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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sign of the times: Tigers get tough test in 2018 football opener

Harrisburg football
Photos by Lon French

Being the digital age, Taft High coach Jake Tolan has gotten an intimate sneak peak at the Harrisburg football team his Tigers will face Friday when the 2018 prep season kicks off throughout Oregon.

Jake Tolan
Jake Tolan

“We do know some things about them now that we live in a day and age where video footage of other teams is easily accessible,” he said. “We know that they are big up front on both the offensive and defensive lines, and they have a running back and quarterback that are very good athletes.”

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Here’s something else he might know about the Eagles – and you should, too:

They have reached the Class 3A State quarterfinals the past five years and won the State championship as recently as two seasons ago.

“We will know after this game where we stand in the 3A ranks, considering Harrisburg made it deep in the playoffs last year and return a very good team this year,” Tolan said of Friday’s 7 p.m. road opponent. “I like our chances, though. I feel confident we will come out Friday and compete.”

Harrisburg is approximately half the size of Lincoln City off Interstate 5 about 97 miles from the Central Oregon Coast — 63 as the crow, er Eagle, flies. You’ll need about 15 bucks for five gallons of gas and spend around two hours to get there.

Upon arrival, you’ll discover a tiny town wrought with football fever that sticks together like birds of another feather, the Oregon Ducks, just 25 miles south in Eugene.

Coached by Edmund Rivera, the Eagles won the 3A State championship as recently as 2016 with a 34-27 victory over Salem Academy, and have been State quarterfinalists or better the past five seasons. They also reached the State title game in 2014, when they fell to Vale at Hillsboro Stadium.

Harrisburg went 5-6 overall last season and 3-2 for third place in the Mountain Valley Conference, then defeated fifth-ranked Amity 42-34 on the road in the first round of the State playoffs. The purple-and-gold clad Eagles fell at eventual State champion Cascade Christian in the State quarterfinals.

“I just want our kids to come out Friday with the mindset that they will do whatever it takes to compete and battle to give us a chance to win,” Tolan said.

Taft went 0-5 in the Class 3A West Valley League, but is bigger in numbers, larger in size and stronger in commitment, Tolan said, while being more experienced on the offensive and defensive lines. The Tigers are coming off a couple of impressive 7-on-7 summer camp showings and a breakneck 60-47 home victory over Jefferson to close out a 2-7 season last year.

In addition to Class 4A Corbett and Madras, Taft will move to a new 12-team “super conference” in 2018 that includes seven teams (Amity, Blanchet Catholic, Clatskanie, Dayton, Rainier, Scio and Willamina) that reached the 16-team Class 3A playoffs. The Tigers will play in a six-team sub-region comprised of Amity, Clatskanie, Dayton, Rainer and Willamina.

Led by skill players such as quarterback David Jin, running backs Logan Gilleo and JJ French, and receivers Tyee Fisher, Logan McLendon and Kam Kessler, Taft should benefit from protection from a more experienced line that features Victor Carrasco, Elin Fitch, Tyrese Hellman and Chris “Biz” Byrum.

Improvement on defense will also be a key for the Tigers, which surrendered a porous 51 points per game last season.

“They [Harrisburg] would prefer to run the ball offensively, which is where our focus has been the past couple of weeks defensively,” said Tolan, who emphasized that being competitive and playing hard in the non-league opener was more important than winning or losing. “This will be a great test for our team this early in the season.”

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING:

Under the leadership of Wayne Swango, Harrisburg has won four State baseball championships (1970, 1976, 1980 and 1993) and State titles in 2A softball in 1999, 2000, and 2001. In addition to their 2016 Class 3A State football title, the Eagles won the 1A Division B football crown in 1966.

Tyee Fisher
Tyee Fisher

Taft Roster

No.NamePositionGradeHeight
2Logan McLendonWR/DB125-8
3Kaden HindmanWR/S95-9
4Devon LindquistWR/S125-10
6Zane RowleyWR/DB105-4
7Chris LopezWR/DB125-9
8David JinQB/DB125-10
9Kameron KesslerWR/S126-1
11Fco RamosWR/DB105-7
14Tristan BeachWR/DB115-10
15Connor BaileyWR/DB115-10
16Darius SmithWR/DB105-9
19Antonio SuarezQB/LB105-10
20JJ FrenchRB/LB105-10
22Tyee FisherWR/S126-5
23Clay NelsonWR/LB126-0
24Trenton HallWR/LB115-9
25Kaden WhiteWR/DB95-7
28Logan GilleoRB/LB116-0
50Dylan RodriguezOL/DL95-8
53Micah DavisOL/DE115-10
54Eriq AquinoOL/DL126-1
55Elin FitchOL/DE116-3
56Malachi LaFrenzOL/DL126-2
57Jace PhippenOL/DL115-10
60Chris ByrumOL/DL125-8
61Victor CarrascoC/DE126-2
62Brendan WelchOL/DL105-9
66Tyrese HellmanOL/DL116-1
70Josiah LaFrenzOL/DL106-3
74Sebastian WelchOL/DL105-9
75Dakota SteenOL/DL96-0

Harrisburg Roster

No.NamePositionGradeHeightWeight
2Spencer GainesWR/DB116-1160
8Dax BennettQB/LB125-11190
11Chandler StraussQB/LB106-2185
12Jonathon LettkemanQB/DB116-0180
15Riley SuttlesWR/DB125-9155
20Jimmy HollandWR/DB115-8150
21Tristan HarrisWR/LB125-10180
22Joel WarrenWR/DB96-0150
24Gabe KnoxRB/LB115-9200
31Russell TalmadgeWR/DB105-8145
45Devin NelsonRB/LB125-11210
46Jonathan LettkemanRB/LB116-0170
50Joan TapiaOL/DL115-11180
54Wyatt PerryOL/DL116-2235
55Britt MurrayOL/DL96-3160
62Leithan BriggsOL/DL116-0200
63Brennan EricksonOL/DL125-10180
65Vincente VelazquezOL/DL95-7160
67Jackson SaundersOL/DL95-8170
71Elijah PateOL/DL126-0225
74Josh NasshahnOL/DL126-1210
78Brynden BevinsOL/DL125-10160
79Kaden EastmanOL/DL96-0170
82Paul McNultyWR/DB115-10140
88Trenton KirchoffWR/DB95-5110
89Josh HarrisWR/DB95-6120

Class 3A Special District 1

Amity

Blanchet Catholic

Clatskanie

Corbett (4A)

Dayton

Madras (4A)

Rainier

Salem Academy

Scio

Taft

Willamina

Yamhill-Carlton

Taft Schedule

All games 7 p.m.

8/31 @ Harrisburg

9/7 vs. Sutherlin

9/14 @ Knappa

9/21 vs. Yamhill-Carlton

9/28 vs. Amity*

10/5 @ Clatskanie*

10/11@ Willamina*

10/19 vs. Dayton*

10/26 vs. Rainier*

*Denotes league game

Class 3A Special District 2

Brookings-Harbor
Cascade Christian
Douglas
Harrisburg
Hidden Valley (4A)
La Pine
Pleasant Hill
Santiam Christian
Siuslaw (4A)
South Umpqua
St. Mary’s, Medford
Sutherlin

Harrisburg Schedule

All games 7 p.m.

8/24 @ Monroe Jamboree

8/31 vs. Taft

9/7 vs. Blanchet Catholic

9/14 @ Cascade Christian*

9/21 @ Douglas*

9/28 vs. Siuslaw*

10/5 @ Sutherlin*

10/12 vs. La Pine*

10/19 vs. Santiam Christian*

10/26 @ Pleasant Hill*

* denotes league game

Jim Fossum
Jim Fossumhttp://SilverandBlackToday.com
Homepage Executive Editor and former longtime Sports Editor of the near-200,000 circulation Las Vegas Review-Journal, Fossum brings 40 years of award-winning experience covering virtually every facet of print and digital journalism to Lincoln City Homepage. The former longtime reporter for the Newport News-Times and Lincoln City News Guard is also Editor-in-Chief and Senior Columnist for SilverandBlackToday.com, which covers the NFL's Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders.

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