Ex-rivals will team up to help the Wolves, now in NCAA Division II
Matt Stark, Zach Christopherson, Eric Snow and Paul Wright, all from PIL schools, are going to Western Oregon University to play football.
In Monmouth, they'll join a number of other former Portland Interscholastic League players in the state's only NCAA Division II program.
'There's so many PIL guys there, we call it a PIL all-star team,' says Stark, a running back who led Marshall to the league title game last fall.
'It's going to be pretty cool because we all grew up playing against each other in town,' says Wright, who helped Franklin win the PIL crown as a junior.
Christopherson and Snow, who both helped Wilson win the PIL in 2002, will join Stark and Wright in Saturday night's Les Schwab Bowl at PGE Park. The annual all-star football game pits Portland area players against a statewide team. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Western Oregon moved from NAIA to NCAA Division II in 1999 and has played .500 ball since then. The Wolves finished 5-5 last year, including a 1-2 record in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference against Central Washington, Western Washington and Humboldt State.
The Wolves, coached by Duke Iverson, missed out on second place in the conference by losing to Western Washington in triple overtime last season. And Central Washington is an annual contender for the Division II national title.
'It's a program that moved up in competition and is building a winner,' Snow says. 'I was part of that kind of program in high school, so I know what that is and I liked being part of that.'
Snow is trying to gain 30 pounds to become a 225-pound middle linebacker.
'I really like that they wanted me to go there,' says Christopherson, a 6-2 safety and receiver. 'There's a lot of guys who get overlooked in the recruiting process because they aren't 6-3 and run a 4.2 (time in the 40-yard sprint), but they can still play.'
Wright, a 6-4, 285-pound offensive lineman, drew some interest from Oregon, Washington and Portland State before he settled on Western. He thinks the school might still be a way to get to the pro ranks.
'I think I'll get looked at there,' Wright says. 'They have a good team with good young players. And they have a good weight program.'
Stark is looking forward to the lifestyle of Monmouth, a town of about 7,000 nestled in the farmland southwest of Salem.
'It's going to be different than city life, but it'll be closer to camping,' he says. 'We can go fishing more. I'm not worried about Monmouth being a small town. I like the environment there. I think it'll be fun.
'We're from the city, we can adapt.'
Other former PIL stars on Western's roster include Brian Sprague of Franklin, Ishmael Littleton of Jefferson, Jay Darden and Dan Hirsch of Lincoln, Geoff Odin of Wilson and Antar Brame of Madison. Brame is a likely starter at defensive back. The others were redshirts last year.
Two David Douglas grads, Isaac Frederick and Eric Odegbami, also suit up for the Wolves. And at least four other Marshall players who graduated earlier this year also are bound for Western.
Stark says he expects to sit out his freshman year to grow physically and adjust to college classes.
'Unless I turn into the Hulk in the first game, I'm pretty sure I'll redshirt,' he says.