Metro League stars show out at Les Schwab Bowl
When you're Southridge's Kade Hustler and been the biggest, baddest dude on the football field since the third grade, racking up body counts, you're bound to pick a few adversaries along the way.
As the lone Jesuit representative stepping into a room full of wolves who could never beat you or your team, Zach Carr was certain to get a few sideways glances initially.
Sunset senior Marve Nyembo put many a Metro League opponent on his personal Hudl highlight reel, especially this past fall when he wrecked every school up and down the district.
The Les Schwab Bowl brought this pack of all-league alphas together and put them on one team, representing the North. Name tags weren't necessary. Reputations of each player preceded themselves. When Hustler, Carr, Nyembo, Southridge's Keyvaun Eady, Beaverton's Ethan Wilborn, Sunset's Aaron Krause and Kadin Williams, Aloha's Elijah Vinzant and Cesar Sato all congregated together for the first time at Pacific University for a week of full-padded practice it could've been cringe-worthy awkward. In this day in age where fraternizing and friendship tend to outweigh crosstown feuds, Metro stays petty and cantankerous, especially in football.
But this group of players put their differences to the side quickly, knowing their talents could help the North and put on a good showing for the conference they competed in over the last four years.
The result wasn't what they craved as the North fell to the South 33-28 in a shootout at Hillsboro Stadium on June 15. But each Metro representative made a positive impact in their last high school game and each walked away with dozens of memories that'll last a lifetime.
"At first I was like 'How am I supposed to play with these guys, especially the Jesuit guys who I never really liked to begin with," Nyembo said with a laugh. "But as the week went on, those are good guys. There's a reason they're here. They're really cool guys if you get to know them. They just wear different uniforms on Friday nights."
"At the start of the week, I was a little skeptical coming in...I'm not always the nicest guy to play against," Hustler said with a smile. "Everybody was kind of quiet to begin with. But as the week went on, we got closer. From there we created that bond and brought it out on the field. We knew we were going to be competing against some of the best players in the state."
Hustler, as is typical for the 6-foot-4, 220-pound all-around athlete, played everywhere: defensive tackle, tight end and long snapper for the North. The future Oregon State Beaver racked up four tackles and a sack, manning the trenches alongside Vinzant, while Carr, Nyembo stood behind him at linebacker and Soto played cornerback.
"These guys know I'm a fierce competitor and I don't want to lose in anything," Hustler said. "I was just out there doing anything I could to get the dub. We came up short, but it was a fun experience, something I'll cherish the rest of my life."
Vinzant knifed into the backfield a few times, applying pressure on the South signal callers. Soto helped nullify a pair of potential long South runs by weaving around a blocking wide receiver and coming up with two solo tackles. Wilborn had a big 59-yard catch-and-run late in the third quarter that set up a North score early in the fourth. Williams had 11 yards on three carries and Nyembo finished with three tackles. Krause had three catches for 32 yards.
"Everybody out there was good," Nyembo said. "That's not something you experience every game in high school. Everyone was out here for a reason and it was really fun doing it."
In the week leading up to the game, both the North and South spent time at the St. Mary's Home for Boys, playing and hanging out with some of the less-privileged youth, those who have come from poverty, broken homes, abuse or unstable living environments.
"It was life-changing," Hustler said. "Those kids don't really come from a lot. Pretty much our whole team is blessed to be in the position we're at with our families helping us, carrying us this far in our lives and setting us on this next journey we have. Just to spend time with kids who aren't so fortunate and let them know we're there for them was great."
Eady had the highlight of the game, reeling in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Liberty's Brad Norman in the first quarter. The play was a classic illustration of Eady's career. The speedy wideout got a step on the South defensive back and then used his freaky leaping ability to high point the football along the right side of the end zone for six. Throw Eady a jump ball and the 2018 Class 6A high jump champ is going to win that battle every time.
"That's my favorite play," Eady said. "The coaches called a vertical route, the quarterback threw a good ball to my back shoulder and it was there."
"He's been doing that since seventh grade," Hustler said of Eady.
As the only Crusader to suit up in the LSB, Carr was exposed to the customary fancy bus, expensive education cracks that all Jesuit athletes have to absorb in an all-star setting. But the linebacker took on a leadership role early in the week, learned the playbook quickly and became one of the more gregarious players on the North squad.
"It was interesting, sometimes you get the Jesuit jokes and it'd be all on me to get them back, but it was fun," Carr said with a smile. "I got to meet a lot of new kids. Some of the Metro guys I've known or played with in the past. I didn't have a group to come into, so that helped me meet more kids."
Carr came up with a big interception in the fourth quarter, one that halted a promising drive South drive inside the red zone. Carr said he was actually supposed to blitz on the play, but sniffed out the deep pass attempt when the South fullback exited the backfield on a pass route, ran stride for stride with him and picked off the ball in the end zone. The pick prevented a score with the North trailing 33-28.
"(Carr) was Metro Defensive Player of the Year for a reason," Nyembo said. "He's a leader. We had him at (middle) linebacker and he was all over the place, doing things the defense needed. I could see why Jesuit relied on him so heavily."