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The coaches at St. Helens and Scappoose high schools look forward to the upcoming season.

PMG PHOTO: SCOTT KEITH - Scappoose High School head football coach Sean McNabb confers with officials before last season's St. Helens-Scappoose football game. As fall gets closer and the nights get crisper, prep football fans in South Columbia County are getting ready for Friday night lights.

For both Scappoose High School and St. Helens High School, the season kicks off this weekend.

Scappoose hosts Parkrose in its season opener, while neighboring St. Helens is on the road, playing at La Salle Prep.

The Scappoose/Parkrose game was originally expected to take place Friday, Sept. 3, but it was pushed back a day due to referee availability. It will now kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4.

The St. Helens/La Salle Prep game is on the road at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3.

Coming off COVID-shortened seasons, St. Helens coach Cory Young and Scappoose coach Sean McNabb are looking forward to more of a normal season, even with the delta variant of coronavirus causing an upswing in COVID-19 cases.

McNabb is ready for Friday's kickoff.

"We are so excited to have a nine-game schedule," he said, after last year, teams were effectively limited to four to six games in the spring. "Nothing like football in the fall. We are very thankful, however, that we had a chance to play games last school year. It was looking bleak for a while."

The complexion of the Scappoose squad has changed over the summer.

McNabb said, "Last year, we were very senior-heavy upfront with our offensive and defensive linemen. Many of our skill positions were sophomores and juniors, which allows us to be pretty experienced in that aspect."

But it's not all new.

"Many starters are back from last season," McNabb said. "Senior Luke McNabb at quarterback and senior Colin Stoddard at free safety and wide receiver led our team in both passing and receiving."

McNabb said senior Austin Verbout will return at center while leading tackler Trey Dierenger, a junior, will be back at strong safety. Cornerback Johnny Clothier, also a junior, will be returning.

Malcolm Harrison, Ayden Patterson, Quorey Bays and Ben Rintoul are expected to give the team strength at wide receiver and defensive back.

New to the Scappoose program, and expected to contribute, will be Elijah Ritter, Kyle Culp, George Marandes, David Brown, Wyatt Anicker and Colby Campbell.

Quarterback McNabb, who is Sean McNabb's son, is ready to put on his uniform and throw those passes.

"I think for this season, we'll be able to throw the ball a lot, which I'm so excited about, being the quarterback," Luke McNabb said. "Our secondary, our defense will be really good, too."

Looking ahead to some steep competition, the younger McNabb said, "Wilsonville and Canby are generally really tough teams. It should be fun."

Fortunately, the Indians host those two teams this season, playing Wilsonville Friday, Sept. 24, and Canby Friday, Oct. 15.

The always-anticipated showdown between Scappoose and St. Helens takes place Friday, Oct. 29, with Scappoose playing as the home team.

Up the road, St. Helens head football coach Cory Young is equally excited about getting the season started.

"It has been awesome to get back to football in August," Young said. "Yes, it does feel very normal, which I think is important for the athletes. One nice thing about finishing in the spring was the carryover into summer practices."

Young's players are itching to get back on the field.

"They are eager and excited to get going," Young said. "Attendance has been great. 65 to 70 every day. The team is beginning to gel, and it's fun to watch them compete with each other in practice."

Asked how this team differs from the last season, Young said, "We are older. We miss our seniors, but we brought a ton of athletes back. Our varsity guys are eager to earn a spot and help the team in whatever way possible."

Dylan Shafer, who plays wide receiver and free safety, begins his senior year with the Lions and offered his thoughts on the new season.

"We're a really young team but we're also willing to pick up and learn pretty quickly," Shafer, a senior, said. "We have our quarterback (Tyler Tolles), and he's a very versatile quarterback. He's one of the smartest players I've ever seen."

Shafer continued, "Our running game this year, it's one of the best I've see in all my four years."

As for standouts on the team, Young described Tyler Jennings as becoming a vocal leader with the linemen.

Young said Kameron Shuttlesworth leads by example with hard-nosed running and "physicality" on defense.

Quarterback Tolles, according to Young, is a "calm composed leader who never gets rattled."

Asked about team strengths, Young mentioned team chemistry.

"The team competes with others at a high level, and has fun doing it," Young said.

Newcomers on the Lions team that may surprise include Mitchell Barroso, Mason Erickson and Jayce Graham.

Young concluded, "The sky is the limit for us when we believe every day we can find some way to get better."

McNabb says his players are excited as the start date of the new season approaches.

"I see the excitement in them very much," he said. "Having the chance to attend team camp at Camp Rilea said a lot about their enthusiasm."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a new date for Scappoose High School's football season opener. It will be Saturday evening, Sept. 4.

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