Top athletes, plenty of thrilling action, interesting stories keep things busy

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tigard High School senior-to-be Johnny Nomani celebrates following a Tiger victory in the tug-of-war event at the Metro Area Linemen Challenge.Summertime.

Time to relax. Time to take it easy.


Not me. Not if you have my job.

Thanks to all the successful summer teams in the Tigard-Tualatin-Sherwood area, as well as amazing local athletes — past and present — there's not been much time for relaxing of any time.

And, while it may be nice to have some down time (and, looking at my lawns, I certainly need more time for yard work), I don't think I'd have it any other way.

As usual, my summer kicked off with my Athlete of the Year stories.

This year, the talented trio of graduating seniors included Fletcher Ahl of Tigard High School, Kyle Dernedde of Tualatin High School and Braden Thorn of Sherwood High School.

Now, I've seen these three shine on their respective athletic fields for three or four years now. But, as it is every year, it was certainly a pleasure to sit down with the Athletes of the Year, and talk to them — sort of get their story behind the story.

They're all three very nice, friendly, well-respected, classy kids, and I see nothing but success ahead of them, no matter what they choose to do.

I first met with Ahl, who was a key player for the Tigard football and baseball teams. He's also a great kid from a great family.

On the football field, and baseball diamond, I saw Ahl as a kid willing to do whatever he was asked to do, in order to help his team. He totally was a team player for the Tiger teams. Friendships seem to mean a lot to him.

I saw Ahl's final high school contest, a baseball second-round state playoff loss at Lakeridge. After the game, Ahl, and fellow 2019 Tigard graduate C.J. Rivers, came over to thank me for covering their games. That says a lot.

Ahl will be attending the University of Oregon this fall, following in his older brother Tanner's footsteps, in serving as the manager of the Ducks' women's tennis team.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Kyle Dernedde, a 2019 Tualatin High School graduate, was one of the Times' Athletes of the Year for the 2018-19 school year.Then I met with Dernedde, who earned varsity time, for both football and baseball, all four years at Tualatin High School.

I saw Dernedde as a competitor in every sense. He wanted to be the best he could be on every play for the Timberwolves. He also seemed to earn the respect of his teammates and of the opposition.

Dernedde also always acted with class, both during and after contests.

Dernedde will be living a longtime dream in the future, as the standout shortstop will move on to play baseball at Oregon State University. I'm sure he'll help the Beavers continue with their strong baseball tradition.

And, if he wasn't going to be playing college baseball, I sure think Dernedde could kick and/or punt for a football team at the collegiate level. He's that impressive of an athlete.

Then I met with Thorn, who had a standout season for the Sherwood boys basketball and baseball teams. Thorn was truly inspired during his senior year, after having to cope with the untimely passing of his father near the start of the school year.

Thorn turned out to be a big part of the heart and soul of the Bowmen boys basketball team — and a key part of a very closely-knit Sherwood hoop program — that won the Pacific Conference championship and came within one win of earning a Class 6A state tournament berth.

Thorn is planning on playing both basketball and baseball at Linfield College in McMinnville.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Daniela Solis, a 2011 Sherwood High School graduate, is now playing women's professional soccer in Mexico, where she is one of the league's most popular stars.Also at Sherwood this summer, I got to sit down and talk with former Lady Bowmen soccer star Daniela Solis.

Since her days at Sherwood, Solis has gone on to become one of the most popular professional women's soccer players in Mexico. She also seems to have her future very well planned out.

It's always fun for me to get to talk with former local high school sports stars, such as Solis, who have gone on to accomplish great things.

Also, when I was out at Sherwood talking to Solis, I also got to talk a little bit with former Sherwood girls soccer coach Bill Brown, who is one of my favorite coaches I've ever gotten to work with.

I saw some football this summer, starting with the Les Schwab Bowl back in June.

In that game, I saw Sherwood's Carter Dennis and Jackson Barton, Tigard's Isaia Tavita Porter and Malcolm Stockdale, and Tualatin's Jett Searle work together to help the South team get the victory.

Dennis, a 2019 Sherwood graduate, was named the South's Lineman of the Game. He also teamed with Porter for a game-clinching quarterback sack.

There was even more football in mid July, as I went out to watch the Metro Area Linemen Challenge, which is one of my favorite events of the summer.

Looking ahead to this fall, Tigard and Tualatin both have holes to fill in the line, but both teams' performance at the Linemen Challenge showed that they both should be just fine, with the Timberwolves taking third place, and the Tigers sixth.

Both teams excelled in the teamwork events, with Tualatin placing second in the two-man blocking sled relay, and Tigard taking third in the team tug-of-war.

Speaking of football, I got the chance to sit down and talk with new Tigard High School head varsity football coach John Kemper.

While following coaching legend Craig Ruecker is no easy task, I've got the feeling that Kemper is the right man for the job.

He's played for, and coached with, some of the best coaches in the local area, and he seems to have many of the same qualities that made Ruecker a special coach.

It will be a fun one this fall, when Tigard plays Tualatin, with third-year coach Dan Lever, as Kemper and Lever were college teammates at Linfield.

I also met with new Tualatin High School varsity boys soccer coach Chris Duke. I think the Wolves will be in good hands with Duke, who seems to be totally devoted to the sport.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - The Tualatin Dawgs advanced all the way to the championship game of the season-ending OIBA tournament.Of course, I saw plenty of baseball. A talented Tigard Little League Majors team battled strong at the District 4 tournament. Meanwhile, the Tualatin Dawgs reached the championship game of the Oregon Independent Baseball Association season-ending tournament.

While I didn't see these teams in person, I wrote about the Sherwood Senior Federal, Sherwood Junior Federal and Tualatin Minors Federal teams that won Junior Baseball Organization state tournaments. Yes, the future certainly seems to be bright for baseball in the local area.

On the theme of baseball, just this week I talked with former Sherwood, and Oregon State, standout Zak Taylor.

Taylor is continuing his baseball career, carrying some high hopes, as he plays pro ball for the Gateway (Ill.) Grizzlies of the independent Frontier League. Taylor is always a delight to talk to, and he always has a good story.

Dan Brood, who isn't quite yet ready for fall to begin, is the sports editor at The Times. You can follow him on twitter at @BroodSports.

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