Meet Central Catholic football's biggest X-factor
This past summer, there were plenty of moments when Central Catholic High School senior Stryder Todd-Fields wasn't sure if he wanted to suit up for football again.
After taking fourth in the boys 100-meter dash at a non-OSAA sanctioned state finals last spring, the senior contemplated sticking to the track.
However, the Friday night lights' beckon was too strong. And those lights rewarded Todd-Fields rather quickly.
On the season's opening kickoff last Friday against Camas (Washington), the senior put his track speed to good use on the gridiron by taking the kick 98 yards to the house.
The Rams, defending 6A Oregon state champs from 2019, went on to take down the Papermakers, who are defending Washington state champs themselves.
"You always want to bring great energy to the first play of the game," Todd-Fields said. "I'm running it, and I just see a huge gap. Credit to all my blockers, I didn't really have to do anything but run straight through."
The kickoff return was just the beginning as Todd-Fields picked up an interception to close the first half and had a 73-yard TD reception in the second half that was ultimately the game-winner in the 28-17 victory.
Todd-Fields almost had a punt return TD, but it was called back due to a block in the back penalty that didn't really affect the play.
"I was actually contemplating not playing football this year and sticking to track," Todd-Fields said postgame. "I'm glad I didn't, obviously."
His coach, Steve Pyne, is pretty happy the senior wide receiver/defensive back decided to put the football cleats back on as well.
Seeing Todd-Fields' performance in the opening game wasn't a surprise to Pyne though, as he knows what kind of person he has in the Rams' senior.
"He's kind of a salty kid," Pyne said. "He's an amazing young man, but he's that competitive, salty kid. I'm really proud of him and the way he played (Friday night). He kind of showed why he, in my opinion, is a next-level player in college somewhere."
Todd-Fields said he's talked to a few schools about playing either football or running track next year, but nothing too serious — yet.
Part of the issue could be that he's surrounded by talent on the No. 1-ranked Rams team, including highly recruited receivers in wideout Jordan King and tight end Riley Williams, with Emar'rion Winston, an Oregon commit on the defensive side as well.
However, Todd-Fields knows other teams are game-planning for those other guys, so he and fellow wideout Zach Grisham understand what their role is and how they can best execute.
"You have two of the best threats receiver-wise in the state," Todd-Fields said. "You have teams game planning for them, and then I can just be on the backside and get wide open.
"They'll forget about me and Zach Grisham, but we're both dogs too."
The dogs' next hunt will be against David Douglas at 7 p.m. Friday in Central Catholic's first league game of the season.
While the eyes of many might be fixed on the recruiting stars of those around Todd-Fields, the Rams know they have a man under the radar who can truly leave a team with a salty taste in their mouth.
And while track may end up being Todd-Fields calling at the next level, there's nothing quite like being back under the Friday night lights.
"It's always fun to have fans in the stands. Last year we didn't really have that," Todd-Fields said. "This means a lot, and I'm happy my team won and we are able to celebrate together."
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