Metro football ready to go
Are you ready for some football?
The Metro League returns to action this weekend. Here's a look at the league's six football programs to watch — including, perhaps, the programs to beat for 6A teams across the Beaver State — plus a seventh that will be competing this fall at the 5A level.
As defending Metro League champions and a perennial state power, Jesuit is again the favorite to take home the league crown and will be amongst a handful teams on the shortlist to own the 2022 state football championship. But while the Crusaders bring a wealth of talent on both sides of the ball, there are some concerns that even they'll have to address as the season progresses.
"Depth is a concern," Potter said via email. "We play three Oregon schools ranked in the top five to start the year, so hopefully by league play, we will still be healthy and have lots of questions answered. We hope to be competing for the Metro championship."
No surprise, but Jesuit has an embarrassment of riches on the offensive line, returning three all-state performers from last year's team — senior Sean Khouri, senior Roice Cleeland, and senior Sylus Wallace — that advanced to the state semifinals before losing to eventual champion Central Catholic, and a fourth, Liam Cassidy, who is already making waves on the college recruiting trail.
Behind that line, the Crusaders return junior quarterback Jacob Hutchinson who'll be handing the ball off to senior standout running backs Payton Roth and Noah Staley, and throwing to receivers Nick Ferrero and junior Jace Burton who'll also double as a lockdown corner for the Crusaders.
Defensively, Jesuit lost a wealth of talent and experience with all-state linebacker Johnny Miller, defensive lineman Spencer McKelligon, and linebacker Tyree Blake graduating last spring. Staley — an all-state honorable mention defensive lineman last year — will be key to filling those gaps, along with Garrett Speer and Burton.
Other Jesuit players to watch include: running back/linebacker Lonnie Burt, kicker Kadyn Butcher, tight end/defensive end Patrick Kelley and defensive back Tyler Curvy.
The Wildcats finished solo second in the Metro League last season with a 5-1 league record and only a narrow loss to league champion Jesuit on their schedule. They were 9-2 overall and defeated Barlow in the state playoffs' opening round before losing to eventual state runner-up Tualatin in the second round.
While the Wildcats lost all-state wide receiver Darrius Clemons — who is expected to see time on the field at Michigan this season — to graduation, second-team all-state running back Jordan Fisher will shine in the backfield.
The small but stout senior back ran for 1,467 yards and 23 touchdowns last season and will certainly be aiming even higher this year.
Westview did lose standout quarterback Sam Leavitt, who transferred to West Linn this past spring, but it boasts two of the Metro League's best linemen in guard Jackson Sager and defensive end Campbell Sager.
The Wildcats also expect big things from senior receiver Kaden Huppin, who will be stepping into Clemons' role as the team's No. 1 wide receiver.
Head coach Ryan Atkinson said there are some relative unknowns about this year's team, but he's excited to see what the Wildcats have got.
"They have put a lot of energy into bonding as a team and have put a lot of work in the weight room," Atkinson said. "We will find out a lot about ourselves game-one against Clackamas."
Other Wildcats to watch: offensive lineman Jackson Sager, linebacker Johnny Collyer, running back/linebacker Irason Kekaualua, wide receiver/defensive back Jaydon Mcbreen, offensive lineman Gunner Jorgensen, defensive lineman/tight end Jason Cephus, lineman Israel Chavez and defensive lineman/tight end Chase Davis.
Last year's Sunset team started fast, winning four of their first five, but they faded late before losing an opening-round playoff game to Clackamas. They finished the year 5-5 and alone in fourth place in the Metro League.
The 2021 Apollos were senior-driven, leaving this year's squad talented but a bit wet behind the ears.
"This year's team is relatively young with quite a few juniors and sophomores looking to contribute on varsity," Sunset head coach Damien Merrick said. "We do not have a ton of varsity experience returning but do have good athletes that had a lot of success last season at the lower levels."
Despite that youth, Merrick said the team is very athletic and from top to bottom has built an impressive level of team chemistry.
"Overall, I feel our kids run well and are very athletic," the coach said. "In addition, a strength is certainly the way our top three classes have blended together. The senior, junior and sophomore classes have all worked extremely well together in the off-season and there's been absolutely no divisiveness between them."
Sunset players to watch: linebacker Jacient Cox, wide receiver/linebacker Blake Hurley, tight end/defensive end Cole Alan, quarterback/linebacker Jeff McMillan and wide receiver/cornerback Cole Massar.
The Mavericks lost eight all-league players to graduation last spring, including three-year starting quarterback Brian Mannion, who committed to Linfield College last spring.
Mountainside started slow last season, but the Mavs ended strong before dropping a second-round playoff game to eventual state champion Central Catholic.
This year's team boasts experience across both sides of the line and in the secondary as the result of a large number of kids seeing playing time last season.
Head coach John Mannion said the 2022 Mavericks will be led by slated starting quarterback Alex Ingalls.
Ingalls will have a handful of experienced receivers to throw to, including senior Samuel Pimentel and junior Gunnar Gustafson.
Other Mavericks to watch include: lineman Andrew McCarty, wide receiver/defensive back Madden Tanuvasa, running back/linebacker Ian Salbeda, defensive lineman Jonathan Berrien and place kicker Holden Phillips.
After more than a decade straight of postseason football, last year marked the first time since 2011 that the Beaverton Beavers missed the state playoffs. This season, they look to right that wrong, but they will be challenged by the loss of nine all-league players to graduation.
One player still on the roster, however, is all-league quarterback Hunter Borter. Borter, who stands 6-foot-4, threw at a 65% completion clip last season. Expect him to be a problem for opposing defenses.
Borter, too, will be challenged, having lost standout receivers Cristian Gonzalez and Kyron Albright to graduation, but he can hope to gain a bit of that magic from Beaverton wideouts Dez Valencia and Addison Schinderle.
The Beavers are revamping on both sides of the line of scrimmage, but with Tigard transfer David Hernandez helping fill the gaps, Beaverton head coach Bob Boyer hopes the transition will be smooth.
Other Beaverton players to watch: running back/linebacker Porter Bradford, lineman Andre Cazares, running back/defensive back Nick Gianotti and running back/linebacker Silvestre Mendez.
The Warriors went a combined 8-3 over the previous two seasons, but they fell on hard times this past year, going 0-6 in the Metro League and 0-9 overall.
Head coach James Mitcham enters his second year this season. Still winless as the Warriors' skipper, he will be looking to use last year's experience to motivate his team to rise from the ashes, beginning with their non-league season opener against Nelson on Thursday, Sept. 1.
Mitcham is anchoring some of the team's prospective success with junior quarterback Lucas State, who hopes to kick-start a sputtering Aloha offense in 2022. Last year's Warriors team scored just six touchdowns last season and tallied a dismal 39 points.
Other Aloha players to watch include: running back/free safety Jacob Boyce, center Myles Pankratz, wide receiver/defensive back Caleb Lee, lineman Richard Gomez and lineman Jose Gonzalez Cazares.
The Skyhawks will be competing at the 5A level this season due to recent struggles along with dwindling numbers. They'll compete as part of the 5A's Special District 1, which also includes Canby, Centennial, Hillsboro, Hood River Valley, Putnam, Wilsonville, and a fellow 6A team "playing down" in Forest Grove.
Head coach Kevin Bickler said speed and physicality are two of his team's strengths. However, a small senior class has contributed to depth issues, which will necessitate players in a number of positions playing both ways.
Bickler added that the team has worked in the offseason on accountability, and that he's hopeful that will contribute to what will be a successful year.
"This offseason, our team has created great discipline, and the hope is that this will carry over to the field," Bickler said.
Bickler pointed to wide receiver and defensive back Alisjah Tucker as one of the key contributors to the Skyhawks team, along with linemen Adam Slail and Ethan Sanft — the latter of whom he said will be a problem for opposing squads.
"He (Sanft) is big and powerful, and a load on the line and tough to move," Bickler said. "He'll create problems for the offense in his ability to take up multiple gaps on the D-line."
Other Southridge players to watch include: running backs/linebackers Jackson Powell and Rico Brownbey, wide receiver/defensive back Stone Fowler, wide receiver/defensive back Dylan Bickler, quarterbacks Mathew Nichols and Jack Klee, wide receiver/defensive back Errol Moreland, and running back/linebacker Owen Otani.
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