More than three decades ago, when Greg Grant first broke into coaching, he thought basketball would be his sport.
He soon learned, however, that he “didn’t really have the personality to be a basketball coach,” he said.
It turns out that Grant’s intense approach was the perfect fit for football. And Friday night, he became the sixth coach in state history to reach the 300-win plateau when he guided 2A Heppner to a 52-0 win at Weston-McEwen.
In five seasons at Alsea (1985-89) and 30 seasons at Heppner, Grant has a record of 300-73. The only coaches with more wins are Dewey Sullivan (352), Thurman Bell (331), Ken Potter (318), Craig Ruecker (308) and Kent Wigle (306). Of the others, only Jesuit’s Potter remains active.
“To have stuck with it, I never would’ve guessed when I started, when I was 24 years old, that I would be here,” Grant said. “But it’s been fun, and I’m still having fun.”
The 58-year-old Grant is 263-61 at Heppner, where he won state championships in 1992 and 2015. The Mustangs are 7-0 this season and ranked second in the OSAAtoday 2A coaches poll.
Some of the players on this year’s team are the sons of his former players.
“I have five or six on this team that are second generation,” he said. “And I have five or six people who coach for me that played for me. So it kind of becomes who you are.”
Grant started off coaching football and basketball at Alsea before landing at Heppner. In addition to football, he also has coached boys and girls golf and assisted in the basketball program at Heppner. He is the school’s athletic director, too.
“I consciously made a decision not to go to bigger schools multiple times because I didn’t want to coach year-round,” he said. “I’m a three-sport guy. I fully believe in it. I’m as proud of my golf program as I am my football program.”
Grant said the Heppner community has supported him in much the same way Sullivan was embraced at Dayton.
“Dayton wrapped its arms around Dewey, and he stayed there and made it right,” Grant said. “This hasn’t been anything that I’ve done, it’s just been something that I’ve been a part of.”
Grant – whose son, Kellen, is a senior on this year’s team – said his decision to return as coach “has always been a year-to-year deal.” He will reevaluate after this season, but it’s a good bet that he’s got plenty of coaching days ahead.
“I used to think I want to go hunting and do this and that, and I’m not sure those things are as attractive every day,” he said. “I look at it and think, ‘What else would I do that matters that leaves a little bit behind?’”
Turning the corner?
After a rocky start to the season, Clackamas has won two in a row as it tries to gain traction under first-year coach Terry Drake.
The Cavaliers -- who went 36-4 in the last three seasons under coach Joe Bushman, including a 6A title in 2017 – lost three of their first four games this season.
They beat Gresham 57-8 and Reynolds 55-35 in their last two games, though, helping to build momentum for the stretch run. Senior Austin Atkeson threw five touchdown passes against Reynolds on Friday.
Not having a game in Week 1 contributed to the team’s slow start, according to Drake.
“We were coming in, not being prepared, and then just adjusting slowly,” Drake said. “We made mistakes here and there, until we got in a rhythm. Now we’re getting ourselves in a rhythm. Now we can put that rhythm with the focus and discipline, and I think we can go deep into the playoffs.
“Clackamas has a rich tradition, a winning tradition. So you want to continue building on that.”
The Cavaliers (3-3, 2-0 Mt. Hood Conference Division A) are looking to continue their push Friday with a home win over David Douglas (3-4, 0-2), then face off for the conference title in Week 9 against the Division B winner, either No. 6 Central Catholic (5-2, 2-0) or Barlow (6-1, 2-0).
Drake, 60, spent his high school coaching career in Texas and Florida. He moved to Oregon last year and is gradually getting acquainted with the state’s football scene.
“It’s a good brand of football,” he said. “It’s a little different game, different coaching style in both of those states. Completely different coaching styles.
“It’s been a hard transition, coming to a state you’ve never been in, you don’t know anything about. But my kids have helped me, and coaches have been supportive and helped me in the transition.”
Clackamas made the semifinals last year, but graduation took a toll on the team. The Cavaliers did bring back one of their main weapons in 6-foot-3 senior receiver Richard Kennewell, but he suffered a broken hand in the first game and has been adjusting to playing in a cast.
“I don’t think he knows he’s got a club on his hand, because he plays so well,” Drake said of Kennewell, who has 15 catches for 367 yards and three touchdowns. “He can go offense, go defense, he’ll do whatever he can to help the team. That shows a lot about the kid that he’s willing to go out there with a cast on.”
It took only seven games for Sherwood junior linebacker Bryan Cuthbertson to set a school single-season record for tackles.
The 6-1, 240-pound Cuthbertson had 11 tackles in Friday’s 35-14 win at Newberg, giving him 107 for the season and breaking the previous mark of 104, set by Nathan Main in 2006.
Bowmen coach Greg Lawrence said that Cuthbertson is as good as any linebacker he has coached.
“He’s blowing it out of the water for us right now,” Lawrence said. “He’s everywhere on the field.”
Cuthbertson is a three-sport standout. In wrestling, he was the 6A runner-up at 220 pounds. In track, he was the state runner-up in the shot and discus.
He has power-cleaned 315 pounds. As a pulling guard in Sherwood’s wing-T offense, he has shown his speed by blocking down field for senior Caleb Hagan, the reigning state champion in the 100 and 200 meters.
“He went stride for stride with Caleb on one of his long touchdown runs,” Lawrence said. “He’s so athletic.”
Cuthbertson has become a dominant force at linebacker with his athleticism, power and instincts. He has compiled 51 and 53 defensive points in single games this season, breaking the previous school record of 49.
“When I watch film, I’ll just take time to watch him,” Lawrence said. “His hits are amazing. It’s bone-crushing every single time. It’s just that extra force that he puts on the hits that is incredible. He makes tackles in the secondary, behind the line, he’s everywhere. He’s always full speed to the ball, no matter what.”
Lawrence considers Cuthbertson a major-college prospect.
“If a larger school doesn’t look at him, they’re crazy,” Lawrence said. “I wish he was probably two or three inches taller, then people would be going, ‘My gosh, this is NFL quality.’”
Keeping up with Jones
It’s been a rough season for Churchill running back Deonte Jones, who has been slowed by a broken wrist and sprained ankle.
But the 6-0, 190-pound senior is starting to round into form. One week after he rushed for 230 yards in a win over North Eugene, he piled up 326 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries as the Lancers (2-5) rolled over Eagle Point 44-13 on Friday.
“Once North came, he was as healthy as he’s been, and we’ve kind of committed to the run game a lot as a team,” coach AJ Robinson said. “And he responded. He has kind of put us on his back.”
Jones broke his wrist on the first series of the season opener against Thurston. He returned for the second game with a cast, but left with an ankle injury that also forced him to miss the third game.
He has played the last four games with a cast, forcing him to carry the ball with his left hand. After some fumbling issues, he has become gradually more comfortable carrying the ball, and he is getting in better shape, too.
“He’s a tough kid. His ankle is taped up, and his wrist has a club on it,” Robinson said of Jones, who has rushed for 1,007 yards, averaging 10.3 yards per carry.
Jones transferred from Alabama in the middle of last season and rushed for 1,353 yards in six games for the Lancers. He played through a broken collarbone in a quarterfinal loss to Thurston, rushing for 340 yards and six touchdowns.
Churchill has struggled this season after losing 16 all-league players and returning only two starters. But the Lancers have made strides lately behind Jones, who has standing offers from Utah State and Portland State, according to Robinson.
“He’s been playing through some physical limitations, and he’s really battling,” Robinson said. “We’re pretty young this year, and he’s stuck it out with us and been positive.
“A kid in his position – who’s as talented as he is and hasn’t been at our school for a long time – could pretty easily get frustrated and look out for himself. But he hasn’t done that. He’s been a team guy.”
Lowering the Boomers
No. 1 Toledo fell victim to a familiar nemesis Friday in a 2A Sunset Conference game.
The Boomers (6-1, 2-1), who were so impressive in winning their first six games, fell to visiting Bandon 20-17. It marks the third year in a row that the Tigers (3-4, 1-1) have beaten Toledo.
“The game went exactly like the previous two years,” third-year Bandon coach Aaron Freitag said. “They were leading, and we stuck with it and kept fighting the whole game, and we were able to pull it off.”
Down 7-0 early, Bandon built a 20-7 lead as Brynn Green and Shaun White ran for touchdowns and Braydon Freitag passed to Green for another score.
Toledo closed within 20-15 and appeared ready to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but Bandon stopped the Boomers on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line with four minutes left.
The Tigers fumbled into the end zone for a safety to make it 20-17, and after kicking to Toledo, they got a clinching turnover with two minutes left when Wyatt Dyer forced a fumble and Green recovered.
Bandon had only 175 total yards but stayed in the game with three takeaways – two fumble recoveries and an interception.
“We were able to capitalize on those turnovers, so that was huge for us,” Aaron Freitag said. “Going into it, we knew we had to get those defensive turnovers and capitalize on them.”
Bandon has won its last two games since starting 1-4. The Tigers trail Coquille (6-1, 2-0) and Toledo in the conference standings.
“We knew that if we won this game, we’ve got a real shot,” Aaron Freitag said. “We win out, we get playoffs. The guys were just so ecstatic after the game. They were confident going in.
“We’re getting better. We’re starting to get our full team back. I haven’t had the same lineup one time all year. Some pieces are just coming together, and some younger guys are stepping up, filling roles.”
Running back Tyasin Burns led Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii to a monumental victory with an historical performance Friday in a 50-30 win over Dufur in a 1A Special District 2 West division game.
The 5-11, 150-pound Burns rushed for 441 yards and four touchdowns, caught a touchdown pass and returned an interception 70 yards for a score as the No. 8 Rockets (6-0, 5-0) downed the No. 7 Rangers (4-3, 4-1).
“Tyasin went bonkers,” coach Mike Baleztena told the East Oregonian. “Our blocking was something else. Dufur’s defensive line gives on hell of a push.”
The coach also credited the play of fullback Caden Thornton, who returned after missing one game with an injury.
“His blocking was huge for Tyasin,” Baleztena said.
The win gave the Rockets their first league title since 1983. It also marked their first win ever over Dufur, the four-time reigning 1A champion.
The 441 yards by Burns ranks No. 13 on the all-time Oregon eight-man list. In six games, he has rushed for 1,908 yards, averaging 318.0 yards per game. At that rate, he could challenge the all-time eight-man single-season record of 2,943, set by St. Paul’s Ryan Pierson in 2009.
A look at Week 7 highlights from across the state:
North Medford defeated Roseburg 54-7 as Devin Bradd rushed for 111 yards and four touchdowns and Brennan Stults threw for 260 yards. … Sheldon cruised past South Medford 34-14, getting 111 rushing yards from Lane Shields. … Grants Pass overcame a 15-0, third-quarter deficit to subdue Westview 21-15 behind Hunter Gonzalez, who threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns. … McNary got two touchdown runs from Junior Walling to beat Bend 28-20, despite Nate Denney rushing for 201 yards and three touchdowns for the Lava Bears. … Preston Ginter rushed for 271 yards and four touchdowns to spark McMinnville past Glencoe 30-7 … Damir Collins rushed for 241 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries and returned a kickoff 82 yards for a score and Jefferson rushed for 432 yards in a 50-18 win over Lincoln. … Hunter Gilbert ran for 167 yards and four touchdowns to propel Tigard past Lakeridge 41-14. … Jesuit’s Ted Atkinson had a career night, rushing for 313 yards and seven touchdowns on 24 carries in Jesuit’s 63-12 win over Southridge. … Casey Filkins rushed for 121 yards and three touchdowns and caught four passes for 50 yards and one score as Lake Oswego defeated Canby 63-12, holding the Cougars to 27 total yards. … Timmy Dennis Jr. threw a go-ahead, two-yard touchdown pass to Regan Wilson in the fourth quarter to give Aloha a 22-16 win over Mountainside. … Gavin Haines rushed for 236 yards on 25 carries as West Linn downed previously unbeaten Tualatin 34-20. … Jackson Lowery threw four touchdown passes, two to Nick Paslay, to lead West Salem past Mountain View 29-14. … Cade Knighton completed 15 of 17 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns in Central Catholic’s 63-17 win over Sandy. … Trent Walker returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown and had seven catches for 96 yards and one score in Beaverton’s wire-to-wire 48-34 win at Sunset. Beavers quarterback Carson Budke threw for 288 yards and four touchdowns. ... Jae'sean Pete ran for two touchdowns in the first quarter and Alex Gray had a 34-yard interception return for a score in Grant's 79-6 win over Madison.
Crater rolled up 645 yards, rushing for 485, to beat Ashland 48-13. Trever Davis rushed for 116 yards and four touchdowns and threw a scoring pass. Gavin Acrey rushed for 232 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries. … Redmond got past North Bend 36-24 behind Brendan Powell, who ran for two touchdowns, including a 67-yarder on the team’s first play. … Scappoose led 41-0 at half in a 48-13 win over Wilson. Jakobi Kessi passed for two touchdowns and ran for a score for the Indians. … Thurston rushed for 375 yards to beat Willamette 63-7, ending the Wolverines’ four-game winning streak. Wesley Kommer rushed for 160 yards and four touchdowns. … Bryce Boettcher passed for five touchdowns and ran for 64 yards to lead South Eugene past North Eugene 55-19. … Jayce Knapp completed 8 of 12 passes for 235 yards and four touchdowns and Jacob Haussermann kicked a 46-yard field goal in Wilsonville’s 52-0 win over St. Helens. … Lebanon rushed for 412 yards to pound South Albany 63-12. Keith Brown ran for 176 yards and four touchdowns on eight carries for the Warriors, who held South Albany to 105 total yards. ... Parkrose went on the road to upset Pendleton 30-19, the Broncos' fourth consecutive win after an 0-2 start.
Marshfield got a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown from Sam Grayson in beating Elmira 16-0. … Marist Catholic thumped Junction City 49-14 as Lucas Tuski ran for three touchdowns and the Spartans had seven sacks, three by Kenny Weber. … Mazama broke from a 0-0 halftime tie to blank Klamath Union 28-0, limiting the Pelicans to 55 total yards. Charlie Baker ran for 147 yards for the Vikings. … Tim Orr threw two touchdown passes and John Tacchini ran for two scores in Henley’s 26-6 win over North Valley. … Molalla trailed 6-0 in the fourth quarter before overtaking Astoria 21-12. Damian Pingo connected with Jacob Nix on an 87-yard option pass to put the Indians ahead for good. … North Marion beat Gladstone 26-20 on an eight-yard touchdown pass from Sergio Jimenez to Johnny Page with 2:01 left. … Martial Stegemeir rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns as reigning state champion Banks defeated Seaside 34-6 in a rematch of last year’s 4A final.
St. Mary’s handed Brookings-Harbor its first defeat, winning 14-3 despite playing without quarterback Aliiloa Kaeo-Wailehua, who went down with an injury during the week. Tight end Beau Aldrich filled in at quarterback and threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Trevahn Foster. … Cascade Christian rolled past Douglas 50-2 as Kiegan Schaan threw four touchdown passes. … Braydon Thornton scored touchdowns passing, rushing and receiving in Siuslaw’s 44-15 win over Pleasant Hill. … Ely Kennel ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns and passed for two scores to lead Santiam Christian past Sutherlin 43-7. … Hidden Valley got three touchdown passes from Sam Vidlak in a 41-7 win over South Umpqua. … Yamhill-Carlton extended its winning streak to 10 games by beating Corbett 34-8, getting three touchdown passes and a touchdown run from Jaime Garcia. … Vale throttled Irrigon 71-19 as Colton Kesey threw three touchdown passes and Jared Fulwyler rushed for 128 yards. … Cody Dyche caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Keenan Graham late in the third quarter, proving to be the difference in Amity’s 24-20 win over Rainier.
Enrique Arellano rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns and AJ Keeney rushed for 187 yards in Stanfield’s 46-0 win over Vernonia. … Jayden Wilson threw three touchdown passes, two to Mason Lehman, to lead Heppner past Weston-McEwen 52-0. … Reedsport scored on its first six possessions in routing Gold Beach 52-14. Kaileb Pickett completed 7 of 8 passes for 229 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 226 yards and three scores and ran for seven two-point conversions for the Braves. … Gunner Yates ran for three touchdowns to lead Coquille past Lakeview 54-18. … Kennedy got two touchdown passes from Dylan Kleinschmit to help beat Colton 27-6. … Monroe defeated Central Linn 49-8 behind the rushing of Zach Young (seven carries, 246 yards, three touchdowns) and Brody Ballard (four carries, 133 yards, two touchdowns). … Glide turned back Lost River 14-8 as Caidyn Cunningham ran for a touchdown and threw a 64-yard scoring pass to Dylan Ackerman. … Oakland dispatched Creswell 35-7, getting a big game from Conrad James, who threw for 260 yards and four touchdowns, three to Corbin Picknell.
St. Paul led Waldport 68-0 at half on its way to an 80-6 win. Gianni Grasso rushed for 155 yards and four touchdowns on nine carries for the Buckaroos, who had 524 rushing yards. ... Hunter Padberg threw for two touchdowns and ran for two scores as Ione/Arlington held off Imbler 41-24. … Camas Valley routed Myrtle Point 56-0 as Jared Standley threw four touchdown passes, three to Tristan Casteel. … Lowell dominated previously unbeaten Mapleton 68-28, getting a big game from Josiah VonDolosky, who ran for two touchdowns, caught two scoring passes and returned an interception for a touchdown. … Butte Falls brushed off a 6-0 halftime deficit to pull away from Riddle 36-6. … Jackson Williams rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns and returned an interception 49 yards for a score as Days Creek blasted Glendale 60-6. … North Douglas edged Yoncalla 42-36 behind Austin Frieze, who rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns. … Derrick Cano ran for five touchdowns to lead Oakridge past Elkton 60-20. … Crane beat Wallowa 56-40 despite allowing 526 yards to the Cougars, who got 345 passing yards and four scoring passes from Lute Ramsden. Crane rushed for 391 yards.