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Quarterback Kessi returns from Scappoose High team that set a mark in Class 5A football

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Jakobi Kessi (8) upends a Hillsboro ball carrier during the 2018 season. Kessi will be returning to Scappoose as a senior quarterback and safety.Scappoose wasn't playing last week when Wilsonville and Thurston battled for the state championship.

But the Indians added to their football legacy and proved a thing or two in their historic 2018 season.

Moving up in classification from 4A to 5A, the Indians showed they could play with the "bigger boys." The Tribe finished 8-3, losing to only Wilsonville and twice to state semifinalist Pendleton.

Scappoose finished second to Wilsonville in the 5A Special District 1 West Division, then fell 21-14 at Pendleton's Round-Up Stadium in the quarterfinals.

Wilsonville didn't drop a game until the Nov. 24 finals, when it lost 30-27 to Thurston.

"It's never fun to lose, and I felt like we were every bit as good as Pendleton," Scappoose coach Sean McNabb says. "Our losses were to two of the better teams in the state."

The Indians averaged 36.7 points per game and, in their eight victories, they outscored their opponents by an average of 42.8-19.4.

Scappoose dominated La Salle Prep, 64-28, in a league playoff game and then won the school's first 5A postseason game, 20-14 over North Bend.

"There's 16 teams that make the state playoffs, and 15 are going to have a heartbreak while only one ends the year with that feeling of elation and excitement," McNabb says. "Our kids were disappointed at the end of the (playoff) game at Pendleton, but looking back, they should be proud of themselves.

"They performed really well. We have some tradition in Scappoose, and I felt like we lived up to that and maybe even exceeded that some this season."

McNabb listed the highlights as "just having the opportunity to move up and play at the 5A level ... beating St. Helens in our homecoming game ... and just this group that I've watched come all the way through. This senior class struggled a little bit as freshmen, so to play as they did this year is a testament to their attitude and commitment."

What's ahead for Scappoose football?

Some reloading, some rebuilding. Some returning players stepping into larger roles. Some new faces.

McNabb expects to have about a half-dozen starters back on both offense and defense, along with kicker Cade McDonald, who will be a junior.

The offense will return quarterback Jakobi Kessi and three starters up front.

"Having your quarterback back is always really good," McNabb says. "We've got to find a couple guys to slide in and play tackle, but there's a couple of kids in the sophomore and junior classes I feel could fit in nicely."

Kessi started all season as the signal-caller, while playing nearly all the way at free safety.

He completed 110 of 213 passes (51.6 percent) for 1,342 yards (122.0 per game), with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Listed at 6-0 and 200 pounds, he also ran 94 times for 659 yards and nine TDs.

"He's not really tall for a quarterback, but he's a perfectionist, a student of the game," McNabb says.

Kessi also was "a hard hitter" on defense, but the Indians might try to let him focus more on offense next season.

"It'd be nice to get him off the field a bit or maybe move him to be more of a strong safety," McNabb says. "We've got to give him some plays off once in a while just so he can have the ability to sit with me on the sidelines and look over things and be fresh offensively."

Scappoose will graduate top running backs Connor McNabb, Quincy Cleveland and Matt Roth, "so we've got to develop a couple of running backs," Coach McNabb says, "but we'll have a couple good receivers back," including Colton Frates, who caught 10 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns as a junior.

Connor McNabb posted 15 rushing touchdowns this season to go with five receiving TDs. He also ran back two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns, giving him 23 total TDs and a team-high 142 points (12.9 per game). He rushed for 1,410 yards (7.7 per carry) and caught 42 passes for 575 yards (13.7).

Cleveland ran 96 times for 727 yards (7.6) and scored 11 rushing touchdowns. He added 14 receptions for 72 yards.

Roth had 39 carries for 328 yards (8.4) and four TDs, with 10 catches for 109 yards.

"Not having those three running backs will change some things — we might be more of a passing team, based on what we have right now," Coach McNabb says. "We'll take some time this winter and evaluate that."

Also in the mix to play one or more positions will be Luke McNabb, a 6-1, 200-pounder who got some snaps as the backup QB this year as a freshman.

"Luke did some nice things, threw the ball really well," Coach McNabb says. "I think there are some things we can do with both him and Jakobi out there, and Luke probably could play a little H-back and some linebacker for us."

The returning O-linemen of note are center Jerico Archer and guards Cutter Sandstrom and Tommy McKedy, who could move to tackle. All three got various mention on the all-division team.

Defensive returnees should include some key linemen as well as defensive backs Thomas Greiner, Blake Morkert, Dylan Kramer and Ben Anicker, along with Slater Smiens and Conner Havlik and others at linebacker.

Morkert had five interceptions this year as a junior. Smiens rang up 70 tackles. Kramer had 29 stops, Greiner 25.

The 2019 schedule probably will look much the same as it did this year.

"I'm pretty sure we'll play at Pendleton again in a (divisional) crossover game, and I'm sure we'll go to Astoria (probably to start the season)," Coach McNabb says. "I'm excited about next year. I feel like we have a good group of guys coming back."

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