On a football team where “family” is more than just a word, it’s an all-encompassing reality, Trent Snyder certainly doesn’t stand alone.
Then again, the South Medford senior has enjoyed precious few solo moments in his lifetime.
When you’re the youngest out of seven children, as is the case with the Panthers’ standout linebacker and fullback, rarely do you ever have to be concerned with feeling lonely.
“Growing up in a huge family is just something else,” says the 18-year-old Snyder. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
What he does know, however, is that his home life has helped him make an impact among a host of other talented players on his fifth-seeded South Medford squad, which next plays at 5 p.m. Friday in the Class 6A state semifinals against No. 1 Lake Oswego at Hillsboro Stadium.
“There’s a lot of give and take and having to share when you have a big family,” says the 6-foot, 220-pound standout. “We grew up with that as a mindset. We always had to share, whether it’s food or clothes or whatever. It’s engraved in our mind and I’ve been able to extend that to team sports and being a team player probably because of it.”
And if you ask anyone in the Panther program, there’s no doubt Snyder fits into the category of team player.
“He’s as hard-working as they come and he’s a great guy,” says Panthers senior Jaylin Parnell, who works closely alongside Snyder at tailback and linebacker. “He’s all dinged up and he’s still grinding.”
“He’s a straight team guy,” Parnell adds. “I know he wants to run the ball a million times, just like everybody else — shoot everybody wants the ball — but he took his role as a blocker straight on and has been great at it. But when his name is called and he gets the ball, he goes for home runs and really brings it.”
Snyder hasn’t necessarily been a featured piece of South Medford’s high-powered offense, nonetheless his role has been just as important as the headliners.
Whether blocking for the run or pass, Snyder has been fearless in helping pave the way. But it was his 60-yard touchdown run that sparked the Panthers to a 42-14 second-round win over Lincoln in a game that saw him total 89 yards and two scores in seven carries.
For the season, Snyder has been one of South Medford’s most dependable defenders and leading tacklers as a two-time all-Southwest Conference linebacker and has run 18 times for 244 yards and three TDs to go with five catches for 46 yards and one score.
“I think he likes playing football and you can see it in his play,” says South Medford head coach Bill Singler. “He’s become a real two-way player for us and does so much. He’s kind of the unsung hero for us, at least on offense, because he doesn’t get any of the accolades the other guys get but he does a lot for us. If you watch us offensively, he’s carrying the ball, he’s blocking, he’s catching the ball out of the backfield ... he’s doing a lot of stuff and he doesn’t get a lot of credit but he’s OK with that.”
“On defense it’s the same way,” adds Singler. “He lines up at linebacker and he blitzes, he sheds blocks, he makes tackles … he just likes to be around the ball.”
It’s been that way for years, with Snyder having to get up to speed early in order to hang with a host of brothers who were always willing to let him tag along and have helped him tremendously by sharing their own life experiences.
In an age range counting down from 31 to 18 these days, the youngest Snyder says he owes a lot to brothers Drew, Tory, Clark, Preston and Blake and sister Madalyn, who was fourth in line to separate the two trios of boys.
“Growing up with them was a lot of fun,” says Snyder, who shakes his head at the outcries of him being the baby or caboose of the family. “They took care of me and I didn’t really get to experience being babied along because I did everything with them.”
In one season, he found himself playing football on three teams: Preston’s team, Blake’s team and his own team. In the backyard or any available field to play on, he was considered one of the players, not someone too young to participate.
“It was just a lot of fun and it brought on a lot of competition in backyard football with all the different age groups and skill-sets,” recalls Snyder. “They would go a little bit easier on me back then just because I wasn’t as strong yet, but now it’s just crazy when we get together and we’re able to play.”
That’s possibly one reason why Snyder is able to play with such a physical edge, having had to take a few lumps of his own along the way before learning how to dish it out. And, oh boy, can Snyder dish it out these days.
“He brings physicality to our defense because he’s a big hitter,” says Parnell. “I wouldn’t want to run at him, he’s knocking dudes out.”
All of that has come to a head this year for Snyder, who broke his hand as a sophomore but remained in the lineup and says he learned a lot as a junior to help propel him into being a better leader and teammate for his final run.
“Last year I was pretty disappointed that I wasn’t getting the ball and then I kind of had to get over myself and realize that I’ll be blocking for Robbie (Patterson) and Jaylin,” says Snyder. “In some games I might get the ball and be able to show off my skills or get a pass in the flat but, more importantly, I’m here to be a team player and do whatever I can to help us win.”
Singler says he’s noticed a marked rise in play by Snyder this year and, in his best compliment, calls Snyder a “true football player.”
“For me as a coach, this is why you like coaching,” says Singler. “You like being around kids like Trent Snyder, and we have a bunch of them. They just come to work every day and they don’t worry about fanfare, they just enjoy being around their teammates and they’re playing football just for the love of the game.”
“When you have kids like that,” adds the coach in his 20th season, “there’s a reason why we’re playing now in the semifinals. It’s just not all coaching, it’s because we have good kids that we are coaching. These guys are responding and Trent’s one of those kids.”
The Class of 2018 has long been one earmarked for greatness in the South Medford program and Snyder says the group is extremely thankful for all the support received over the years and is happy they’ve been able to reward such faith.
“This is my 10th year of tackle football and being able to live up to all the expectations of coaches and family members and outside community members is always a good feeling,” he says. “I’m very thankful. It’s always a blessing when you have your family members and your teammates looking out for you.”
With that said, Snyder admits that there is still plenty of work to do as he and the Panthers turn toward the future.
“Each week there’s always things to improve,” he says. “We still as a team and a unit have to keep climbing the mountain. I don’t think it will ever be perfect but reaching the state finals and potentially winning, maybe we’ll reach the top then.”
“Beyond that,” concludes Snyder, “just being able to play with my brothers (at South) and hang with them has been the most special part to all of this. Being able to accomplish each goal that we set out each week — we wanted to win our first home game, win at homecoming and all those goals — has been special and now we just want to keep pushing it to the state finals.”
Rest assured, Snyder will have a lot of support in the stands, as he’s enjoyed throughout his football journey.
“My family has come to every single one of my games ever since Pop Warner,” he says proudly, “and we always try to make it to all the big special events in our family. Definitely this Friday is a special event so I expect my family to be there in a large sum.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry