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Cascade Christian's Ben Dunn (left) and Haiden Schaan make their commitments to play college football Wednesday morning in Medford. [ANDY ATKINSON/MAIL TRIBUNE]

Schaan, local athletes sign on dotted line

Haiden Schaan loved being part of a winning program in high school and wants more of the same in college, which is why when it came time to select his next destination Cascade Christian’s star quarterback chose an up-and-coming Division III program in Salem.

Schaan, who led the Challengers to a Class 3A state championship victory last November, publicly committed to George Fox University on National Signing Day Wednesday before a large contingent of family and friends in the Cascade Christian High commons.

Sitting at a table draped in the George Fox Bruins logo, Schaan signed the mock form — NCAA Division III schools are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships — next to longtime teammate and Cascade Christian receiver Ben Dunn, who committed to Southern Oregon University. The celebration was one of many that took place across the valley Wednesday, as prep standouts from Ashland to Central Point made their college choices official.

“It was pretty great,” said Schaan, who was voted the 3A Offensive Player of the Year. “It was a great atmosphere to have all my friends and family and teachers from school and teammates, and to sign with one of my best friends [Dunn] I’ve been playing with since middle school, that was pretty cool.”

Schaan had plenty of company Wednesday: South Medford football players Jaylin Parnell, Jaalen Owens and Josiah Johnson signed on with Western Oregon University; Ashland girls soccer player Mya Elder-Hammond signed on with Eastern Washington University, an NCAA Division I program; Ashland two-way lineman Drake Morey committed to Columbia University; and Crater running back/defensive back Cade Weaver and Phoenix receiver/defensive back Chase Courtney both committed to Southern Oregon.

Listed at 6-foot, 195 pounds, the dual-threat Schaan completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,079 yards, 37 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a senior while leading the Challengers to four postseason wins, including a 28-21 victory over Santiam Christian in the 3A state championship game. He also ran for 774 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Schaan also considered NAIA program Montana Tech and NCAA Division III school Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois), but ultimately decided George Fox was the best fit. He was attracted to the program’s steady uptick in wins as well as its engineering program (he’s targeting a career as a mechanical engineer) and experienced coaching staff. Led by head coach Chris Casey, the Bruins finished third, behind Linfield and Whitworth, in the Northwest Conference last season and went 7-3 overall only three years after the program was reinstated following a 45-year hiatus.

“Their football program was great and that’s one of the main things I’m going for,” he said, “and also academically, they have a great engineering program and degree availability over there so I was really interested in getting into that.”

Making the decision easier was the fact that the Bruins’ starting quarterback in 2017, Grant Schroeder, has exhausted his eligibility, leaving a vacancy at that position that Schaan hopes to fill soon.

Casey said George Fox has had Schaan on its radar since his junior year, but didn’t start actively recruiting him until last fall, when Schaan started to turn heads with his athletic prowess and command of the Challengers’ spread offense.

“We like his accuracy, we like his quick release, he’s got quick feet,” Casey said of Schaan. “He’s poised, to make good decisions, which is a really key thing at the quarterback position, and we’ve seen nothing but good things from him as a person.

“You never know when a guy will play but we think he’s got all the tools mentally and physically to compete to play early on. …He’s just a super young man from a very good home. We wanted to bring in two outstanding freshmen and he was one of those two.”

Parnell, Owens and Johnson also signed on dotted lines during a joint press conference at South Medford High, although all three had already announced their intentions to attend Western Oregon, a NCAA Division II program, last week via Twitter. Parnell, a running back/linebacker, was chosen the 6A Defensive Player of the Year and was also a first-team all-state running back. The 6-foot, 200-pounder set school records for rushing yards (1,442) and rushing touchdowns (24).

Owens, a receiver/cornerback/kicker, was second-team all-state on both sides of the ball after amassing 36 catches for 669 yards and 10 touchdowns plus five interceptions. Johnson, a first-team all-state defensive back, led the Panthers with six interceptions, including a team-record three in one game.

Elder-Hammond led the Grizzlies to a 10-3-1 overall record in 2017, including a second-place showing (6-1) in the Midwestern League. She’ll join an Eastern Washington team that went 16-6-1 last season and won its second straight Big Sky Conference tournament championship.

A three-time all-MWL pick and second-team all-state selection as a senior, the 5-foot-9 Elder-Hammond, listed as a defender on EWU’s website, scored 51 goals and dished out 41 assists in her four years at Ashland.

“(Elder-Hammond) adds size and athleticism to our squad,” Eastern Washington coach Chad Bodnar said in an article on the team’s website. “She is a tall, lanky player who passes the ball well and looks to get forward off of the edge. Mya has good vision and is technically sound on the ball. It will be fun to see her incorporate her skills into what we do as a program.”

Morey (6-5, 260) had 22 tackles, including three for losses, and a fumble recovery for Ashland. His teammate, receiver/defensive back Anthony Swanson (5-10, 165), committed to Southern Oregon. Swanson was the Grizzlies’ leading receiver in 2017, catching 25 passes for 333 yards and five touchdowns to earn second-team all-MWL honors.

Weaver (6-1, 185) was a first-team all-MWL defensive back and running back after rushing for 676 yards and nine touchdowns and catching 20 passes for another 196 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. He also had four interceptions.

Courtney (6-3, 190) was a first-team all-Skyline receiver and defensive back as a senior for a Phoenix team that finished 7-3, 4-1 in the conference.

Dunn (6-3, 180) caught 65 passes for 1,078 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior and also gave the Challengers’ defense a big lift with five interceptions and 52 tackles.

Also Wednesday, North Medford receiver Vicente Borjas, an Southwest Conference honorable mention, announced that he’s headed to SOU. Phoenix’s Megan Farley will play soccer for Rogue Community College, Phoenix’s Robby Vos is headed to Eugene to run for Lane Community College and Phoenix’s Javan Gail will play football for Santa Barbara City College.

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