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The Irishman edges out West Salem for the pre-season favorite in the South/Central Football Conference

A large senior class with returning starters just about everywhere you look bodes well for any football program, but when it’s Sheldon High School, those facts are just different.

The Irish are rarely an overlooked commodity, but the goal is all the more specific for sixth-year head coach Josh Line, whose team was also the offseason recipient of what became rookie #1 in defensive lineman/tight end Teitum Tuioti when his father, Tony, took over as the Ducks’ defensive line coach.

Unsurprisingly, Sheldon is favorite to edge West Salem this fall for the inaugural Football Conference South/Central title in a pre-season coaching poll that saw the Irish take six of 10 votes for first place.

“We’re a team that people want to beat and we understand that,” Line said, “and our kids know that and we prepare that way. But when you want to be a good program or a great program, that comes with the territory. We’re not afraid of that and we expect to get the best game out of everyone, and that’s usually what happens. It’s okay, that’s what you want. This prepares you for the playoffs and tough competitions you have ahead. »

Three-year-old starter Brock Thomas is back to guide the offense, which has rushed nearly 2,000 yards and ran for about 1,400 more with one more TD (19) than rush (18).

“He ranks among Sheldon’s top products, and that’s saying something,” said Line of the 6-foot, 175-pound dual-threat QB.

Grafton Robinson averaged 5.7 yards per carry and, in addition to getting stronger, worked hard to improve his vision and attack inside and outside tackles. He is also a strong receiving threat out of the backfield as one of 24 seniors.

Perimeter goals are plenty for Luke Leighton, who led the SWC in receiving last year for 614 yards and seven touchdowns on 39 catches, Zach McEwen (37 catches, 472 yards, seven touchdowns) and Isaac Peters (24.8 yards per catch). Cade Welch offers versatility and the presence of Tuioti adds a new dimension.

“He actually hasn’t had a lot of looks on the offensive end of the ball,” Line said of Oregon’s 6-3, 225-pound commit, “but he’s a stallion, they could rock him. next year because he can really move and has good hands.

Tanner Thomas (left tackle), Carl Harward (center) and Ryan Yakovich (right tackle) return to the offensive line, and the defensive line expects to be very strong with Josh Merriman, Will Haverland and Sam Kline returning as well.

Leighton anchors the linebacker corps with returning inside supports Joey Rubino and David Manstrom, with sophomore Mana Tuioti also in the mix for a team that has enough depth to limit a lot of two-way action on defense.

West Salem

West Salem is as much about potential as it is anything this year, with the Titans returning not a single starter on offense and just three on defense for 18th-year head coach Shawn Stanley.

West Salem has been a top-10 caliber program for years under Stanley, and it’s not like the closet is empty as the Titans seek reserves and JV stars to take the reins this season.

Roman Burrow (5-10, 185) was an all-conference first-team cornerback a year ago and will be joined by fellow seniors in lineman Ty Amawattana (6-2, 250) and running backs defensemen Tommy Slack (6-1, 170) and Jameson Lowery (6-3, 175) providing veteran influence.

Stanley calls junior defensive back Ugochukwu Odoemelam (6-2, 180) “one of the best we’ve had,” and the Titans got a big boost with McNary’s transfer from first-time receiver/linebacker team Braiden Copeland (6-2, 200). Running back/linebacker Jimmy Lathen (6-4, 215) will be another one to watch for the Titans on both sides of the ball.

Sophomore QB Kaden Martirano (6-2, 195) has already impressed Stanley and doesn’t expect to shy away from guiding what will be a fast, athletic crew that will use Burrow in the backfield and on the perimeter, where Slack and senior Caeleb Hensley will also be honored.


Roseburg took the league by storm a year ago and with SWC Defensive Player of the Year Tiger Black entrenched in this year’s team, the Indians sure have everyone’s attention this fall.

Black (6-3, 270) was an all-state first-team defensive lineman last year and one of the most disruptive forces in the state this side of the ball. He’ll be joined by senior center James Coleman, another all-SWC first-team pick, and senior Kyler Mills (6-2, 270) to set the tone down the line.

Cayden Eckel finished third in the SWC rushing last year at about 1,000 yards with 13 touchdowns in the regular season. With good vision and sneaky moves, combined with Roseburg’s strength in the trenches, the 5-7 junior will play a starring role.

Sophomore Owen Bentea and junior Camden Hartsell are leading figures to succeed last year’s SWC Offensive Player of the Year Colton Marsters at quarterback.

Roseburg picked up nine wins last year, equaling the amount earned in the previous four seasons, and will be looking to build on that momentum despite having most of their starting lineup graduate.


Head coach Connor Astley moves from offensive coordinator to top spot and inherits a squad that will look to incorporate a host of new faces with some key returning veterans.

Seniors Hunter Ruberto (5-8, 185) and Jacob Hurst (6-5, 220) are joined by juniors Jesse Dyer (5-8, 150) and Jake Allen (5-11, 190) as starters. return on both sides of the ball, while junior Ben Allen (6-0, 190) also started at linebacker.

Ruberto sets the tone at center linebacker for a defense that was completely overhauled to a 4-3 system this fall, with Ben Allen at strongside linebacker.

Perhaps McNary’s most electric force is junior Gage Smedema (6-0, 145), who will see time at quarterback, receiver and cornerback.

Jake Allen will be one of the Celtics’ main running backs, while Dyer is a sneaky threat at slot receiver and senior Jackson Alt (6-0, 192) is also in the mix at quarterback.

South of Salem

If any team is capable of stirring up the image of the conference this year, it’s the Saxons.

“We have the best group we’ve had in a long time,” said Scott Dufault, in his 22nd season. “We played against a lot of youngsters last year and sometimes we got carried away, but we have a lot of youngsters coming back.”

Senior QB Daschel Smith is laying the foundation for an explosive offense after passing for about 2,500 yards and 18 touchdowns last season and rushing for another 10 scores as he led his team to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. In the raid Aerial without caucus of South Salem plan, which looks to put teams on its heels with a play every 15 seconds or so, Smith also has the luxury of firing seven receivers who caught multiple passes last year.

Senior Tini Tinitali led Level 6A with 78 catches for just over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns last year, but will get plenty of help in the four-receiver system from second receiver Esteban Mendez, Jaxon Watson and Jefferson trade Zach Wusstig, who won 2A All State honors and may be the fastest player on the team.

Hatimu Letisi, Trevor Goldman, Tyler Takemoto and Levi Willhite anchor a group in the trenches which Dufault says can go up to 12 deep.

South Salem also expect to benefit from a schedule that does not include Sheldon and North Medford, and the Saxons will travel no further south than Roseburg.


You name it and Drew Rodriguez provided it last year for Sprague, earning first-team all-conference honors as a receiver, safety and kick returner to go with a nod from the second team to the bettor.

Colorado State-bound three-star Rodriguez (6-2, 205) will likely move to outside linebacker this year, where he’ll be joined by returning senior starter Barik Hill (5-10, 180) at the second tier to complete the senior defense. linemen Cole Steketee (6-2, 250), who was also an all-league center on offense, and Gavin Nguyen.

Senior Wil Hassoun (6-0, 190) takes over at quarterback for a fairly young group from 11th-year Sprague coach Jay Minyard.

Hill will win the lion’s share of runs at running back — with senior Casen Collins (6-0, 205) at fullback — after a limited need last year to back up Riley Davis, who moved to Texas during the season. off-season.

North of Salem

After advancing to the Class 5A state quarterfinals last year and earning their first playoff victory in 17 seasons, North Salem will bring their wing-T offense – led by the junior quarterback star TC Manumaleuna and junior running back Josiah Davis – and a host of returning starters on both sides of the ball at Level 6A.

In his 15th season at North Salem, head coach Jeff Flood has three-year starters at Manumaleuna and linebackers Jerrik Wangler and Imyas Aguilar as standard bearers.

Davis (6-1, 225), a three-star prospect, rushed for about 1,300 yards and scored 20 rushing touchdowns in just seven games last year after battling a hamstring injury, and Manumaleuna passed at 6-2 and 215 pounds and already holds several Division I offers.

The Vikings will have to develop an almost entirely new cast of linemen, but they’re loaded in skill positions, with senior Erick Gonzalez (6-0, 165) joined by senior Chris Harsen and junior Pierce Walker as receiving threats while the backfield is fortified. by notable juniors in Wangler, Micah Richter and sprint champion DeMari Thompson.

In total, North Salem fires eight starters on offense and seven on defense to create a confident transition from 5A.



1. Sheldon78

2. West Salem75

3. North Medford60

4. Roseburg49

5. South of Medford38

6. McNary37

7. South Salem36

8. Sprague34

9. North of Salem29

10. Pass14 Grants

Votes for first place: Sheldon 6, West Salem 3, North Medford 1.

Contact sportswriter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or via Twitter @Kris_Henry

Sheldon’s Brock Thomas, left, returns for his third season as a starting quarterback. CHRIS PIETSCH/THE REGISTRY KEEPER EUGENE


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