Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior quarterback Willy Pflug is entering his third year as Sunsets starting signal caller following a first-team all-Metro season at the helm as a junior last year.

At this point in his personal development, Willy Pflug could probably guide a group of green freshmen wide receivers and put up points on the varsity level.

Sunset’s senior quarterback is that precise with the football, that comfortable in the Apollos’ offensive scheme, and that sure of himself when it comes to eviscerating opponents from the pocket. Heading into his third year as the Apollos’ starting signal caller, Pflug could operate Sunset’s spread invasion of constant confusion and moving parts, blindfolded.

But arm arguably the best quarterback in Metro with first-rate weaponry both in the backfield and on the perimeter, and couple that firepower with a wily offensive coordinator in Faustin Riley who’s totally in tune with Pflug’s abilities?

It’s almost an unfair theory for Metro foes to tackle.

With Pflug at the wheel parceling out the pigskin to the league’s best deep threat in Matt Burton, the sticky-handed Alex Stickel on the outside, the tough-and-tall tight end Kincaid Crile and handing off the rock to running back Caden Carter behind a progressing offensive line, points will be aplenty this season.

Imagining games filled with four, five, even six touchdowns isn’t impractical when Sunset’s horsepower is fully appraised. Whether the Apollo defense can be opportunistic enough to force turnovers in key moments and hold potent Metro foes away in what could be a season of Roman Candle-like offensive explosions remains to be seen.

But rest assured Sunset’s up for whatever type of game its league foes want to take up: track meets, slugfests, shootouts. The offensive-minded Apollos feel they have the resources to hang with anybody.

“This year, we think we could be one of the most successful teams Sunset’s ever had,” said Burton. “We all have that common goal, so we’ll put in the work to do that. We have the talent for it. We’re a very player-driven squad. Because we’re so driven as a team, the coaches can focus on coaching. They can help us improve because we’ll work for it.”

“I think we have all the necessary parts to be a great team,” said Pflug. “We may have lost some guys from last year, but as a team, we’ve really come together, and I think we can be stronger than in the years past. The special thing about our team is everyone’s willing to work. There’s no one who isn’t, so it’s great that everyone comes together in that way.”

“We have all the tools to be great,” said Crile. “I don’t see any reason why our offense shouldn’t be a huge strength. Any offense is good if you practice it enough, and I think we’re ready to show that on the field.”

Fair or not, in today’s football world a team’s fate often falls on the shoulders of its field general who shoulders more responsibility and burden than almost any other position in sports, let alone on the gridiron. Thankfully, for its league title hopes, Sunset has a gem in Pflug, a pure pocket passer who’s not only deadly accurate dropping back, but can chuck the ball on a frozen rope while getting chased and flushed off his spots. If forced to stow the ball away and make a break for it when the defense is closing in, Pflug’s more than mobile and talented enough to take off and take it the distance.

Entering his third year at the helm of Sunset’s offense, Pflug is so fully versed and immersed in the Apollos’ fast-paced, spaced-out system — which Riley implemented four years ago as Sunset’s head coach — that the first-team, all-Metro pick sometimes finds himself reminding his tutor on the scheme’s intricacies.

“It’s interesting, sometimes I correct Coach Riley on the offense,” said Pflug with a laugh. “It’s fun to be in it, and it’s great to share the knowledge with the guys who might not have the experiences I do. It’s always great when you have a good feel and you know where guys are going to be.”

After weighing offers from Rice and Eastern Washington, Pflug verbally committed to the University of Montana and it’s own version of the spread offense last week. Pflug said accumulating early offers and securing the UM commitment prior to his senior year was reassuring, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stop working hard.

“I’m always striving for more,” said Pflug. “I’m feeling really confident and happy with the receivers who can make some great catches and help me out, too. The line is going to block hard for me, so I really don’t have much to worry about with all the pieces around me. Basically, it’s just reading defenses. Hopefully, I can get the ball (to my receivers), and they’ll do the work for me.”

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior wide receiver Matt Burton is one of many returning pass catchers who can give quarterback Willy Pflug plenty of options in the passing game this season.

Burton is a wide receiver who can blow the top off a defense, as verified by his breakout, two-touchdown outing last season during homecoming against Westview in a 42-27 rout. Riley’s plan of action isolates Burton, Stickel and Crile on the outside to the point each can exploit individual bouts with vying defensive backs and get open for Pflug.

“When teams are spread so thin, it’s almost easy to get open,” said Burton. “You can get a great matchup. That’s my favorite part of the game, breaking a kid down one-on-one. This offense allows you to be a playmaker, and that’s what we’re best at: making plays.”

Pflug applauded the improvement of Sunset’s offensive line who’s “improving every day,” according to the all-league signal caller. Seniors such as Seth Wilson, Joe Peterson, Guy Denagnon, Garren Tiffee and junior Walker Nash have all taken strides forward. As a result of the Apollos’ marked rise upfront, Pflug hopes Sunset can incorporate Carter’s skills in the run game and strike a balance that keeps opposing defenses in limbo.

“If we need to throw 40 times a game, we will, but if we need to run 40 times a game we will,” said Pflug. “It just depends on the team we’re playing. But, we’re versatile. We can do it all.”

The unpredictability of Sunset’s string-pulling on offense only adds to its potential potency to pile on teams and build insurmountable leads early in the contest, Burton said.

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior quarterback Willy Pflug can beat teams with his arm or his legs, depending on what the opposing defense gives the Apollos.

“If a team tries to take one thing away (pass or run game), then we’ll just adjust,” added Burton. “We’re so balanced as a squad that you can’t really beat us one way. You just have to be a better team. I think that’s going to be our main advantage over other teams, is that we have that mobility and that ability to adjust.”

Even in the past week, Peterson said he’s seen young players take a hand in helping the Apollos remain combative and retain their status as league contenders.

“Guys are really starting to click,” said Peterson. “We lost a lot of guys from last year, but we have players stepping up and filling those roles. It’s not like we have any gaps. I’m feeling comfortable with our players and where they’re at. I’m feeling really confident about what I’ve seen so far.”

“It’s no secret we’re not the strongest or the fastest team,” said Crile. “But, I seriously believe we’ll work the best together as a team. We have the strongest bond in Metro, and we’re outworking everyone else.”

Pflug said as long as Sunset sustains the same passion it’s displayed during summer conditioning, the Apollos “can go as far as they want to.” In the short term, however, all Sunset can do is improve from week-to-week and prepare for its season opener versus South Medford. Long-term, Metro’s never been so ripe for the picking as it is this year with at least four Beaverton schools possessing the talent to stake claim to a league crown.

“I feel like there isn’t that dominant team,” said Burton. “It’s a balanced league. It’s going to be very competitive. That’s why we’re so passionate about the game right now. We can see the success. Everyone in Metro is beatable, and we can play with anybody. When you have that type of confidence, there’s no reason not to work, because you have that much potential.”

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