Estacada football hungry for state title
How do you build on a historic season? Estacada football is about to find out.
Last year the Rangers, coming out of a pandemic-shortened offseason, ran through the Tri-Valley Conference with an undefeated regular season (9-0). They went on to win big in the opening rounds of playoffs, a 37-0 drubbing of Stayton and a 44-22 victory over La Grande, before falling in the semifinals to Marist Catholic.
And that isn't a distant memory for this group. With Estacada returning nine starters on offense and eight on defense, there is now a core of veterans who knows what it takes to win and are hungry to reach that final level.
"This is an experienced group that wants to challenge for the 4A state title," said Coach Andy Mott.
The Rangers will once again look to run the ball every chance they get, leaning on a mauling offensive line that paved the way to more than 300 rushing yards a game last season.
Back are all-state senior guard Dominic Nacoste, honorable mention all-state senior Cody White, and all-league selections seniors Andrew Turner and Mariano Martinez. Joining the group is senior tight end Mark Youngberg, who is adept at cracking down on linebackers to open up running lanes.
The lion's share of carries will go to senior Waylon Riedel, who received first-team all-league and honorable mention all-state honors last season. His coach described the bruiser as sporting a "punishing physical downhill style" between the tackles. Similar to last year, Estacada will have a squadron of backups to bring in fresh legs and keep the ball churning late in games. Senior runners James Durand, Tucker Jackson and Payton Matney will all play roles in the rushing attack.
Under center is Tri-Valley Offensive Player of the Year Cory James. Now in his senior season, the first-team all-league and honorable mention all-state quarterback returns as the Rangers' leading rusher.
"After a great season last year, he brings back a ton of talent executing our option offense," Mott said. "He is a threat to score every time he runs the ball, has improved a ton as a passer and will be a big dual threat for us this year."
Many of the offensive stars make an impact on both sides of the field.
Nacoste in the anchor on the defensive line, while Riedel and Matney will serve as inside linebackers, playing physical and making quick reads.
"(Nacoste) a dominant force with a high motor, making it difficult for anyone to run the ball," Mott said. "(Riedel and Matney) will have their names called all season long."
Defensive end senior Andrew Turner was described by his coach as one of the strongest and fastest players on the team. His goal will be to hound opposing quarterbacks and chase after sacks all season long.
At the end of last season, after coming up short of the championship game, Mott brought his players together. They huddled in the end zone, muddy, tired, but with heads held high. They were already looking ahead to this year.
"We are hungry to get back to that stage," Mott said.
Rangers football will open the season Friday, Sept. 2, with a home bout against Mazama.
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