurston, looks to become the first team to reach a state final in four consecutive years since Sherwood (2010-13). The first three came in 2A, but the Trojans moved up to continue playing 11-person football. “Our team is fast, smart and physical,” Panuke said. “We have a lot of experience in big games. I feel we can beat you with power football or spread you out and use our speed at the skill positions.” The Trojans also match Banks’ defensive prowess, posting five shutouts (one more than Banks) and allowing just 5.5 points per game. Offensively, junior Elijah Traeger took over behind center this season and directed an attack that averages 38.8 points per game, throwing for 834 yards and 16 touchdowns (out of 53 completions) and rushing for seven scores. Senior RB William Schaecher led a balanced rushing attack with 705 yards and eight TDs, and senior Javier Rodriguez has rushed for 270 yards and three touchdowns in the past four games. Senior WR Owen Bruner led the team with 13 catches for 344 yards during the regular season. Senior OL/DL Matt Hopkins and Briggs Snell are two of the top interior linemen in the state. “Kennedy is very big up front, senior-heavy with tall athletes on the edges, and plays good football,” Linehan said. “They are 11-0 for a reason. This will be a fun matchup.”