3A Football Preview

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3A Football Preview

In 2022-23, the three seasons of OSAA athletics were dominated by the Cascade Christian Challengers. Aside from just football, Cascade Christian reached the state championship game in Boys Basketball and Baseball, falling just short of a ‘Triple Crown’ with a loss to Banks in the Baseball final.

Led by a senior-heavy class, the Challengers walked into familiar territory against an unfamiliar opponent. That was a state title matchup with the Trojans from Kennedy, who had previously dominated 2A football, making two title game appearances in their prior two campaigns.

Cascade Christian dominated in every facet of the game on their way to a 41-6 victory in the chipper.

Keith Reed was the MVP of the Championship Game, going 14-for-16 through the air for 238 yards and three touchdowns. Reed also added nine carries for 52 yards on the ground with two touchdowns.

One thing now differs from the aforementioned teams in 2023: Keith Reed was a Senior, and Kennedy returns proven talent under center in, now, Senior Elijah Traeger.

However, The Challengers aren’t one to fade from the spotlight just by graduating seniors; they have made the State Quarterfinals or better in each of the last 17 seasons, winning three titles in the process. 

Teams to Look Out For in 2023

Cascade Christian – The Challengers are a year-in, year-out team, reloading every Fall and dominating during the season on both sides of the ball. Last season, CC outscored opponents 652-93 (a whopping 559 point difference). Their point differential was the best in the state at any level, with the next closest being North Medford (6A) at 479 points. Losing Reed will be difficult for the Challengers to replace, but the 3A Coach of the Year, Jon Gettman, has been in this situation numerous times. The Challengers must not only replace Reed but fellow First-Team All-State selections Brody Sample (WR), Daniel Nering (OL), Jaxson Turituri (OL/DL), Liam Benade (OL), Cole Shields (LB), and Tyler Almasy (DB). There will be a lot of new faces in the Fall, especially when you consider the Challengers lose Offensive Player of the Year Kameron Rague–transferred to South Medford, and All-State WR Drew Hall. Despite these losses, CC will have the opportunity to climb right back to the top. The single most explosive offense is searching for its new field general, but no one should be surprised if they make it three state titles in the last four seasons.

Kennedy – Kennedy impressed in their move up to 3A after storied success at the 2A level. In their first year up, The Trojans challenged for the 3A title in just their first year, and with a Senior Quarterback under center, we would not be surprised if they made a deep run in the playoffs once again. Kennedy loses all-state talent in OL Briggs Snell (First Team), OL/DL Matt Hopkins (First Team), LB Carlos Recendiz (First Team), DB Owen Bruner (First Team), K Charlie Beyer (Second Team), WR Luke Beyer (Honorable Mention), and TE Brett Boen (Honorable Mention). However, they return talisman and Second-Team All-State Quarterback Elijah Traeger. Traeger will need to step into an even bigger role in the Fall, as he’ll be leaned on even more than he was in 2022. The bulk of Kennedy’s line will return/reload, which will allow Traeger to operate in a smooth pocket. The newly minted 3A contender will go untested until Week Six, where they’ll face Banks in a rematch of the 2022 State Semifinals. 

Dayton – There’s been something brewing for quite some time over in Dayton. Jacob Peterson has fully revived the Pirates program, getting them back to the State Semifinals last year for the first time since 2013. Losing Nate Arce will be a big loss for this Pirates side after they leaned on Arce heavily in 2022. 26 carries for 107 yards in their semifinal loss to Cascade Christian is a workload that’ll be transferred over to Zach Smith. Smith, who might be the best individual player in 3A football this season, was a First-Team All-State selection last season and will lead a group full of talented skill position players like QB Boston Hodges and WR Alex Garcia. In a league with Kennedy and perennial power Santiam Christian, a league championship is a tough task, but with the established culture that Peterson has built there’s no reason to assume they can’t compete. 

Banks – The Braves are coming off of a very impressive 2022 campaign, going undefeated all the way up to their State Semifinal meeting with Kennedy. Banks graduates nearly all of their all-state talent, with the lone returner being OL/DL Luke Bisgby (Honorable Mention). RB Ashton Crossen will aim to lead a new wave of skill players for the Braves, as Banks will lean on their established culture to fill in their holes. A good amount of players return on both sides of the line, which will create space for their new additions. Including their time at the 4A level, Banks has been one of the best teams in the state at protecting their home field. Since 2017, the Braves are undefeated at Kelly Field, with their only loss being to Scappoose in a 49-51 thriller. The home-field advantage is real off of Highway 47, and this year, we can’t see a single team beating them there in the regular season. Overall, Banks has a top-three ceiling, and if their new pieces mix together quickly, they have the staff to return to the State Championship Game.

Vale – The Vikings are an interesting team out of the East, known for their strong defense every year. They played two of their four non-league games on the road against out-of-state opponents last season, which is a staple of the Eastern Oregon squads. Playing teams from our neighboring state, Idaho, gives them a potential advantage in playing against potentially tougher opponents in tougher climates if you factor in elevation comparisons from East to West. The Vikings took Kennedy down to the wire last season, falling to the Trojans 12-14 in the State Quarterfinals. Vale returns a good amount of their roster, including their captains QB/LB Colton Stepleton and WR/DB Brooks Haueter, who were both All-State selections. Known for their all-around physical play style, they only graduated three members of the lineman room. This is another team poised to hit their stride early, with a big opener against Santiam Christian. Vale may end up receiving a middle-of-the-pack ranking, but they use this to their advantage, performing at their best in late October/November.

Other players worth keeping an eye on this season includes:

Jacob Logan (South Umpqua)

Justin DeSmet (Sisters)

Kyle Slater (Yamhill-Carlton)

Cort Waggoner (Siuslaw)

Max Smith (Warrenton)

Mason Hoffman (Cascade Christian)

Tyler Burk (Warrenton)

Preseason Top-10

  1. Cascade Christian
  2. Kennedy
  3. Dayton
  4. Banks
  5. Vale
  6. Santiam Christian
  7. South Umpqua
  8. Warrenton
  9. Siuslaw
  10. Coquille

Considered: Yamhill-Carlton, Scio, La Pine

Record Predictions:

Special District 1

  1. Kennedy (8-1)
  2. Banks (7-2)
  3. Warrenton (7-2)
  4. Yamhill-Carlton (4-5)
  5. North Marion  (3-6)
  6. Valley Catholic (2-7)
  7. Rainier (2-7)

Special District 2

  1. Dayton (9-0)
  2. Santiam Christian (7-2)
  3. Scio (5-4)
  4. Salem Academy (4-5)
  5. Amity (3-6)
  6. Taft (3-6)
  7. Newport (2-7)
  8. Jefferson (0-8)

Special District 3

  1. Cascade Christian (9-0)
  2. South Umpqua (8-1)
  3. Coquille (7-2)
  4. North Valley (6-3)
  5. Lakeview (5-4)
  6. St. Mary’s, Medford (4-5)
  7. Douglas (3-6)
  8. Brookings-Harbor (2-7)
  9. Phoenix (2-7)
  10. Sutherlin (1-8)

Special District 4

  1. Vale (7-1)
  2. Umatilla (5-3)
  3. Burns (4-4)
  4. Nyssa (2-7)
  5. McLoughlin (1-6)

Mountain Valley Conference

  1. Siuslaw (8-1)
  2. La Pine (7-2)
  3. Creswell (5-4)
  4. Elmira (4-5)
  5. Sisters (3-6)
  6. Pleasant Hill (3-6)
  7. Harrisburg (2-7)

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