AJ Schlatter, Alejandro Sandoval, Zach Kraus and coach Mike Vaught represented Canby well at the Les Schwab Bowl.

by: COREY BUCHANAN - AJ Schlatter orchestrating the defense during the North's 31-21 victory over the South at the Les Schwab Bowl.

Though he didn’t receive an award for his effort at the Les Schwab Bowl, Canby alumnus AJ Schlatter might have put forth the most dominant performance of any all-star athlete.

Schlatter played the entire North vs. South all-star game, contributed six tackles, two forced fumbles and two pass deflections, including one where he emphatically batted down a pass just after it was released.

Two of Schlatter’s tackles occurred in the first half, and both forced the South team to punt.

However, Schlatter didn’t really start mowing over the South offense until the third quarter. In the third, Schlatter forced a fumble, which gave the North the ball at the South’s 20-yard line and stymied two South running backs from eclipsing the line of scrimmage. Schlatter likely would’ve been named the most valuable defensive back had Aloha’s Maurice McSwain not taken his second interception to the house to seal the North’s victory.

However, Canby coach and North squad defensive coordinator Mike Vaught and former Canby defensive lineman and North squad defensive lineman Alejandro Sandoval believe Schlatter deserved the MVP award.

“Personally, the guy who got defensive back player of the game got a couple picks, everybody sees that but AJ had multiple tackles and caused havoc on defensive. He was cramping but didn’t come out and played through it,” Vaught said.

Sandoval added: “Oh man, AJ, he played a great game. I thought he should’ve got the MVP.”

Schlatter wouldn’t go as far as to say he made a statement Saturday afternoon at Hillsboro Stadium, but rather, a “semi-statement.”

The former Canby linebacker, who is planning to walk-onto the Portland State football team, attributes his strong performance to, “all of the hard work I’ve done between last football season and now and just staying in shape.” He added: “I lift every single day, run every single day and just do anything I can to get better.”

Along with Schlatter, Vaught orchestrated the North’s defense, Sandoval clogged up running lanes and lineman Zach Kraus gained experience anchoring an unfamiliar offense. Because Canby plays under center, Kraus never had to release snaps out of the shotgun. However, on Saturday, he kick-started a shotgun based offense.

“He’s never shot-gunned snaps before and he did a great job. He came into the game, prepared for it and it paid off,” Vaught said.

The game forced a group of players from each half of the state of Oregon who have been battling each other for years to unite for one week.

For Schlatter, bitter enemies became great friends. He cited former Central Catholic Rams players Aidan Wilder, Ryan Nall and Zach Davis, as well as Sherwood’s Keegan Lawrence as players he despised, but now adores.

“You grow up thinking you hate some guys that go to rival schools and now they become some of your best friends that I’ll keep in contact with for the rest of my life,” he said.

The all-stars event coordinators planned a packed schedule for players to have fun and get to know each other.

Throughout the week, along with practices and meetings, the team watched X-Men together, ate spicy food until their mouths burst into flames during a spicy food-eating contest at Buffalo Wild Wings and enjoyed unlimited food and competed in a three-man bowling competition at Big Al’s.

“The Les Schwab people do a fantastic job with Prime Time Sports to take care of us,” Vaught said.

But once Saturday rolled around, the North squad handled their business, defeating the South, 31-21.

“It was cool playing with people we played against, and now we’re here working together as a family with the goal to win this game and we came out on top,” Sandoval said.

Though it was a successful Saturday for the Canby brigade, it marked the final time the three players and coach Vaught will ever grace the football field together.

“It was so much fun for me to have another week with those three great kids,” Vaught said. “I hate not having them around after this week,” he added.

Next year, Sandoval will join the wrestling team at Southern Oregon and plans on playing football his sophomore year and Kraus will play football at the College of the Siskiyous in California.

Schlatter will miss high school football and hopes his best memories aren’t behind him.

“It’s sad. Everyone always says if they go pro, the thing that they miss is college and when they are in college, they miss high school football,” he said.

But he is happy with the way his pre-collegiate career ended.

Schlatter said: “This was really my last hurrah for high school but it was good to go out with a win and I had fun doing it.”

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