Whenever a successful Sunset football team senior class graduates, they leave behind a certain sweat equity investment.
They don't want their hard work to be for naught. The hope, after pushing the program forward, is that the next group picks up the mantle and takes it up another level. The latest senior group to pass through Sunset was a testament to what dedicating yourself to the team cause can achieve. Kadin Williams was once a short and stout offensive lineman who morphed into a bell cow running back and tackling machine middle linebacker. Marve Nyembo went from role player to game-changing all-league star. Aaron Krause became Sunset's security blanket in the passing game, a mismatch at 6-foot-6 who could line up anywhere out of the spread, multiple wide receiver formations and make plays. Standouts such Taye Courtney and Hunter Newcomb were Sunset's bedrock in the trenches.
The seniors spearheaded a 4-1 finish in the Metro League, which was good for second place in the conference. They clinched homefield advantage in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs for the first time since 2013, crushed Bend and was a defensive stand away against Liberty from the quarterfinals. Surely, there were underclassmen who had a huge hand in helping the Apollos achieve those heights, junior signal caller Callum Craig being chief among them.
It was a season to be proud of, but for those seniors who leave behind the program in good hands, the hope is that 2018 was just the beginning of something bigger down the road.
"From what happens now determines what we are," Nyembo said. "We had a good year. We won a playoff game, a home playoff game. But this is just the starting point. If we want to be a real team that beats the Jesuits, the Central Catholics, the Lake Oswegos, we have to build on this. Now it's not 'Let's get one home playoff game', it's 'Let's get two home playoff games and win those'. We don't want our year to be a fluke."
Nyembo, Krause and Williams all represented the Apollos in the Les Schwab Bowl on June 15. Williams ran the ball three times for 11 yards, Krause reeled in three catches and Nyembo bagged five tackles. Williams will play for Linfield in the fall and Nyembo will take his talents to Southern Oregon. Putting on the pads again and playing with and against athletes of his next level ilk gave Nyembo a glimpse of what's to come.
"It was the first game where I got to experience the college level because everybody out here was good," Nyembo said. "I'm excited to get to Southern (Oregon). We had maybe seven, eight guys who are going down there with me. It was really good just competing and getting ready for college."
Nyembo was a two-time varsity letterman for both football and track and field. He received second-team team all-conference as a linebacker and third team all-conference as a tight end. He led his team in interceptions with four. Nyembo also had three defensive touchdowns, leading the Metro League all while maintaining a 3.5 grade point average. For a player coming into high school football without as much fanfare, Nyembo certainly exceeded expectations, specifically in a senior year that was stellar.
"Coming from freshman year until now I've been a starter, but never really been 'that' guy when it comes to the team," Nyembo said. "This year I kind of had a breakout year and the team was able to rely on me heavy. I enjoyed it. It was something different and hopefully, I take that onto college."
Williams was a two-time varsity letterman in football at Sunset High School. He was named third team all-conference at linebacker as a junior. His senior year he was named first-team team all-conference as a linebacker and second team all-conference as a running back. Williams led his team in tackles and rushing touchdowns, helping Nyembo set a new standard at Sunset that will act as a barometer of sorts moving into the future.
"Going into my freshman year I saw our varsity team win one playoff game throughout four years," Nyembo said. "We didn't really know who we were coming in. We didn't know if we'd be winners. But now they know what this program is capable of. They have some good pieces coming back like (Craig). I'm excited to see how they do."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.