Parkrose at St. Helens: 'Doc' Anderson Stadium, Sept. 5, 7 p.m.
Parkrose quarterback Jonathan Boland broke into the Oregon prep football scene with a splash last season, darting his way to a 6-4 record alongside one of the states best receivers and helping the Broncos inch toward something that has only happened once in the last three decades.
And the St. Helens Lions are currently standing in their way.
Parkrose and St. Helens will kick off both the 2014 football season and the Northwest Oregon Conference schedule on Friday as the Broncos begin their quest to reach the playoff bracket and win for the first time since, well, ever.
The Lions might have gone 17 seasons without a win in the playoffs, but Parkrose has lost every playoff game theyve ever been in all four of them.
Boland and the Broncos fought to host a play-in game last year with high hopes. Parkrose was seeing one of their most successful football seasons in school history, having flattened several opponents by more than 40 points, and holding four teams without a touchdown.
But it didnt last. Parkrose fell to Churchill in the play-in round, a team that was routinely stomped by Sherwood, in the first round of the 16-team championship tournament.
Now, the Broncos are held as legitimate contenders for the NWOC league title, and given a slim shot at the Class 5A Oregon state title.
And given the lights-out talent of their 1-2 punch, it makes sense.
The Broncos are led by Boland, a hefty senior who runs like greased lightning and skirts defenders like a greased pig. Not only is he quick and shifty, Boland is incredibly difficult to fluster, even on broken plays. When the offensive line breaks down and defenders jump into the backfield, Boland can often quickly find a target downfield, tuck and run up the middle or use his speed to switch the field and buy himself more time.
More often than not, the target downfield is senior Marshawn Edwards, hailed by many as one of the best receivers in the state across all six divisions, and certainly one of the best in Parkrose program history.
Not quite as big as the 5-11, 190-pound Boland, Edwards packs a mean and talented punch with his 5-9 frame. He saw a handful of snaps at quarterback later in the season as Boland struggled with spotty injuries, and lined up everywhere from the line of scrimmage to running back in the I formation, though the roster lists him as a slot back. It wont be uncommon to see Edwards awaiting the snap just off the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle.
The scary part is, Edwards is just as fast, if not faster, than Boland. It was Edwards, not Boland, who made the watch list for the Northwest Oregon Conference, a year after being named to the all-state second team during his junior season.
If Boland is lightning, Edwards is thunder.
With the hullabaloo around the star duo, its easy to overlook the rest of the Broncos dangerous roster, especially the receiving corps. Boland threw 31 touchdowns a season ago, 10 of them to the hands of Edwards. That leaves plenty of unheralded receivers, such as junior Vincent Vy, to fill in the holes and keep a defense honest.
What the Lions need to do
Containing Boland is a main priority, but it cant be done at the expense of a big play from Edwards or a long pass downfield to one of the many hungry receivers. Attacking the backfield might work, it might not. And by St. Helens head coach Jared Phillips own admission, the Lions dont have a big name and big body like Jacob Zartman, who graduated last season, to disrupt opposing offensive lines and an entire offense.
Instead, their best option is likely to work at plugging the holes to shut down the easy running game up the middle, which seems to be when Parkrose is most dangerous. Even with as fast as players like Boland and Edwards can be at times, its the ability to zip through holes in the interior of the defense that makes the offense so difficult to stop.
Keeping Boland from running simply isnt a possibility, but limiting his damage is something the Lions can manage. The defensive line and linebackers will be tasked with keeping chances to a minimum, leaving the challenge of actually stopping Boland and Edwards to the defensive backs, especially the safeties.
Oftentimes a team facing a dual-threat quarterback like Boland will designate a QB spy, usually a safety, to watch the quarterback from their vantage point in the secondary. From that position, a speedy and strong player like sophomore safety Myles Terry can track Bolands movements and follow him to the point of attack. Terrys role as a major leader in the secondary will be essential as well, as he has the best view if whether the ball will move on the ground or through the air.
Parkrose relies on the big plays more than a nickel-and-dime attack, and taking away the huge gains and confidence-building advancements help toward making Parkrose into a beatable opponent. Its better to back off a little and catch the offense coming straight on, rather than get too aggressive and allow a player to get behind the defense.