The buzz surrounding Kade Hustler, Keyvaun Eady and Blake Sims once they enrolled at Southridge High School was palpable from day one.
Hustler was the hulking man child who wasn't confined to the trenches, Eady the explosive pass catcher who put defensive backs on blast, Sims the touchdown-scoring machine who could make a house call from the farthest reaches of the field.
Once they embedded themselves on the varsity level, their names were synonymous with the program, respected around the Metro League, revered by peers and opposing coaches, beloved by head coach Kevin Bickler and his staff. The trio helped Southridge reach the Class 6A playoffs in all four of their seasons as Skyhawks and beat Beaverton twice, once as juniors with Bradley Bickler at the helm, the other in a 35-30 free-for-all this past fall. Both wins over the crosstown rival came on the road, too. And while the extended playoff run and Metro title all three desired never came to pass, they'll leave a long-lasting legacy behind, one that'll be hard to top for any Southridge featured triad in the future.
"I feel like we set the bar for the next generations," Eady said. "We showed that you can get there. If you work hard you can get there too."
"When it comes down to it, it's not all about the wins and losses," Hustler said. "Forty years from now we're not going to be talking about if we went 8-2 or 4-4. It's about the bonds and the memories: those summer workouts, those early mornings, beating Beaverton."
Eady and Hustler ended their high school careers in the Les Schwab Bowl with plenty of personal highlights. The 6-foot-3 Eady jumped over a South defensive back for a spectacular touchdown near the right pylon of the end zone and led the North in targets and catches. Hustler had four solo tackles and a sack while playing defensive tackle. Hustler will walk on at Oregon State and Eady will play for Portland State in the fall.
"We always just tried to be the best we could to help our team win," Hustler said. "It's been a great experience for all of us just to realize we can take more steps. We didn't hit the ceiling yet. We still have a lot of growth in us."
Manning a position for the betterment of the team is old hat for Hustler at this point of his football life. An athletic, agile, bruising linebacker who doubled as a mismatch tight end, Hustler actually began his high school career at left tackle while taking on double teams as a defensive end. It wasn't until his senior year that Hustler began playing his natural middle linebacking spot. Wherever Southridge needed him to play, Hustler would go without argument. He earned first team all-conference honors at four different positions. As a junior, he was named first team all-conference at offensive tackle and defensive end. Then as a senior Hustler was named first team all-conference at tight end and linebacker.
"It's definitely something I'll remember," Hustler said. "It wasn't worth to go out there and just play 60 snaps when I can play 120+. I wanted to help my team win every Friday night. That's what I like to do."
Eady was a personal favorite of Bickler and Darik Salinas, the athletically gifted wide receiver with a never-ending catch radius, no fear and all-out effort on the outside. Eady was named first team all-conference as a wide receiver for both his junior and senior seasons. As a senior, he was also named first team all-conference as a defensive back.
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