Kiegan Schaan would be under the microscope at Cascade Christian High this season simply because he plays the most important position in football: quarterback.
The junior will endure additional scrutiny because he’s following in the footsteps of his brother, Haiden, who passed for 3,079 yards and had a hand in a jaw-dropping 54 touchdowns (37 passing, 16 rushing and one receiving) while leading the Challengers to a 12-1 record and the Class 3A state championship a year ago.
You think that’s pressure? Add this: Kiegan Schaan will be playing quarterback full-time for the first time.
“He’s taken on the role and he’s gotten better and better throughout the summer,” said Challengers coach Jon Gettman of Schaan, a converted wide receiver. “It’s a feeling-out process, no question about that, but he’s a cerebral kid who’s always asking questions. That’s helped him develop more quickly than he otherwise would.
“His consistency is a work in progress, but he has a good arm and he’s a patient runner. He’s going to help us.”
With the Challengers running a no-huddle spread offense, competent quarterback production is vital. But Gettman said the team will lean more on its running game this season.
Center Logan Flenner, a 6-foot, 295-pound senior, returns as a first-team all-state selection, and he’ll be flanked by two other returning senior starters — tackle Cody Miller and guard Spencer Weeks. Cole Ferguson, a returning starter at defensive end, also played extensively on the offensive line a year ago.
The experienced front should open a lot of running lanes for tailbacks Luke and Elijah Smith. Luke Smith, a 5-10, 190-pound senior, is coming off shoulder surgery but enters the fall at full strength.
“Luke is one of those kids who goes 100 percent on every snap — he’s just relentless,” said Gettman. “And his acceleration is amazing. He’s an explosive runner and our best athlete.”
Elijah Smith, Luke’s younger brother, carried most of the load during summer passing league and at the North Bend team camp when Luke Smith was healing. Kristian Fralich, who will spend most of his time at wide receiver on offense and safety on defense, serves as Cascade Christian’s No. 3 running back and figures to get carries.
Ian Fralich — Kristian’s cousin — is a returning regular at wide receiver and free safety.
Other returning starters on defense in addition to Ferguson include John Fralich – Kristian’s brother — at cornerback, Luke Smith at inside linebacker and Schaan at strong safety, where he earned honorable mention all-state accolades a year ago.
Cascade Christian also boasts one of the state’s top place-kickers in senior Ethan Hoffman, who converted 48 extra-point kicks, made 5 of 7 field goal attempts and banged 60 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks last season.
“Hoffman’s a great weapon,” said Gettman. “He’s capable of winning a game with his leg, and he’s been working hard in practice to become a better punter. I’m sure he’ll play at the next level.”
The Challengers have moved from the Southern Cascade League to the 3A Special District 2 this fall. With the 12-team conference comes a tougher schedule, with matchups against schools that were 4A last season — Hidden Valley, South Umpqua, Douglas and Brookings-Harbor.
Longtime 3A contenders Harrisburg and Pleasant Hill are also on the menu, and early-season matchups against Phoenix and Klamath Union won’t be easy.
“We like being in a bigger league,” said Gettman, noting that the SCL featured just four schools. “It feels more like a league. We’re going to get better competition throughout the season, and that’s something we embrace.”
Cascade Christian won the SCL the past eight seasons. Claiming a title in the new league will be a tall order, but Gettman’s No. 1 objective is to reach the state playoffs. Five of the 12 teams in District 2 will qualify.
Gettman believes the key to advancing to the postseason is bucking up on defense, something the Challengers did a year ago when they held six of their 12 opponents to two touchdowns or fewer, with two shutouts.
“There’s going to be times when our offense is out of sync, and that’s when our defense has to come through,” said Gettman. “As often as our offense put up big numbers last season, it was our defense making stops and turnovers at key times that won us the tough games.”
HEAD COACH: Jon Gettman (ninth year, 80-20).
Gettman has moved into some very select company among high school coaches in Oregon by winning 80 percent of his games since taking over the program in 2010.
ASSISTANTS: Mike Schaan (defensive coordinator/offensive line/defensive line), Sam Carpenter (defensive backs), Andy Scaglione (head JV/defensive backs/wide receivers), Jerry Birchfiel (offensive/defensive lines), Joe Hagler (running backs), Steve Furst (quarterbacks), Ryan Sample (JV), Matt Haggert (wide receivers), Tony McDougle (linebackers/running backs), Darren Turituri (offensive line/defensive line/JV defense).
2017 LEAGUE RECORD: 3-0 (first, SCL).
2017 OVERALL RECORD: 12-1.
PREDICTED FINISH THIS YEAR: First.
49Paradise, Calif. 42
47Santiam Christian 0
70St. Mary’s 14
62Illinois Valley 0
28Santiam Christian 21
OFFENSE (6): Wide receiver Ian Fralich (5-9, 160, sr.), center Logan Flenner (6-0, 295, sr.), guard Spencer Weeks (6-0, 240, sr.), tackle Cody Miller (6-4, 220, sr.), wide receiver John Fralich (5-10, 150, sr.), place-kicker Ethan Hoffman (5-10, 180, sr.).
DEFENSE (5): Strong safety Kiegan Schaan (6-0, 185, jr.), free safety Ian Fralich, cornerback John Fralich, inside linebacker Luke Smith (5-10, 190, sr.), end Cole Ferguson (5-10, 185, sr.).
OTHER NOTABLES: Tailback Luke Smith, running back/outside linebacker Elijah Smith (5-7, 155, jr.), safety/wide receiver/running back Kristian Fralich (5-7, 145, so.), inside linebacker/offensive line Gabe Pierson (5-9, 210, jr.), offensive lineman/defensive lineman Jacob Copely (6-0, 240, jr.), outside linebacker/tight end/wide receiver Cade Sample (6-2, 165, jr.).
Aug. 31at Phoenix, 7 p.m.
Sept. 7KLAMATH UNION, 7 p.m.
Sept. 14HARRISBURG, 7 p.m.
Sept. 21at Pleasant Hill, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28at Hidden Valley, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5at South Umpqua, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12DOUGLAS, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 BROOKINGS-HARBOR, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26at St. Mary’s, 7 p.m.
Reach freelance writer Don Hunt at email@example.com