4A Football Preview

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There are classifications more wide open than 4A, but very few. Here’s the lay of the land headed into the 2023 season in the wake of Estacada’s dominant championship run last fall:

10) Cascade

New Head Coach Shane Hedrick walks into a Cascade program that has been on the cusp of, but not quite reaching, greatness for close to a decade. There is some exceptional young talent coming up, notably freshman running back Josiah Hawkins. This won’t be the year the Cougars burst onto the scene as a contender, but there is a lot to like about this team long-term with the Hedrick family in town.  

9) Pendleton / Nixyaawii

A lot is unknown about Pendleton. The Buckaroos lose arguably the best player in small school football from last fall in Payton Lambert, along with 20 other experienced and talented seniors. Though Pendleton again boasts a team full of upperclassmen–16 seniors and 19 juniors listed on the varsity roster–it is not unfair to take a ‘wait-and-see’ approach with the Buckaroos headed into the 2023 season. Regardless of whether Pendleton hits their perceived ceiling or falls to their perceived floor, with talent like Nathan Neveau on the roster–an all-state player on both sides of the ball and lineman of the year candidate–Pendleton should be in the top-10 throughout the season.

8) Seaside

This is a lowball ranking for Seaside, the question is how low. Seaside has a real chance to be a member of the final-four when all is said and done; Their ceiling is at a championship level. POTY candidate Jake White–just a junior–could be getting some serious collegiate attention mid-way through this season if everything goes right. His explosiveness when carrying the ball stemming from top-tier vision and separation speed for a small school athlete could by itself be reason for confidence in the Seagulls. A week one matchup with Henley will answer a lot of questions pertaining to both squads. 

7) Tillamook

Four returning all-state selections, tied with Mazama for the most in 4A, is noteworthy. There are big questions with the Cheesemakers, mostly revolving around the loss of top-end talent on the defensive side of the ball, but there is enough talent remaining–specifically Senior Quarterback Tanner Hoskins–to feel confident in Tillamook’s prospects headed into the season. A championship run is unlikely, but isn’t that what everyone was saying last year?

6) Baker

Likely the biggest boom-or-bust candidate in small school football this fall. The Bulldogs bring back virtually their skills group from last fall, which given a year of maturation for guys like Paul Hobson, Hudson Spike, Jaxon Logsdon, and Rasean Jones could mean the difference between a 5-4 record like last season, and a potentially 7 to 8 win season this fall. Baker had far and away the most athletic team in small school basketball last winter, much of that could translate into fireworks this fall on the football field. 

5) Stayton

Tanner Starbuck, Hudson Hughes, and Kale Hubert. Stayton is a contender this year, make no mistake about it. After a few seasons spent rebuilding, Randy Nyquest has a team this year that could make some serious noise. Outside of a week four matchup with Marist, it’s hard to find a game on Satyton’s schedule where they won’t be the favorite, if not a heavy favorite. Experience, depth, athleticism, size. What’s not to like about the Stayton Eagles?

4) Henley

Losing Shaw Stork is going to hurt, but Henley is set to boast a large group of seniors that can compensate for lost explosiveness through an abundance of experience. Logan Whitlock–a second team all-state selection at Running back last fall–returns for a senior campaign that all signs point toward being a big one for him statistically. Henley has questions to answer at Quarterback and along the line, but if Whitlock is able to do what Whitlock has shown time and time again he is capable of, Henley will be playing in November. 

3) Marist

Given a quieter offseason, Marist would be the preseason #1. Losing all-state lineman Sam Keen–a top-5 lineman in the state regardless of classification–and parting ways with Head Coach Frank Geske–one of the best coaches in the state, is the only thing that raises question marks about this squad.

2) Scappoose

Scappoose is going to look a little different than last year, but with quarterback Max Nowlin and linebacker Warren Haatia , anything is possible. Scappoose’s biggest advantage is that their best two players, Haatia and Nowlin, will either have the ball in their hands or be at the point of attack on virtually every snap. If you were choosing who was going to decide the fate of your season out of all the players in 4A football this fall, both of those two players would be high in the draft order. They can’t win a title on their own, but given Coach McNabb’s still roaming the Scappoose sidelines and the return of a plethora of skill players surrounding Haatia and Nowlin, they won’t have to. This should be a very, very fun team to watch.

1) Mazama

The Vikings are loaded. Tyson Van Gastel is likely the best Quarterback Vic Lease has had in his time leading Mazama, and Armndo Galindo and Zach Atmadinata lead an offensive line group that boasts an embarrassment of riches in size and talent. As long as Van Gastel holds onto the ball, doesn’t make any faulty pitch reads in the Mazama option offense, and is able to be the leader under center the Vikings need, there is no reason to think Mazama won’t find themselves in the final four in November. There were points last fall where Mazama flat out bullied other teams on the line of scrimmage, and that is not likely to diminish this go around. Even in the Vikings lone loss last season against Scappoose the Vikings were dominating the line of scrimmage, driving back defensive lineman like a cheap 5-man sled, it was only because linebackers like Warren Haatia were able to meander through the muck and consistently make tackles for short gains that the Vikings offense didn’t blow the game open at any point. Given the Vikings look as good on the field as they do on paper, they should be a near unanimous preseason favorite to win it all.

Others teams to watch for this Fall: 

Crook County, Gladstone / Riverdale, Marshfield, The Dalles, Estacada, and La Grande..

Other players to watch for: 

John Lemmons (Marshfield)

Teagan Allen (Cascade)

Eddie Freauff (Crook County)

Izzy Jantes (Seaside)

Emiliano Ortiz (Henley)

Austin Berry-Killian (Tillamook)

Ken Lopez (Tillamook)

Aiden Hazen (Marist Catholic)

Antonio Aguilar (Milwaukie / Milwaukie Academy of the Arts)

Karsten Sande (Cascade)

Zach McKedy (Scappoose

Preseason Top-10

  1. Mazama
  2. Scappoose
  3. Marist Catholic
  4. Henley
  5. Stayton
  6. Baker
  7. Tillamook
  8. Seaside
  9. Pendleton / Nixyaawii
  10. Cascade

Considered: Crook County, Gladstone / Riverdale, Marshfield, The Dalles, Estacada and La Grande.

Record Predictions

Special District 1:

  1. Scappoose (9-0)
  2. Tillamook (6-3)
  3. Seaside (6-3)
  4. St. Helens (3-6)
  5. Milwaukie / Milwaukie Academy of the Arts (2-7)
  6. Astoria (1-8)

Special District 2:

  1. Gladstone / Riverdale (6-3)
  2. Estacada (6-3)
  3. Molalla (4-5)
  4. The Dalles (4-5)
  5. Parkrose (2-7)
  6. La Salle Prep (2-7)

Special District 3:

  1. Marist Catholic (7-2)
  2. Stayton  (8-1)
  3. Cascade (6-3)
  4. Junction City (5-4)
  5. Philomath (4-5)
  6. Sweet Home (2-7)
  7. Cottage Grove (1-8)

Special District 4:

  1. Mazama (9-0)
  2. Henley (8-1)
  3. Marshfield (6-3)
  4. Ashland (3-6)
  5. North Bend (3-6)
  6. Hidden Valley (2-7)
  7. Klamath Union (0-9)

Special District 5:

  1. Baker (6-3)
  2. La Grande (6-3)
  3. Pendleton / Nixyaawii (5-4)
  4. Crook County (5-4)
  5. Madras (4-5)
  6. Ontario (4-5)

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