They'll miss Cookman, but the Cavaliers will still be one of the TRL's top teams
by: derrel hewitt, Clackamas senior running back Brad Wagner, pictured scoring a touchdown against Franklin in last year's playoffs, will carry much of the load for the Cavaliers this season.

CLACKAMAS - Clackamas' prospects for challenging for the 2006 Three Rivers League football championship were dealt a blow last Friday when Cavalier offensive star Ricky Cookman broke his collarbone in an overtime game with Barlow.

A two-time, first-team all-league selection at wide receiver, the 6-0, 180-pound Cavalier senior put up some impressive numbers his junior and seniors seasons, with 66 catches for over 1,000 yards.

And Cookman appeared headed for another great season. He had 22 catches for 331 yards in preseason games with playoff contenders O'Dea of Seattle and Barlow.

Cookman certainly expected his team to do well, prior to his injury.

'Our number one goal is to be practicing on Thanksgiving, because that will mean we've made it to the third round [of the state playoffs],' Cookman said during an interview at last Thursday's practice. 'The last couple of years we've been out in the second round.'

The injury is a clean break, and Cookman's teammates and coaches are hopeful he'll be able to return by late in the regular season.

Even without Cookman, the Cavaliers should be a playoff team. They have tradition on their side, having advanced to postseason play for six straight seasons.

The Cavaliers have a number of talented athletes back from last year's varsity team that went 9-2, losing to Tualatin in the second round of the playoffs. And they are joined by some newcomers up from a jayvee team - coached by 2006 first-year head coach Joe Bushman - that went 7-2.

A group of offensive linemen moving up from that jayvee team have helped Clackamas junior quarterback Ryan Cook be successful in his varsity debut. Cook completed 16-of-22 passes for 268 yards in a 35-21 victory over Washington state powerhouse O'Dea, and the 6-3, 190-pound helmsman went 25-46-1 against Barlow, the two-time defending champion in the Mt. Hood Conference.

Cookman is certainly high on offensive linemen Matt Hendrix (6-6, 205), Kevin Taylor (6-3, 210), Armani Guerrero (6-0, 205), Ryan Baker (6-3, 215) and Cam Katrena (5-11, 190).

'It's just awesome playing with those guys again!' Cookman said Thursday. 'I've been playing with those offensive linemen since sixth grade and now we're back together.

'In seventh grade we went 8-2. We beat Lake Oswego twice and won the league championship; in eighth grade we were 8-3 and as freshmen we were 8-1. The last couple of years, I've played with guys I didn't really know. It's just awesome being back with these guys!'

'I think we're a lot stronger and a lot faster [than last year's team],' said senior tailback Brad Wagner. 'And we've got 22 starters. We're going to wear people down.'

Wagner (5-11, 180) may have to shoulder more of the load while Cookman is out, but he's proven himself capable of big things. He was the Cavaliers' second leading ground-gainer last season, rushing for over 700 yards. He's already had two 100-yard games in as many starts this season.

Among others likely to see starting action on offense are Hendrix at tackle; Taylor, Guerrero and Shaun Baldwin (6-0, 270) at guard; Katrena at center; Cook (6-3, 190) at quarterback; and Taylor Worley (5-11, 140), Kenny Downing (6-1, 175) and Kylle Walkoski (5-11, 161) at wide receiver. All but Cook, Worley and Walkoski are seniors.

Other top prospects on offense include senior quarterback Chance Martinez (6-3, 200), a transfer from Central Catholic; junior tailback Micah Strong (5-8, 145); senior wide receiver Tim West (6-1, 180) and sophomore wide receiver Ben Adler (6-0, 155).

'You're only as good as your offensive line, and I was encouraged by what I saw [against O'Dea],' said Clackamas first-year head coach Joe Bushman.

The Cavaliers return a host of experienced players on defense, lead by defensive tackle Robert Young (6-0, 250) and linebacker Adam Gossett (6-0, 190). Both were first-team all-league selections in 2005.

Other returning defensive starters include defensive tackle Jorden Knight (6-1, 265), linebackers Kyle Taylor (6-0, 195) and Justin Inahara (5-11, 172); and cornerback Greg Inahara (5-11, 172).

Rounding out the starting defensive lineup are Martinez (free safety), defensive ends Victor Nunn (6-2, 190) and Randy Oliver (6-2, 215); linebacker Jake Mauermann (6-2, 180); and cornerback Michael Young (6-0, 164).

Defensive end Mark DeVries (6-2, 190) and tackles Brandon Berray (6-0, 270) and Danny Kountz (5-11, 250) are other top defensive prospects.

'The coaching staff is really excited!' said Bushman. 'We feel like we have a really good group of kids….

'The O'Dea team they beat was a very talented ball club. They're the Jesuit and Central Catholic of the Seattle area. They haven't lost a league game in three years and they were state champs three years ago.'

The Cavaliers begin Three Rivers League play this Friday, when they meet West Linn on the road.

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