During the worst wildfires Oregon has ever seen, two best friends and football teammates texted to ensure the other was doing okay.
Estacada High School seniors Justin Lang and Isaiah Schaffer both evacuated for two weeks from their homes as the Riverside Wildfire roared toward their community last summer. Lang said at one point the flames reached just a half-mile from his home as he stayed with his grandmother in Clackamas. For awhile he wasn't sure there would be a home to go back to.
"It was scary, but everything worked out," Lang said. "Talking with Isaiah really helped."
Eventually the fires subsided, and Estacada residents returned home — singed but not burned. The wildfires and evacuations were difficult, but allowed the toughness and compassion of the town to shine through.
"The community helped a lot — running to get water and supplies, staying in contact and making sure everyone was okay," Schaffer said.
That mindset has bled onto the football field as the Estacada Rangers are taking on this shortened spring season. They are looking out for one another, playing as a team, and making sure every moment counts. And, it's helped translate into two big wins the past two weeks.
"We are used to playing in the rain, so the sun has been nice," Schaffer said with a laugh.
Estacada coach Andy Mott wants to establish the run whenever his offense takes the field, and often its Schaffer who provides that initial spark as the starting quarterback. He leads the team's triple-option offense that is designed to keep defenders guessing.
"Isaiah is a huge part of our offense," Mott said.
Schaffer's main responsibility is managing all the moving parts of the Rangers' offense, but he is also a dangerous runner who can break loose in a hurry.
"Isaiah plays with a ton of heart and passion and is the type of kid every coach wants on his team," Mott said.
Lang is also a "jack of all trades" for the Rangers on offense, but his biggest impact is the physicality he brings to both sides of the ball. He takes snaps at running back and tight end on offense, and plays linebacker on defense.
"Justin is one of our most physical players which makes him a great fit for our style of offense and defense," Mott said.
In the season opener on the road against Gladstone, the Rangers set the tone for how the spring season will go. Though Estacada lost 35-22, they surged in the second half to keep things close. As a team they recorded 400 yards rushing led by Schaffer — 107 yards — and Sophomore Waylon Riedel —102 yards.
In week two the Rangers returned home and won a 48-6 rout against Madras. Junior Jacob Berhman led the team with 95 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns, while Lang filled up the stat sheet defensively. The senior recorded 8 tackles, 3 sacks and an interception.
"Getting that first win felt great," Lang said. "It helped us connect and grow as a team and family."
Then, last Friday, the Rangers exploded again, beating Molalla 54-7. Next they play at Astoria (update: Rangers won 36-6).
There aren't many seniors on the Rangers, and Mott has stressed the importance of getting his younger players as many snaps as possible. That is a mindset the senior class has taken on — they not only want to win, but help the underclassmen get better and develop.
"In practice we joke and have a good time, but when it's time to take the field we get down to doing our jobs," Schaffer said. "This team is important to all of us."
Last week's scores
Gresham 17, Parkrose 6
Central Catholic 21, Barlow 7
Estacada 54, Molalla 7
Sandy 33, Reynolds 26
Newport 22, Corbett 8
This week's games
Thursday, March 25
David Douglas (1-0) at Wilsonville, 7 p.m.
Friday, March 26 (all 7 p.m.)
McDaniel (1-2) at Parkrose (0-3)
Clackamas (2-1) at Sandy (1-2)
Estacada (2-1) at Astoria
Corbett (1-2) at Rainier (1-1)
Saturday, March 27
Reynolds (1-1) at Centennial, 1 p.m.
Central Catholic (3-0) vs. Grant (2-1), at Franklin High, time TBD
Gresham (1-2) at Barlow (1-2), 4 p.m.
Soccer — Centennial (4-1) and Sandy (4-1-1) started well among Mt. Hood Conference boys teams. Estacada had a 4-1-2 record in Class 4A play.
Mountainside beat Barlow 2-0 in girls play last week. Barlow was 2-2-1 entering the week; Centennial (4-2) also had a good early record among Mt. Hood teams.
Volleyball — Central Catholic started 7-0 in the first season under coach Kayla Hambley. Sandy (5-2) and Gresham (4-3) also had winning records among Mt. Hood Conference teams.Corbett started 6-2 in Class 4A play.
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