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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? - We catch up with former Reynolds football and track star Fernando Fantroy

OUTLOOK PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Fernando Fantroy led the Mount Hood Conference with more than 1,500 yards rushing during his senior season in 1997. Fernando Fantroy was as close as you could get to an unstoppable force on the football field, showcasing his skills as a running back with a trip to the playoffs his senior season. The Raiders blew out Benson 35-8, and 20 years later it remains the school's most recent playoff victory.

The game was special for Fantroy, who was facing some friends he grew up with through childhood. Fantroy would have attended either Grant or Benson, but his family moved to Troutdale when he started high school.

"In my mind, I knew it was going to be a fun game because Benson had some talent, but they were not fundamentally sound — we knew we were the better team," Fantroy said. "I remember hearing a couple of my buddies on the other side telling their teammates 'Watch out for Fernando, he's fast.'"

He was indeed too fast for pretty much any defense. After leading the Mount Hood Conference in rushing with 1,553 yards — a school record that still stands — he piled on another 369 yards on that fateful night against the Techman and found the end zone three times.

"It was my first time playing under the lights at Civic Stadium with a big crowd," Fantroy said. "The last game there before they pulled up that old Astroturf — it was a super fast surface — I had the game of my life."

He scored on a series of breakout runs and would have been close to 500 yards rushing if not for a couple big runs being called back due to penalties.

Fantroy still remembers breaking free on a sweep around the side and running away from everyone for a 56-yard touchdown that sealed the victory midway through the third quarter.

"It was 28 toss," Fantroy says, his voice picking up pace with the memory. "I remember catching the ball, one of my guards pulled out and got his block, our receiver got his man and there was just this gaping hole, and I broke it for a touchdown. We were excited to get to a big game and advance."

The Raiders were one play from advancing farther in the bracket only to suffer a heart-breaking 31-30 loss to Canby the next week. Fantroy cut through a crease in the defense for what could have been the tying touchdown with less than two minutes to play. Reynolds elected to try for the win on the two-point conversion. The ball slipped through hands in the end zone and dropped to the turf.

"I remember running hard in that game, but Canby's defense wasn't coming after me, they were letting me run to them — it was some sort of zone tackling scheme," Fantroy said. "It was a tough game, probably our most exciting game of the year, and it came down to the extra point."

Fantroy went on to play football at the College of the Redwoods and eventually at Western Montana where he became a father, and in a flash, life went from his dreams to his child's future.

"I had the talent and ability to make it pro, but my mindset wasn't on getting a degree — it was all about staying eligible to play sports, so once the season ended it was easy to get off track," Fantroy said. "That's something I emphasize when I'm coaching kids now — use sports to get yourself an education."

Fantroy has helped his father Fernando Sr. in some private track and field coaching, and last year returned to Reynolds High as an assistant track coach in charge of the sprint crew.

Fantroy spent eight years working for Microchip, and has spent the last four years as a commercial painter with W.B. Painting in Gresham.

"At Microchip I was working 12-hour shifts and with three kids, I was barely getting any sleep — it was time to get a regular job," he said. "I grew up with my dad in the painting and construction business and would help out in the summers. We are usually the last people on site before people are ready to move in, so we get to see something go from the foundation up and we come in to finish the project."

Fernando has been married to wife Jessica for 17 years, and the couple has three children 15-year-old Chenzira, 11-year-old Zion and 9-year-old Caribbea. The Fantroys enjoy camping trips and family gatherings, which can grow quite large with Fernando being one of five siblings — all living within a 45-minute drive.

"My dad's place is the usual gathering spot. We'll hang out and barbecue, and there will be music and laughter and all these kids running around, and probably a football game on in the background," Fantroy said.

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