Local players step up again in 2022 Les Schwab Bowl
For some players, the 2022 Les Schwab Bowl put an exclamation point on their high school football careers.
For others, it was a signpost pointing to further greatness ahead.
But for pretty much all of them, it was a really good time.
The Les Schwab Bowl, a high school football all-star game featuring players from across the state, was held Saturday, July 2, at Linfield College in McMinnville.
"It was fun. The whole week was really fun," said Gabe Olvera, a graduated senior running back from Lake Oswego. "Playing in the Les Schwab game was something that I wanted to do, and yeah, it was very fun ending my senior season in this game."
"It was awesome. It was a really fun week," said Zac Waible, a graduated senior linebacker from Lakeridge. "It was really good. I wish they would have done (it the same way) last year so I could have played in it then."
The 74th iteration of the game featured a handful of significant changes, jettisoning its former North vs. South geographical matchup in favor of a Team Columbia vs. Team Willamette game. Further, the game included players from all grade levels for the first time.
Following a live draft by the coaching staffs and a week of practice, the two teams got after it on Saturday, with Team Columbia racing out to a four-touchdown lead in the first half and rolling to a 28-9 victory.
Local players involved in the game include: West Linn sophomore lineman Stephen del Giudice, Olvera, Rex Putnam freshman lineman Jace Eveland, Lake Oswego senior lineman Austin Leykam, Clackamas junior wide receiver A.J. Perez and Waible.
For Team Willamette, del Giudice, Eveland and Leykam helped their team rush for 127 yards and pass for another 181, with Liberty quarterback Hiro Diamond picking up 43 yards on eight carries.
Canby QB Mikey Dixon, playing for Team Willamette, completed 10 of 17 passes for 62 yards with one interception. Clackamas' Perez, an incoming senior wide receiver, led Team Willamette with six catches for 64 yards.
For Team Columbia, Olvera rushed 15 times for a game-high 94 yards, while Waible led both teams with 12 tackles (including seven solo stops).
"I was a little rusty, but I mean, 12 tackles wasn't bad," said Waible, who will play next fall at Montana State University. "I loved our 'D' line. They were great. … With these guys, I did not get blocked a lot which was, honestly, it was a dream. … It made my job way easier."
"I just really enjoyed like our team chemistry," said Olvera, who will play next fall at Valparaiso University in Indiana. "I thought we had very good team chemistry compared to the other team. I feel like the whole week, we got really close to each other and that really helped us to get the win."
Beyond the stats and scores, however, the Les Schwab Bowl gave its participants much more than another high school football game. For Waible and Olvera, the camaraderie and new friendships they made over the week meant everything.
"I think what mostly stood out to me was just meeting all the new players, all the different people from all over the state," Olvera said. "It was just really fun getting to meet all of them and creating new friendships and spending time with each other. … Creating those friendships ended up being really, really fun and I would definitely recommend (playing in the Les Schwab Bowl) to anyone who gets the chance to do it."
"Honestly, I was really skeptical about even going — I didn't know if I really wanted to do it," Waible said. "But then we just started meeting each other, and talking … (and) it really brought us together. I think our chemistry really just came together throughout the week, which obviously helped us win the game."
Some of those new friendships, it turned out, came from unexpected places, including bonds built with former rivals, for Olvera players from Jesuit, and for Waible with former opponents from Central Catholic.
"That's what I was thinking about the Central Catholic guys," Waible said. "But they're winners, obviously, and their coaches and staff were awesome on our team."
"The Jesuit players, I didn't really know any of them," Olvera said. "But there were quite a few on my team, and getting to know them, they're actually very nice and I actually became close with some of them."
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