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An amazing run for these eighth graders

They set a goal, worked hard, and became winners


by: SUBMITTED - The players on the Oregon City-White eighth grade football team were winners in more ways than one. Sporting an inexperienced lineup that included nine players who had never played football before, the young Pioneers went 9-1, capping off the season with a 34-20 win over Sunset in the championship game of the Three Rivers League Percich Division end-of-the-season tournament.An Oregon City youth football team, Oregon City-White, made an amazing run in eighth grade youth football this fall, winning the championship game of the Tualatin Valley Youth Football League Three River League Percich Division and going 9-1 on the season.

They avenged their only loss in the division championship game, defeating Sunset 34-20.

Few could have anticipated the success at the start of the season, because Oregon City’s 22-player roster included nine young men who had never before played the game of football.

“We had nine kids who had never played before and most of the kids who had played hadn’t had much success [before this year],” Bryan Mitchell, head coach of Oregon City-White, said. “And it wasn’t just one or two players [that made the team a success]. It was a team effort with this group. That’s what made it special. There was a lot of parity in the league. There were a lot of close games, and it took contributions from every single player.... It was a phenomenal year. These kids hadn’t had much success before, but they’re winners now!”

Mitchell said that work ethic was pivotal. The players, early in the season, set a goal of going undefeated. The coaches designed challenging practices necessary to accomplish that goal, and as the season progressed, the players bought into the tough practices 100 percent.

Mitchell said he came to realize the dedication and commitment of the team near the midpoint of the season:

“It was at the end of a practice and the coaches were getting ready to send the team home, and one of the players said, ‘Coach, we can’t leave. We’ve got to condition!’ We’d preached to the kids all season that in order to win you’ve got to outwork your opponent. I knew at that moment, this was a special group.”

During the regular season, the young Pioneers earned wins over Milwaukie (18-0), Sherwood-Red (28-6), West Linn-Gold (30-18), Southridge-Red (32-22), Beaverton (8-6), Tigard Black (24-20) and Centennial-Blue (44-18), before dropping a barnburner to Sunset-Black, 30-22.

They then defeated Sunset 34-20 in the end-of-the-season tournament championship final, after topping West Linn 35-20 in the semifinals.

Most of the young Pioneers’ offense came from Danny Tkach, a 5-7, 165-pound running back who was playing football for the very first time.

“He is a very fast kid, explosive,” Mitchell said. “Seventy percent of our offense came through Danny. He worked really hard, and he played hard....

“But Danny didn’t do it alone. Everyone had a role and everyone contributed in some way. For example, Kam Shelley, another first-year player, became our best blocker down-field. He’d throw a block and spring Danny for a touchdown....

“There was Nathan Elmore in the offensive line. He wanted to play running back more than anything, but he sacrificed and played in the line because that was where we needed him.... Nathan was our defensive captain. He played middle linebacker and called the plays on the defensive side....

“Tanner Smith played right tackle and outside linebacker. He had a great work ethic. He played hard and shut the opponents down....

“Having nine new kids made it a little difficult, but we were able to find places where everyone could contribute and be successful.”

Members of the standout Oregon City team included: Jake Schriever (wide receiver), Ean Price (defensive back), DeQuahn Lee (free safety), Chris Figert (quarterback), Brysen Preston (defensive end/tight end), Gabriel Lopez-Damia (offensive and defensive line), Danny Tkach (running back/defensive tackle), Austin Kolsut (wide receiver/cornerback), Nathan Elmore (offensive line/middle linebacker), Kameron Shelley (wide receiver), Tyler Jacobs (running back/linebacker), Jonathan Villanueva (offensive line), Peni Falepapalangi (tight end/outside linebacker), Aiden VanRiper (tackle/defensive end), Tanner Simmons (offensive and defensive line), Armeen Matin (wide receiver), Jacob Brink (wide receiver), Noah Stake (offensive and defensive line), Tanner Smith (tackle/defensive end), Mastiff Dukes (center), Zachary McIntyre (center/defensive line) and Tony Richter.

Keith Rable, Kevin Smith, Mike Kolsut and Brad Preston were assistant coaches.




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