OC fifth and 6th graders go 8-1-1

There's a group of young football players in Oregon City who appear to have a bright, bright future.

They're the Oregon City Red fifth and sixth grade team, and they drew a lot of attention this fall when they finished with an 8-1-1 record, their only loss of the season coming in a 26-16 barnburner with Lake Oswego Navy in the title game of the Tualatin Valley Youth Football League fifth and sixth grade championship tournament.

'This group was special for their ability to be team players, which is unusual at this age,' said Oregon City Red head coach Mark Bell. 'We had a bunch of kids who enjoyed playing football, and they worked extremely hard to get better.'

Bell's Pioneers out-scored their 10 opponents by an average score of 36-18, earning wins over Hillsboro Blue (36-6), West Linn Gold (34-14), Lakeridge Blue (20-12), Sunset Gold (45-26), Lake Oswego Navy (40-14), Lincoln Red (46-15), Milwaukie Maroon (56-32) and Lincoln Red (46-15 and 44-12), and battling to a 20-20 standoff with Clackamas Black.

Bell said his squad's strength was its running game, as running backs Zakhayas (Zee) Lee and Ethan Kassebaum got strong support and good blocking from their teammates.

'These kids did a good job of executing, blocking properly, and taking care of the football,' Bell said. 'We ran the ball quite well.'

The Pioneers had a big offensive line, led by Cody Steele, Kelsen Hennessy, Dalton Harris, Jacob Phillips and Lane Marshall.

Bell said he also got good blocking from slotbacks Collin Hill and Connor Curtiss, as well as from receivers Noah Starbuck and Carter Bell.

He said of his starting quarterback, Colby Iverson, 'Colby did a great job distributing the ball and he was accurate when he did throw.'

The Pioneers had an added weapon in kicker Grant Ross.

'We kicked it every single time [on PAT's], which is very rare for this age,' Bell said. 'Our kicker, Grant Ross, went to kicking camps and worked on it with his dad. At one point he was 95 percent [successful].'

Bell also gave credit to Phillips, who was the snapper on the PAT kicks.

Also vying for the standout Oregon City team were: Quinn Davis, Zachary Cooper, Kyle Thompson, Jeremy Holst, Gabriel Gunvaldson, Hunter Christianson, Ryan Coulsey, Spencer Viles, Gabriel Teece, Logan Endicott, Brock Duyck and Jordon Carnahan.

'I'm excited about how the kids matured and learned to work as a team,' said Bell. 'Regardless of the wins and losses, it was a fun group.'

Of course it didn't hurt that Bell and assistant coach Dane Iverson are both former head coaches at Oregon City High School.

Dean Hennessy, Matt Phillips and Greg Ross assisted in coaching the team.

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