Beaverton football bringing back tons of talent, experience

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton junior quarterback Sam Noyer finished his sophomore year strong and hopes to have a big year leading the Beavers back to the 6A playoffs.

Around the Beaverton football program, there’s an undeniable groundswell of confidence growing louder by the summer day as August unfolds and the start of football season draws closer.

This is the Beaver team that can take Metro, the players believe. There’s too much talent and experience at every level of the offense, defense and even, special teams, Beaverton says, to at least give themselves a shot at the league crown come Halloween night ,when the Beavers travel to Jesuit in a possible winner-take-all confrontation.

“We’ve wanted to put Beaverton back on the map since our eighth grade year,” said senior wide receiver Stephen Marcille. “We’ve all been working way too hard to have a bad season or an average season. We’re always playing football, or even talking about it. It just doesn’t get away from us. We’re aiming to do the best we can, and that’s something I think we can accomplish.”

“It’s a new era for Beaverton,” said senior linebacker Brandon Yann. “I think the people in this program want it more than they have in a while. We have a lot better team chemistry, and it’s a lot more of a team. All that coming together is really going to bring us up in Metro. We’re just going to let the scoreboards talk and let people find out for themselves.”

“Guys are a lot more focused and we truly care about this program,” said senior running back Chidubem Nnoli. “We really want to do big things, and I think that’ll fuel us.”

On paper, Beaverton is the one bona fide team that can cause dissension in the ranks and undo Jesuit’s stranglehold on the power conference. They cross off each important checkmark on the Metro-winning template that’s been imitated but rarely duplicated by programs not draped in gold and green since the late 1990s.

Game-changing quarterback? Check. Junior signal caller Sam Noyer is poised for a Metro Player of the Year-type season.

Stable offensive and defensive lines that can control the game in the trenches? Beaverton has that, too. Left tackle Jared Hilbers is a 6-foot-7 monster who committed to the University of Washington this summer and wreaks havoc at defensive end. John Burchett, Zach Salu and Ryland Boyer are broad-shouldered beings bordering Hilbers on both sides of the line.

Multitalented playmakers on the outside who can do special things when the ball’s in their hands offensively and turn the field into a no-fly zone defensively? Marcille, Nnoli, Bryce Barker, Eric Hurd and Anthony Albright, among so many others comprise what is perhaps the best collection of skill position talent in Metro.

“Our offense is going to be one of the real strong points,” said Marcille. “I don’t know if a lot of defenses can stop our offense. I don’t think people can match up with us because we have so much talent across the board at every position. Everybody on our team can do stuff.”

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton senior running back Chidubem Nnoli is back at full strength after dealing with a nagging high ankle sprain last season. Nnoli figures to get a lot of carries for the Beaver offense as well as see time at corner.

To boot, Beaverton has a defense with anchors such as Yann and Casey Cornwell, to go along with all those two-way returners such as Barker and Nnoli who have been through the fire and come out toughened and liable to lay some wood on the gridiron.

The Beaver skeptics will certainly be out in force at the thought of Beaverton winning its first Metro title in more than a decade.

How can a team that only won one league game last year suddenly rise to the top of what’s arguably the toughest conference in operation? Why should a squad that was pummeled by Jesuit and Southridge last season be given the same type of consideration as say Westview, who was second in Metro in 2013 or Sunset, who brings back all-league quarterback Willy Pflug?

All are valid points. However, when one examines how many juniors and sophomores played major roles last year, and how much playing time they received because of a small senior class, it’s easy to see how seasoned Beaverton really is. Yes, they lost five Metro games and were put through the Jesuit-Southridge ringer in consecutive weeks.

But, the Beavers picked up invaluable, live-bullet experience against great competition and won two playoff games against Thurston and Sprague before losing to eventual final-four entry Canby. Those lessons, as trying and dire as they were last year, all hardened these returners for the season that lies ahead.

“We have people who have been there before and know what to do,” said Marcille. “You learn from your mistakes. So, from those tough games you play, you know what you can do better the next time. And, you have to go through adversity to get better.”

“I think it’s our time now,” said Nnoli. “Last year we were really young. For a lot of us, it was our first year on varsity, but we still went that far in the playoffs.”

The Canby loss left Beaverton wanting much more than a second round exit. Though their run through the playoffs was unpredicted, Marcille said the Beavers felt unsatisfied and came back in January more motivated to make deafening noise this coming season. “We’re really confident,” said Marcille. “But, we’re not going to brag about it. We’re going to show teams how good we can be. It’s cool because I like being the underdog. I think we’re going to surprise a lot of teams.”

A sophomore last year entrusted to run Beaverton’s four-to-five wide receiver, no-huddle offense, Noyer in particular said he learned more about what it takes to be successful at the varsity level. There were games early in which the 6-foot-4 signal caller struggled in.

Yet, by season’s end, it was clear the rising junior had it what it takes leadership-wise, handling the pressure, throwing the ball and delivering it to his playmakers on time, to be special.

And, after a stellar summer picking up a pair of underclass MVPs on the combine circuit to accompany 12 games of experience to fall back on, Noyer is ready to take Beaverton’s offense to another echelon.

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton seniors Stephen Marcille and Bryce Barker were both all-Metro last season as juniors. They are two of the key returners the Beavers hopes can carry them to the top of Metro.

“Last year was kind of getting my feet wet and getting comfortable back there,” said Noyer. “This year, my confidence is definitely going to go up more because of the team I have right now. I feel I’m more poised this year. When you get out there and have experience, the game just slows down. As a quarterback, that’s crucial.”

Marcille said he, Noyer and the rest of Beaverton’s deep group of wide receivers were at Beaverton High five days a week this summer, lifting weights, becoming quicker with plyometrics and alders, working on routes and timing out on the field, improving the chemistry that was created last season and now is even further enhanced.

Hilbers, Boyer and Burchett and the Beaver linemen shoved sleds and pumped iron relentlessly in preparation for their square-off with star defenders such as Southridge’s Zack Wilbur and Jesuit’s Nick Miller.

Plastered to the Beavers’ weight room wall is an attendance chart of sorts, signaling who’s been putting their noise to the grindstone and showing how bad they want success this summer.

Rare was the empty square next to a player’s day, identifying an absentee. X’s amongst every player from sophomore-to-senior were the norm, indicating Beaverton’s work ethic and drive to considerably improve.

“There is no off-season,” said Noyer. “We’re in the gym as a much as we can. We’re just grinding. This is a big season. This is what we’ve been looking forward to for a while, and we don’t want to take that for granted this year. This team could be amazing, really.”

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Beaverton senior Stephen Marcille said the Beavers have been hard at work this summer preparing for what they hope is a run to a Metro title.

“We’ve been excited since Jan. 1,” added Yann. “That’s when a lot of people started working. Nobody on this team has been slacking at all. I think we’re really prepared for this season. Last year, we worked, but I don’t think we ever worked this hard. We’re all going to be healthier, stronger and smarter, and that’ll benefit our team.”

Nnoli (high-ankle sprain) and Yann (shoulder) both dealt with nagging injuries that never truly healed until after the season. Both said they’re back to full strength with Yann ready to anchor a strong Beaver linebacking core and Nnoli prepped to carry the load at running back and man the secondary at cornerback.

“I feel healthy,” said Nnoli. “I feel good. My cuts are pretty nice, and I’m ready to play both sides of the ball.”

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