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Wild Fridays expected this fall

Gresham leads the league with a 3-0 record through the early stages of the 2012 season


by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Members of the Reynolds defense gather for a study session along the sideline earlier this year.

Mount Hood Conference football power Central Catholic has dropped two of its first three games in 2012, but no one in the league is ready to dismiss the Rams. That would be like poking Goliath with a stick to see if he was truly hurt or simply napping.

“The tough part is trying to convince your kids that you can beat them,” Gresham coach Todd Nagel said. “They do have that aura about them, and I don’t know how you get over that hurdle — you just have to go out and do it.”

“Central Catholic on paper has a lot of talent and they are always well coached,” David Douglas coach Dan Wood said. “You need to go out and execute, but I’m not convinced that any one of us couldn’t beat them on a given night.”

There is a good reason the Rams are 1-2 in the early season — their two losses are against Sheldon and Lake Oswego — the two teams that played for the 6A title a year ago.

The Rams have plenty of firepower behind returning QB Aidan Wilder and wide receiver Beau Duronslet, who is averaging better than 25 yards per grab this season.

Following are previews of the five East County programs…

GRESHAM GOPHERS

The Gophers are off to the fastest start with a chance to go unbeaten in nonleague action with a win at Westview tonight. Credit the defense for much of the early success, as they have kept each of their opponents under 20 points so far.

“We have a lot of guys back, and they understand our scheme,” Nagel said. “People are finding it hard to run against us and that’s what we want, stopping the run is our emphasis.”

Leading the charge are linebackers Micah Tolai with a team-best 19 tackles, and Dan Allen who has stopped ball carriers in the backfield four times.

The offense relies on the program’s traditional power game with halfback Devauntae Hoffman as the featured ball carrier. He leads the league with 508 yards, picking up more than 7 per carry.

“He’s capable of making big runs on his own, cutting back and turning a negative play into a big-gainer,” Nagel said. “Everyone is focused on stopping him, but if we stay patient in the run game, he’ll hit that home run for us.”

Hoffman also returns kicks and plays in the defensive secondary.

The Gophers can mix up the running attack by involving Tolai and Hunter Pattock. Tolai is also a major threat in the passing attack ranking second in the league with 13 catches for almost 300 yards.

“He could carry the load for us at tailback, but we already have Devauntae there,” Nagel said. “Micah is just too good offensively not to have him out there on the field somewhere.”

Junior quarterback Devon Shields directs the attack after earning the starting job last fall. He averages only a dozen throws a night, but is capable to hitting receivers for big gains.

“His best attribute is his demeanor,” Nagel said. “He doesn’t get flustered, and the other guys see that calmness and respond.”

The kicking game is also a factor for the Gophers, who saw five combined field goals sent through the uprights last week against McNary. Mikey Downey has been solid on extra points (9-for-11) and has booted a pair of mid-range field goals.

“Without him, we’d probably be forced to go for two every time,” Nagel said. “He’s reliable out to 40 yards and gives us that added dimension.”

REYNOLDS RAIDERS

The Raiders have the potential to be the surprise team in the league this year with the quick-strike attack that is hitting on all cylanders in coach Sean VanDeMerghel’s third season at the helm. Junior QB Josh Schleining is at the controls of the air attack, leading the league with 846 yards — more than double that of any other team besides Central Catholic. More impressive is his 11-1 TD to interception ratio.

“On any play, the ball can go to any of five kids and we leave it up to him to make those reads,” VanDeMerghel said. “He distributes the ball well and makes smart choices.”

Caleb Chavez has been the big-play receiver early this year, leading the league with 327 yards and five TDs. Chavez, Quentin Bates and Kanyon Flynn are each averaging better than 20 yards per catch for a team that has broken the 50-point barrier in two of its three games.

The Raiders other main weapon is running back Demontrial Spinks — a speedy player who is picking up 9 yards per clip on the rare occasion when the team calls a run out of its shotgun set. He is also a regular contributor in the passing game, catching balls in the flat and turning upfield. He has five TDs through three games.

“He’s as good as anybody with the ball in his hands,” VanDeMerghel said. “We have to get him involved.”

But for the Raiders to climb the ladder after going winless in league last year, the defense is going to have to stop people. Last year, Reynolds surrendered 60-plus point five times.

So far this season no one has found the end zone more than twice on the Raiders ‘D’ which is under the guidance of new coordinator Kyle Swoboda — a former QB at the school.

“Defense has been our Achilles heel the last couple years,” VanDeMerghel said. “But I’m seeing a lot more guys flying to the football, and I’m seeing more confidence. They are out there trusting their reactions.”

The Raiders are also putting an emphasis on the kicking game where Angel Garcia lost his starting job on the line (he still plays in the rotation), so that he could stay healthy for place-kicking duties. He leads the league with 24 points so far in 2012, going 3 for 4 on field goals.

“At some point a game is going to come down to a field goal or an extra point, and we need someone out there who we’re sure can make it,” VanDeMerghel said.

CENTENNIAL EAGLES

The Eagles have just what they want on the field this season — a true triple threat in the backfield to power their veer-option run attack. Leading the charge is speedy halfback A.J. Wienke, while fullback Nick Schoebel has been a force early in 2012. He surpassed 300 yards in the team’s opening win over Grant and leads the league with nine TDs.

Quarterback Caleb Miller is also a threat to keep the ball and make things happen, averaging just over 5 yards per carry.

“Caleb does a great job managing the game,” Centennial coach Chris Knudsen said. “He has good intelligence and understands our offense.”

Senior Ryan Phanakhone is a big-play threat in the passing game, and also leads the league in return yardage, averaging 26.7 yards per attempt.

“He has good speed and is an elusive kid,” Knudsen said. “He knows what to do to get open.”

The strength of the team may come up front behind a set of sizeable lineman that includes Mychal Knight, Michael McGuire, Tyler Tetz, Ryan McDowell and Anouluck Keobounnam.

“Our run game has been very encouraging so far, and that all starts with those guys up front,” Knudsen said.

Boosting the defense is key for this group, which includes a handful of two-way players on the line.

Last year, the Eagles were 0-6 when they surrendered more than 40 points. Centennial was 5-0 when they held teams under 40.

“We need to improve defensively, especially against the run, if we want to win games,” Knudsen said. “You don’t want to have to outscore opponents night in and night out.”

DAVID DOUGLAS SCOTS

The Scots suffered a 4-8 hiccup season last fall, but are usually among the teams in the top half. Despite their poor regular season, David Douglas was the last East County survivor in the playoffs after surprising No. 1 seed West Linn 17-14 in the first round.

This year’s squad relies on the physical running of junior Andre Reasno, who split time in the backfield last season.

“He’s a big of a dirt-dog,” Wood said. “He’s not afraid to get in the middle and mix it up.”

Reasno should have his choice of holes behind a line that includes three returners in Austin Hills, Aaron Richardson and Jerome Massad, not to mention physical tight end Samson Ebukam.

Tim Patrick comes in at quarterback and is completing almost 60 percent of his throws with five TDs.

The defensive side is anchored by middle linebacker Alipote Tuitavake, who is in his third year at that spot.

“There’s no replacement for experience,” Wood said. “He was in that position for every snap last year, he runs well and has good football savvy.”

Kyle Miller leads the league with four interceptions already this season.

The biggest challenge for the Scots will be overcoming early-season injuries that have ended the season for two starters and sidelined four others.

“It’s going to be an interesting season. I really believe anyone can beat anyone else in our league on a given Friday,” Wood said. “It all comes down to who executes and is able to stay healthy.”

BARLOW BRUINS

The Bruins bring a young lineup to the field this fall with a handful of sophomores expected to play major roles. Perhaps most important among that mix are the backfield running mates of Dillon Payne and Colby Winnett, while senior Aaron Nelson brings a veteran presence to the mix.

“Aaron brings a lot of leadership, Dillon has great vision and can bounce off a big run and Colby is just fast,” Barlow coach Terry Summerfield said. “All three bring something different.”

Summerfield spent the nonleague season as an open audition for several positions — none more so than quarterback where three players opened the year with a chance. Junior Alex Pusquellec had emerged in that role, completing 28 balls despite splitting time.

“Alex has a very cool head on his shoulders and a good knowledge of what we’re doing,” Summerfield said.

Kody Kennedy moved out of that quarterback competition to the edge of the field where he will be the team’s main target in the passing game. He’s brought down 11 catches to this point, while Tyler Cornelison offers a threat on the other side.

“Kody is too much of a big-play guy for us not to have him out there at receiver,” Summerfield said.

Senior linebacker Will Leenders directs the defensive unit, along with senior Kennedy Johnson in the secondary.

Barlow is out to a winless start this season, but has been within striking distance in the second half of each of its games never losing by more than two touchdowns.

“We’re 0-3 and I don’t like that,” Summerfield said. “It makes me mad as all get out, but every game we’ve played our physical style, and I don’t question our effort.”

Placekicker Zach Standish is perfect on extra points (6-for-6) and is 2 for 3 on field goals — his only miss coming from 40-plus yards out.

“He’s a huge factor for us,” Summerfield said. “If we get down to the 25-yard line, I know I’ve got a shot at some points. We’ll lean on him a lot.”



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