Clackamas expects to be competitive in the Three Rivers League

by: JOHN DENNY - They are off to their best start since 2005 and the Clackamas Cavaliers aim to begin a turnaround in football this year, despite a season-ending injury to last years starting quarterback, Cade Wilkins. Pictured with Wilkins are (from left) co-captains Zach Farnes, Jon Kenion and Erick Douglas III.After fielding a youthful lineup and taking their lumps in 2011, the Clackamas Cavaliers are hopeful that a more seasoned lineup will make them more competitive in Class 6A high school football this fall.

“We’re definitely way better than last year. and maybe even better than we’ve been in the past decade,” said Clackamas team co-captain Jon Kenion. “I feel like we have the weapons to compete with anybody in the Three Rivers League.”

If Clackamas’ start to the 2012 season is any indication, then the Cavaliers are going to have a good year. Clackamas won 42-39 in its season opener at Grants Pass, and last Friday the Cavaliers took care of business with Newberg, winning 27-20.

It’s the first time since 2005 that a Clackamas varsity football team has won its first two games of the season. That year Clackamas went 6-1 and finished second to Lake Oswego in the TRL, and the Cavaliers went on to finish with an overall record of 9-2, losing only to Lake Oswego (21-9), and to 2005 state semifinalist Tualatin (35-19) in the second round of the state playoffs.

This year’s early-season wins over Grants Pass and Newberg have come despite adversity. The Cavaliers lost last year’s varsity quarterback, Cade Wilkins, to a knee injury in their second offensive series of the Grants Pass game. Against Newberg, starting running back Dan Sherrell left the game at halftime with muscle spasms in his lower back. The 5-8, 165-pound junior had rushed for 88 yards and three touchdowns before he was sidelined.

Wilkins, who is also a junior, is out for the season. Sherrell is expected back for this Friday’s game at South Salem.

The Cavaliers’ starting offense in the opener at Grants Pass included eight players with at least part-time starting experience from 2011. The returnees played well, but it was a couple of players new to the varsity that made the biggest impact, 6-0, 210-pound junior Doonie Johnson and Sherrell.

Sherrell was a workhorse, carrying the ball 30 times for 205 yards and a touchdown. Johnson, who took over as helmsman when Wilkins went down, completed 17-of-25 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Johnson completed 15-of-25 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown —with no interceptions — in last Friday’s win over Newberg.

Cavalier veteran wide receiver Erick Douglas III, a first-team all-league selection last fall, demonstrated in the Cavaliers’ first two games that he still has his stuff. The 5-10, 165-pound third-year starter hauled down no fewer than 11 passes, for a net of 88 yards, at Grants Pass. He made five catches for 97 yards and a touchdown against Newberg.

Kenion has confidence in his new quarterback.

“Any time you lose someone like Cade, it’s a big loss,” Kenion said. “But we’re very confident in Doonie and what he can do. He passed for two touchdowns and ran with the ball to score two more [against Grants Pass], and he made very few mistakes.”

“I have complete confidence in him,” Douglas III said. “I feel like Doonie’s going to do a great job....”

For longtime Cavalier football fans, Sherrell and Johnson’s performances have been no surprise. They worked magic together on Clackamas High freshmen and jayvee football teams that both finished with 8-1 records.

Clackamas coach Joe Bushman said of Sherrell: “He’s a great kid. He’s a super hard worker; he’s very shifty, strong for his size and hard to tackle, and he’s good at pass blocking.”

He said of Johnson: “He didn’t appear to be [very nervous when he stepped in for Wilkins]. He was solid. He was confident and he made good decisions. He did a good job.”

Bushman said that Wilkins will miss the entire football season and very likely the basketball season as well.

“Hopefully Cade will be back for baseball,” he said.

“My goal’s to be back by the end of April or early May,” Wilkins said. “I hope to be 100 percent by then.”

Wilkins, who is scheduled to undergo major reconstructive surgery on his right knee on Sept. 26, said his injuries included: torn anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and lateral-collateral ligaments, and a ruptured artery. The ruptured artery required emergency surgery in Grants Pass “to save Cade’s leg,” according to Clackamas athletic director Jeff Erdman.

Wilkins says the knee injury is the only major injury he has had in his entire athletic career.

“It’s going to be tough not being able to play with the team that I’ve played with my whole life,” Wilkins said. “But my friends and family and teammates have all been there to support me. And that makes it so it’s not quite so bad.”

Wilkins said that he still expects the Cavaliers to do well this football season.

“I think we can go as far as we want to go,” he said. “We have to come to practice and work hard every day. If we do that, I know we’ll do a lot of good things this year.”

“I think we’ve overcome the adversity of Cade being hurt,” Douglas III said. “We’ve all come together with a common goal. We want to turn this program around — for Cade, for ourselves, for the school, and for our whole community.”

Among varsity veterans joining Douglas III as starters on offense in the Grants Pass game were: seniors Jon Kenion (6-3, 260) at center, Justin Hesselgesse (6-0, 250) at guard, Rick Hummer (6-1, 230) at tackle, Ryan Gilbert (5-8, 155) and Jake Iverson (6-2, 175) at wide receiver, and juniors David Reese (6-8, 250) at tackle and Brody Haehlen (6-4, 235) at tight end.

Junior Trevor Dunn (6-3, 200) moved up from the jayvee to start at guard.

Unlike the Cavalier offense, Clackamas’ defense will be a work in progress this fall. Only three defensive players return with starting experience from last year’s team: Kenion in the line, Gilbert at cornerback, and senior Cody Lutz (6-3, 195) at linebacker.

Kenion and Iverson made second-team all-league on defense and honorable mention all-league on offense last year.

Bushman says he likes what he’s seen from senior Andrew Fendin (5-10, 235) and juniors Cole Johnson (5-10, 245) and Landon Swenson (6-2, 245) in the defensive line.

Senior Jesse Debord (6-4, 200), juniors Taylor Stinson (6-6, 210) and Zach Farnes (6-0, 185), and sophomore Kyle Anderegg (5-9, 185) started at linebacker in the Cavaliers’ opener. Junior Jaeden Abraham started with Gilbert at cornerback, while senior Curtis Powelson (5-10, 175) and sophomore Hayden Kirsch (6-0, 165) started at safety.

Junior Michael McDonald (5-10, 155) looked sharp in his debut as varsity kicker, making all six of his PAT kicks and putting kickoffs near the end zone.

The Cavaliers are also looking good at punter, with the return of junior Levi Millay (5-7, 190), who was a first-team all-league punter as a sophomore.

The Cavaliers (2-0) entertain Reynolds (1-1) a week from Friday in their final tuneup for the TRL season. They entertain Lakeridge (1-1) on Sept. 28 in their TRL opener.

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