Prep Football: Week Six Preview
Top five match-up, Salem-Keizer rivalries on the schedule
The 2022 Oregon prep football season is starting to pick up speed. Here is a look at this week’s matchups in Special District One.
South Medford (5-0) at Sheldon (5-0): This battle of unbeatens outside of Salem-Keizer should be interesting. The host Irish (ranked #1) haven’t been tested since a narrow 35-31 win over then top-ranked West Linn in week two. The Sheldon offense has been lights out all season, averaging a phenomenal 50 points a game. Quarterback Brock Thomas has already thrown for over 1,000 yards on the season, with 16 touchdowns against just two interceptions. He is also averaging better than 6 ½ yards per carry on the ground. The Irish defense has also been impressive, giving up just under 7 ½ points a contest. Edge rusher Teitum Tuioti tops Sheldon defenders with a per-game tackle average of 8 ½ a contest.
South Medford will be no pushover. The Panthers are averaging just under 40 points per game with a balanced offensive attack—800 yards rushing on the season, and nearly 1200 yards passing—with an average of just over 400 yards per ball game. Quarterback Deacon Edgar has thrown for most of the 1200 passing yards. The rushing attack has been by committee—and leading rusher Ryan Scheid, their top running back (239 yards) was hurt last week in the game against Sprague.
South Medford’s defense is also physical and impressive. The Panthers are giving up just over 16 points per game—the most coming in their 48-35 win at then-unbeaten South Salem. South Medford linebacker Dylan Espinosa has been the team’s leading tackler, recording 7 ½ tackles per contest.
The last coaches poll had Sheldon ranked first, and the Panthers, fifth. It goes without saying that this ought to be a hard-fought contest.
Grants Pass (3-2) at North Salem (4-1): This game between the visiting Cavemen and the host Vikings is a difficult one to handicap. Grants Pass’s record is a little deceptive—they have beaten a sub-.500 Shasta (CA) team, a brand-new team in Caldera of Bend, and narrowly beat winless West Salem 27-25. Last week, they were turned back in the red zone late in the game in a 20-14 home loss to North Medford. So how good are the Cavemen? They were thoroughly crushed by South Salem 48-7, and face the other 4-1 Salem team this week in North.
The Vikings are getting no respect in the OSAA power rankings. With just one loss, they are still ranked a dismal 24th. The next one-loss team above them on the list is Nelson High School, at number 11. The only winning record team near North is Franklin of the PIL, with a 4-0 record and a ranking of 23rd. To be honest, PIL teams are historically weak, and as North has found—that is true.
With a very weak preseason schedule, North Salem needs to bolster the quality of its wins. Grants Pass—ranked 28th—is a start in that direction.
All the power ranking talk aside, the Cavemen are no gimme in terms of a win. They run the ball effectively, and their quarterback, Jace Blanchard, threw for 295 yards last week—with 209 of those yards belonging to all-District wide receiving nominee Jackson Tunick. Grants Pass came up just short in their 20-14 home loss to North Medford—a closer game than North had on the road against the Black Tornado two weeks ago.
North will need a solid four quarters from its defense, and an effective offensive effort that includes not only Josiah Davis (162 yards and two TDs last week), but the rest of the running back corps. Quarterback TC Manumaleuna—who threw a touchdown pass last week at McNary—would also help the cause with more fireworks in the passing department.
Any way you measure it, this is a big game for North as the Vikings look for some respect in the ratings, and a significant win against a hard-hitting opponent.
McNary (0-5) at South Salem (4-1): McNary coach Connor Astley is still looking for a win as head coach of the Celtics, but the good news is that the young squad keeps making strides forward, as evidenced in their 21-7 home loss last week against North Salem. A good balance of passing from quarterback Jackson Alt (130 yards and a touchdown), and running from Jake Allen (124 yards) is a positive foundation.
The bad news for the Celts is that they face yet another one-loss team this week in pass-happy South Salem. The Saxons had several mistakes that kept them out of the end zone early against winless West Salem, but the team rallied in the second half for a 35-7 victory at West.
Saxons signal caller Daschel Smith was 31-49 for 353 yards and three touchdowns—two of those to Zach Wustigg, who added a 69 yard wildcat touchdown run to his impressive night.
South also was effective in keeping the West Salem offense out of the end zone. Saxon D-lineman Hatimu Letisi recovered a punter fumble in the end zone to contribute to South’s scoring. Defensive player-of-the game Tristan Geer was part of the stifling South defense that limited West to one drive into the Saxon red zone.
This could still be a very entertaining game, and far better than if it had been scheduled earlier in the season. McNary will need its best effort to date, without a doubt.
West Salem (0-5) at Sprague (2-3): West Salem coach Shawn Stanley and Sprague coach Jay Minyard are former college teammates and long-time friends. They both look forward to this game every year—but circumstances are a little different than in seasons past.
West Salem has never been winless through five games before under Coach Stanley—and Sprague’s 2-3 record is also well below normal expectations for coaches and fans. Both of these perennial playoff teams lost lots of talent to graduation last year. West Salem also lost its best wide receiver in transfer Braiden Copeland and its quarterback Kaden Martirano—to season-ending injuries. Last week, Coach Stanley rotated senior running back Jimmy Lathen and sophomore QB Cole Hansen at signal caller—with mixed results. A similar rotation is anticipated this week as Stanley looks to find a winning formula.
For Sprague, it appears Minyard has settled on—for now—junior transfer Athan Palmateer as his quarterback. Palmateer threw for 79 yards and a 33 yard TD to Drew Rodriguez, while rushing for another 58 yards in the 33-18 loss at South Medford last week.
If there is a “wild card” in this week’s game, it has to be Rodriguez, who has verbally committed to Colorado State next season. Drew scored four touchdowns two weeks ago against winless Roseburg as the Olys put 56 points on the board for a second time this season.
West will need a nearly flawless game defensively, while they search for some offensive consistency. That combination could help them find their first victory of the season at Sprague.
Roseburg (0-4) at North Medford (3-2): The winless Indians were thoroughly shellacked in a 56-0 home game against top-ranked Sheldon. Irish QB Brock Thomas was a one man-wrecking crew with just yard shy of 300 in the game, including 232 yards passing for the Sheldon victory. North Medford won a tight one at Grants Pass, denying the Cavemen the end zone in the last 90 seconds in the 20-14 victory.
Roseburg is a team with some big, talented front-line players—but their skill players are young and undersized, and they are still looking for a quarterback to replace their starter, who was injured in a non-counting game week two game canceled due to forest fire smoke.
North Medford is a very physical team that will try to pound you with the run, then throw over the top for a quick score. They have used that combination to forge three straight wins.
The Black Tornado should be the unquestioned favorite in this ball game.
5A Central (3-2) at McKay (1-4)-Saturday: McKay is on top of the world after a decisive win last week at Crescent Valley. Behind blocking from his offensive line, Royal Scots junior running back Jamahl Wilson rushed for a team and state record 444 yards and six touchdowns in a 51-22 victory over (1-4) Crescent Valley.
The Scots game Saturday afternoon at home involves a much more challenging opponent: the Central Panthers. Central’s 3-2 record includes losses to two of the best teams in the Mid Willamette Conference—South Albany (17-7) and defending state champion Silverton (40-35).
Central’s offense is operated by quarterback Chase Nelson, who threw for 212 yards and a touchdown in a 35-28 win last week over West Albany. Nelson also ran for another 119 yards on 11 carries, scoring twice. Panther running back Kohler Hernandez added another pair of touchdowns, with 161 yards on 25 carries.
A stout four quarters of defensive football by McKay is a must to slow down a Central offense scoring nearly 33 points a contest.
McKay would also love to see a return of the balanced scoring attack that helped them score big points in narrow losses to Lebanon and Dallas. Junior quarterback Kyrin Fuimaono will be looking early and often for receiver Justice Anthony, while handing the ball to Wilson and Lukes Dominguez.
A let down after a signature win is entirely possible, but coach Brandis Piper and his staff will be coaching everyone up to try and make it two wins in a row.
The game at McKay High School begins Saturday afternoon at 3:00.