It happened a little sooner than anticipated, but Cam Sommer's vision of becoming Gladstone's football coach has materialized.
A year after joining the staff at Gladstone – where he was a standout player, and his father, Doug, was the defensive coordinator for the 4A title team in 2014 – Sommer has been named as the Gladiators' head coach.
It is the first head coaching job for Sommer, who assisted at Milwaukie (2017) and Grant (2018-19) after his college career as a tight end at Portland State ended in 2016.
“This was my goal the whole time,” said Sommer, the team's offensive coordinator this year. “Going to high school there, and then playing football at Portland State, I just always wanted to come back home. I just wanted to give the kids in the community as much information as possible that I kind of gathered since I've been away.”
Sommer said it was “kind of an emotional no-brainer” last year to accept coach JJ Jedrykowski's offer to assist him at Gladstone. When Jedrykowski stepped down after guiding Gladstone to a 5-1 record this spring, Sommer was ready to apply for the head coaching job.
“It means so much more than just another coaching job,” said Sommer, who works as a financial advisor. “It's people that I grew up around and helped raise me a little bit.”
Sommer will have plenty of support on his staff.
Doug Sommer, a former head coach at Milwaukie (2001-05) and Wilsonville (2006-09), will rejoin the staff as the defensive coordinator. He assisted at Putnam the last two seasons after coaching one season with Cam at Grant.
“The best thing about him being on staff will be him kind of mentoring me and helping me kind of naturally navigate through having the helm,” Cam said.
Cam's brother, Carl, will be the defensive line coach. Carl, a former all-state defensive lineman at Wilsonville who played at Oregon State and Portland State, last assisted at Milwaukie in 2017.
“When I got the gig, I gave him a call, and he said, 'Without a doubt, I'll do it,'” Cam said.
A key holdover is Paris Penn, the former Grant and Portland State quarterback who will be the team's offensive coordinator. Sommer and Penn played together in college and have shared offensive coordinator duties at Grant and Gladstone. When Sommer left Grant for the Gladiators, Penn agreed to come along.
“It meant the world to me that he was willing to come over and help me out,'” Sommer said of Penn, a groomsman at Sommer's wedding to former Portland State volleyball player Erin Clark in May.
Sommer believes the chemistry between the coaches will provide a solid foundation for the team.
“I'm real excited about the mix we'll be putting together for the kids,” he said. “I'm kind of keeping the group together.”
Sommer and Penn made their mark on the team last season by adding a passing element to the wing-T offense. Gladstone, which has built its reputation on a dominant running game, began to find success in the air last season.
“We actually threw some forward passes. It was great,” Sommer said. “Being in the gun and throwing it, and doing some spread concepts, it was really cool to see it come to fruition. I think this year will just be more of a build on that. It'll be closer to what Paris and I did at Grant. All the kids are very excited to be throwing the football a little bit.”
Gladstone has a rising prospect at quarterback in junior-to-be Brayde Owen, who took over the starting spot in the second half of last season. When the Gladiators clinched the Tri-Valley Conference title with a 32-6 win over Madras, Owen threw for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns.
“It was huge. It obviously gave him some momentum going into his last two years,” Sommer said of Owen, who has received some interest from Big Sky Conference college programs.
Owen, who also was a first-team all-conference cornerback, and defensive end/tight end Ethan Finnigan headline a talented class of incoming juniors. A half-dozen of them were starters last season.
“We've got a lot coming back,” Sommer said.
Expectations are high at Gladstone, which has had only one losing season since 2010. And Sommer will follow the highly successful Jedrykowski, who went 28-10 in two stints as the team's head coach (2014-15, 2019-20), including the 2014 state title.
But Sommer believes he is ready for the challenge, especially after late-night, postgame conversations with his father in recent years.
“The more I got information from him about the true intricacies of it, I was like, 'Yeah, I think I want to do that,'” he said. “Over the last two or three years is when it started to percolate for me.”