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Thursday, June 24, 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. Name Position Grade Height
2 Logan McLendon WR/DB 12 5-8
3 Kaden Hindman WR/S 9 5-9
4 Devon Lindquist WR/S 12 5-10
6 Zane Rowley WR/DB 10 5-4
7 Chris Lopez WR/DB 12 5-9
8 David Jin QB/DB 12 5-10
9 Kameron Kessler WR/S 12 6-1
11 Fco Ramos WR/DB 10 5-7
14 Tristan Beach WR/DB 11 5-10
15 Connor Bailey WR/DB 11 5-10
16 Darius Smith WR/DB 10 5-9
19 Antonio Suarez QB/LB 10 5-10
20 JJ French RB/LB 10 5-10
22 Tyee Fisher WR/S 12 6-5
23 Clay Nelson WR/LB 12 6-0
24 Trenton Hall WR/LB 11 5-9
25 Kaden White WR/DB 9 5-7
28 Logan Gilleo RB/LB 11 6-0
50 Dylan Rodriguez OL/DL 9 5-8
53 Micah Davis OL/DE 11 5-10
54 Eriq Aquino OL/DL 12 6-1
55 Elin Fitch OL/DE 11 6-3
56 Malachi LaFrenz OL/DL 12 6-2
57 Jace Phippen OL/DL 11 5-10
60 Chris Byrum OL/DL 12 5-8
61 Victor Carrasco C/DE 12 6-2
62 Brendan Welch OL/DL 10 5-9
66 Tyrese Hellman OL/DL 11 6-1
70 Josiah LaFrenz OL/DL 10 6-3
74 Sebastian Welch OL/DL 10 5-9
75 Dakota Steen OL/DL 9 6-0

Harrisburg Roster

No. Name Position Grade Height Weight
2 Spencer Gaines WR/DB 11 6-1 160
8 Dax Bennett QB/LB 12 5-11 190
11 Chandler Strauss QB/LB 10 6-2 185
12 Jonathon Lettkeman QB/DB 11 6-0 180
15 Riley Suttles WR/DB 12 5-9 155
20 Jimmy Holland WR/DB 11 5-8 150
21 Tristan Harris WR/LB 12 5-10 180
22 Joel Warren WR/DB 9 6-0 150
24 Gabe Knox RB/LB 11 5-9 200
31 Russell Talmadge WR/DB 10 5-8 145
45 Devin Nelson RB/LB 12 5-11 210
46 Jonathan Lettkeman RB/LB 11 6-0 170
50 Joan Tapia OL/DL 11 5-11 180
54 Wyatt Perry OL/DL 11 6-2 235
55 Britt Murray OL/DL 9 6-3 160
62 Leithan Briggs OL/DL 11 6-0 200
63 Brennan Erickson OL/DL 12 5-10 180
65 Vincente Velazquez OL/DL 9 5-7 160
67 Jackson Saunders OL/DL 9 5-8 170
71 Elijah Pate OL/DL 12 6-0 225
74 Josh Nasshahn OL/DL 12 6-1 210
78 Brynden Bevins OL/DL 12 5-10 160
79 Kaden Eastman OL/DL 9 6-0 170
82 Paul McNulty WR/DB 11 5-10 140
88 Trenton Kirchoff WR/DB 9 5-5 110
89 Josh Harris WR/DB 9 5-6 120

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

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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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