Football team reloads for return to playoffs
Estacada's football program has made the playoffs a regular part of its season with three consecutive trips that have included runs to the semifinals (2016) and to the quarterfinals last year.
To make it four in a row, the Rangers are looking to fill some holes left by the graduation of several long-standing starters — most notably its quarterback Nick Keller, who is playing this fall at Linfield.
Much like Keller did several seasons ago, the Rangers' coaching staff is shifting junior Isaiah Shaffer from a running back spot to direct the attack.
"We started into spring knowing we would be looking at quarterbacks. We threw it out there to the guys and Isaiah took it full charge ahead," Rangers head coach Andy Mott said.
Shaffer is not foreign to the position, he played quarterback in middle school.
"Through summer 7-on-7s he showed he has the ability to throw the ball, but he is also able to run and take contact," Mott said.
Kaden Settle returns after starting at the wing spot last year, while Sam Garrison leads a pile of ball carriers in the backfield. Nate Hagel is expected to be the team's top target in the passing game.
The Rangers run a ground-dominated offense, although Mott likes to look for the big play through the air when defenses stack the line of scrimmage.
"It's pound, pound, pound, then look for that shot," Mott said. "Our receivers do a lot of blocking, but when they get their number called a lot of times it's going for a big play."
The Rangers have a deep rotation along the line, anchored by Jackson Turner, Conner McNulty and Devin Gotchall.
"That allows us to rotate guys through and keep guys going at 100 percent in the fourth quarter," Mott said.
Garrison at linebacker and Settle in the secondary are also playmakers on the defensive side.
"We expect Sam will be a tackling machine for us this year," Mott said. "He has a good nose for the ball and he brings a good punch when he gets there."
The Tri-Valley (Special District 2) for football has a much different look than Estacada will see across its other sports. For football, Gladstone and North Marion are the only other traditional members of the league.
With the OSAA honoring requests to play up or down based on a program's history, the Tri-Valley football alignment also includes a fellow 4A school in Woodburn along with Crook County and The Dalles from the 5A level.
Estacada has two more nonleague tune-ups before hosting Gladstone to start the Tri-Valley season on Sept. 27.
"Last year there were a lot of single-score games in our league — anybody can beat anybody — but the last three years the game with Gladstone has been for the league title," Mott said.
Sept. 6 @ Valley Catholic W 40-39
Sept. 13 vs. Molalla
Sept. 20 vs. Astoria
Sept. 27 vs. Gladstone
Oct. 4 @ Woodburn
Oct. 10 vs. North Marion
Oct. 18 vs. The Dalles
Oct. 25 @ Crook County
* Kickoff at 7 p.m.
This preview is slated for our Sept. 12, print edition.
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