Oregon City football looking up in 2021 season
There is life at Oregon City.
A year after going 0-5 in the pandemic-shortened spring season, and a week after losing their ninth straight game over three seasons, the Pioneers broke through.
Oregon City, in its first year under new head coach Shane Hedrick, snapped that losing streak — a streak that spanned 693 days — by beating Franklin 48-12 on Sept. 10. Now, Hedrick and the Pios want to build on that success.
"Why didn't they win (last year)? I can't tell you that because I wasn't there," Hedrick said. "But I can tell you this, our kids were well-coached and they are starting to put those details together now and we're seeing improvements on a daily basis. I feel real good about where our team's going."
This year's team will be led by senior quarterback Camdyn Stiegeler (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) — a transfer from Sheldon — a couple experienced returners on the line, senior running back James Carter (6-0, 190) and senior wide receiver Joey Shaw (6-3, 180).
"We really didn't know much about (Stiegeler) until after … he moved into the district," Hedrick said. "He's a coach's son, he's … got good football sense and he throws a nice ball that comes off his hand well. As he gets more involved in the offense and used to it, he'll just get better."
Carter — Hedrick called him the team's workhorse — will get the lion's share of the carries at running back, working behind a line of senior Dawson Kuykendall (6-1, 190), senior Diego Casteneda (6-2, 270), junior Jake Hood (6-4, 270), junior Jacob Nimo (6-0, 250) and junior Dane Sorenson (6-1, 205).
"Kuykendall is … kind of undersized, but really gets to the ball well, finishes and goes whistle to whistle," Hedrick said, adding that "if I had to go to battle with one guy, it's Diego Castaneda. … He has great leadership qualities."
In addition to Shaw, the Pioneers will also look to junior Ethan Hopwood (6-1, 190) at tight end.
"We've got to establish the run," Hedrick added. "I firmly believe that you've got to run to win and you've got to pass to score touchdowns. They've got to complement each other."
Head coach: Shane Hedrick
2020-21 record: 0-5 in Three Rivers League play, 0-5 overall
2021 outlook: "Our kids (are) well coached and they are starting to put those details together now and we're seeing improvements on a daily basis. I feel real good about where our team's going." — Shane Hedrick
League contenders: Tualatin, West Linn, Lakeridge
Oregon City's defense starts with sophomore Ryder Swanson (6-0, 215) and junior Matthew Bozarth (5-11, 190) at defensive end, and senior lineman Garrhett Bell (6-2, 210), while junior Luke S. Kelly (5-11, 185) is the Pios' best linebacker.
"Swanson has done an amazing job anchoring that end," Hedrick said, adding that Bozarth is "a freaking nightmare with that speed he's got," while Kelly just "loves contact. You don't have to teach that. He's flying to the ball all the time."
And in the defensive backfield, OC will call on senior Trevor Jones (5-9, 165) and senior Cade Heitschmidt (6-0, 175) at cornerback.
"With this unit, they've already proven that they're a pretty good football team and they're getting more comfortable with each other in the backfield," Hedrick said. "When they're doing their assignments and they don't try to outplay themselves, they do a great job."
Now, the Pioneers just need to keep working and do their jobs on Friday nights.
"If we do our job and coach our kids up, if we get our kids ready and we prepare, in 37 years of coaching, it has always proven to be successful so that would be our goal," Hedrick said.
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