By STEVE BRANDON/PORTLAND TRIBUNE: Quarterback options, beefy batch of linemen hike Democrats' Portland Interscholastic League hopes

Excitement is brewing already for Jefferson High's 2017 football season.

The Democrats are coming off a 6-4 year (4-3 in the PIL) in which they scored 28.7 points per game and gave up 17.3, and pushed 10th-ranked Westview till the end in a round-of-32 playoff game before falling 52-38.

Westview has been scheduled to visit Jeff on Sept. 8 for the Demos' second game of 2017. The Wildcats are replacing Hillsboro on the schedule. Jefferson opens Sept. 1 at home against Redmond.

Anthony Jordan, a 1991 Jefferson grad, is entering his second year in charge of the school's football program. The Demos are graduating several key performers from 2016, but they will return some talent, too, and should have a young but very sizable crop of linemen.

Romeo Akil, who has started two years at quarterback, is likely to play more at other spots in the spread offense this fall.

"He'll be all over the field — we're going to try to get the ball in his hands as much as possible because he's magical with it," Jordan says, eyeing Akil at receiver and slot, as well as in a defensive back role.

The tweaks are possible because the Demos have an up-and-coming QB in 6-2 Caleb Jordan. He made his debut as a freshman in the Oregon School Activities Association playoffs last year and threw for three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards at Westview.

Returning in a batch of nine seniors are standouts Sage Leigh, a 6-5, 230-pound defensive end, and defensive backs Xavier Miller and Robert Ford. Leigh and Ford also have played varsity basketball for Jefferson, the 2017 state champion.

Receiver Nehemian Dedmon, who will be one of eight expected juniors on the '17 football team, "has had an incredible offseason," Jordan says.

Sophomore-to-be running back/DB Elijah Elliott also could be a mainstay.

"But probably what I'm most excited about is our offensive and defensive lines," Jordan says.

The list of players up front includes juniors-to-be Andre Harris, 6-5, 320, and Arrel Dixon, 6-4, 315; senior center Jevondray Cole ("a 3.9 GPA kid, really smart, understands the offense really well," Jordan says); and senior Will Taylor, 6-5, 205.

Among Jefferson's array of sophomore linemen:

Alatini Mapapalangi, 6-3, 265; Eddie Ramos,6-4, 305; Keoni Hepa, 6-3, 250; Maleek Christianson, 6-1, 260; and Timothy "TJ" Price Jr., 6-0, 265.

"At PIL schools, it's often hard to find size, but we have it," Jordan says, "and these aren't just big bodies who can't move."

The size is partly due to what Jordan calls "probably the best offseason program Jeff has ever seen," with players taking advantage of a new weight room.

Price's father, former Jefferson coach Tim Price, will be back on the staff to coach the defensive line and work with returning D-coordinator Lionel Gay.

"We have great, athletic (skill) guys, and our line is athletic as well, so we'll be able to move the pocket and use our two-headed monster at quarterback," Jordan says. "If our linemen can do what we hope they can, it will really help us get the ball to those guys who are pretty electric."

That includes Akil, who is projected to play DB or wide receiver in college.

"He knows his days at quarterback will end in high school, so we'll play him in different spots, and scouts will see him run (pass) routes," Jordan says. "Caleb has played quarterback since the third grade, and he's had an incredible offseason, too, working at the Empire Quarterback Academy (a program at Jefferson). His arm strength has gotten better, he understands reads, and he has good footwork."

Six of Jefferson's nine regular-season games will be at home next season; last year, the Democrats played only three games at home, and none till Sept. 30.

Jordan says he expects the top PIL football teams to be Lincoln, Madison and Grant, "and I believe we'll be in the hunt, as well."

The schedule will favor the team or teams that can be in late-season form by midseason.

"We all four play each other in weeks 4 to 6, so it'll make the cream rise to the top really early," Jordan says.

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