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Senior leaves Wildcats as single-season rushing leader

by: JEFF GOODMAN / PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP - Derek Sunkle (right), who will continue his football career at Western Oregon, signs a letter of intent Feb. 5 at Wilsonville High School. He is joined by his mother, Judy, and Wildcats coach Adam Guenther.Derek Sunkle transferred schools and changed positions. But his potential to play college football seemed like a constant.

His first two years of high school were spent at West Linn. His junior season was characterized by time as backup quarterback on the Wilsonville football team.

Needless to say, he didn’t expect to own the Wildcats’ single-season rushing record as a graduating senior.

“Not at all,” he said. “But having that breakout season was a lot of fun.”

Sunkle parlayed his breakout campaign into a future at Western Oregon University, signing a letter of intent Feb. 5 to continue his career on the gridiron in Monmouth, Ore.

“It feels pretty good,” he said. “Just to get an opportunity to play in college — not a lot of kids get to do it.”

The 6-foot-3, 195-pound athlete joins a team that competes in Division II as a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The Wolves are coached by Arne Ferguson, an alumnus of the program who led them to a 7-4 overall record last year.

Sunkle is one of 33 football players in Western Oregon’s recruiting class. He and 22 others are Oregon products.

The Wolves’ incoming crop of talent includes a few of Sunkle’s former opponents in St. Helens defensive end Jacob Zartman, the NWOC lineman of the year, and Parkrose defensive back Nino Reliford.

The recruiting class also features several other area standouts, including West Linn alumni Gavin Anderson and Isaiah Molden and Clackamas graduates Dan Sherrell and Zach Farnes.

“We feel we have a real well-rounded and talented class this year,” Ferguson said in a news release. “Our coaching staff did a great job getting out and finding great young men who are not only good on the field but are also disciplined guys. This is a class that features student-athletes that perform well in the classroom and have great character. I look for these signees to come right in next year and help contribute to a run at a GNAC title.”

Sunkle, who also considered Linfield College and Southern Oregon, said his decision to attend WOU was due in part to his experience at an overnight camp there this past summer. He plans to study business.

Sunkle heads to Monmouth after emerging this past season as one of the most prolific offensive weapons in the Northwest Oregon Conference, earning first-team all-league honors.

He amassed 1,888 yards and 14 touchdowns on 255 carries, obliterating Wilsonville’s previous single-season rushing record (1,392). He also caught 12 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns, threw for 118 yards and three touchdowns and added 204 yards as a kick returner.

“He was our power horse,” Wildcats coach Adam Guenther said at the end of the season. “A lot of times, he was able to just go off.”

Sunkle figures to bolster a Western Oregon squad that averaged 30.4 points and 412.2 yards per game last season.

Follow Jeff Goodman on Twitter.

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