Fitting sendoff for fall supremacy
With so much excellence coming out of Southern Oregon during the fall sports season, it’s only right that there were plenty of pats on the back and recognition supplied through the all-state voting for football, soccer and volleyball.
No program cleaned up more than the Cascade Christian football team, which went undefeated for the first time in school history en route to earning the Class 3A state championship.
The Challengers generated a whopping eight first-team honors and nearly swept in the player of the year and coach of the year honors to wrap a fitting bow to their football season.
Sophomore running back Kameron Rague was named Class 3A offensive player of the year, senior linebacker Cole Shields was named 3A defensive player of the year, senior tackle Jaxson Turituri was named 3A lineman of the year and 13th-year head coach Jon Gettman was named 3A coach of the year to highlight the honors.
“I can’t think of a time when you had the offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year and lineman of the year from one team,” said Gettman. “I think it just kind of shows what they did and the effort they put forth and just the level they were playing at this season.”
In every way possible, it was a dominant season for the Challengers as they produced a fourth state championship in school history. During a 13-0 campaign, Cascade Christian outscored its opponents by an average score of 50-7 and didn’t allow a team to come within four touchdowns in any of their outings, including a 41-6 drubbing of previously undefeated Kennedy in the 3A title game.
Also earning first-team acclaim were senior receiver Brody Sample, senior offensive linemen Daniel Nering and Liam Benade and senior defensive back Tyler Almasy. Turituri was named to the first team as a lineman on offense and defense.
“It’s certainly exciting to see kids get recognized,” said Gettman. “I felt for all of them it was well-deserved and I was really happy to see the list, especially getting three offensive linemen on the first team because, like I said all year, they really carried us and it was nice to see that recognition.”
Rague rushed 110 times for 1,331 yards and 20 touchdowns to help propel a Challengers offense that churned out nearly 230 yards per game on the ground to go with another 185 through the air.
Sample led his team with 37 catches for 661 yards and seven scores.
On defense, Shields accounted for 81 total tackles, including 12.5 tackles for loss, to go with four interceptions and two fumble recoveries while Turituri had 50 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss. Almasy had 34 tackles and two interceptions.
The Challengers also received honorable mention recognition for senior quarterback Keith Reed, junior receiver Peyton Maurer and junior placekicker Mason Hoffman.
St. Mary’s senior receiver Jaden Foster was also a first-team honoree to put a stamp on a season that saw the Crusaders reach the state playoffs.
The lone player of the year nod that did not go to the Challengers was for the top 3A returner, which was earned by Banks senior Jackson Lyda.
At the state’s largest classification, South Medford senior receiver Andrew Walker was the lone first-team representative on the Class 6A all-state list after a stellar season in which he registered 53 catches for 852 yards and 10 touchdowns. A state sprint champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, Walker recently accepted a preferred walk-on football scholarship with the University of Oregon.
In other 6A football voting, North Medford junior tight end AJ Pugliano and senior offensive lineman David Fuiava were named to the second-team offense while Pugliano was also a second-team honoree on the defensive line.
Honorable mention recognition went to South Medford senior quarterback Deacon Edgar, North Medford senior running back and defensive back Ty Pugliano, North Medford junior offensive lineman Connor Trinca, North Medford senior placekicker JT Knobloch-Scott and South Medford junior defensive lineman Makani Manuwai.
At the Class 5A level, Eagle Point senior running back David Brown received first-team acclaim while junior defensive lineman Hayden Weaver gained an honorable mention nod.
Brown capped the regular season as the top rusher at the Class 5A level with 1,515 yards to go with 23 touchdowns, then added another 178 yards and one TD on 31 carries in Eagle Point’s first state playoff game in six years.
First-team recognition was earned by Phoenix boys soccer senior Daniel Palomino (4A) and St. Mary’s junior Leo Cronk (3A/2A/1A) after each was instrumental in leading their teams to impressive seasons.
Palomino created 16 goals and 10 assists to help lead the Pirates to the 4A state championship game, where they came up short against Ontario.
Cronk scored 20 goals and recorded 15 assists for the Crusaders, who lost to Oregon Episcopal in the state semifinals.
Senior goalkeeper Julius Bolstad was a second-team honoree for Phoenix, while the Crusaders saw junior forward Chris Kranenburg and freshman forward Jose Mondesi also net second-team nods.
Also in 3A/2A/1A girls soccer voting, St.Mary’s senior goalkeeper Katelynn Balsiger was named to the second team and senior midfielder Sadie Glaser received honorable mention.
A historic season at the 5A level for Crater’s boys soccer team generated second-team recognition for seniors Cooper Hopkins and Braiden Tester. The Comets earned their first conference title in program history this past fall.
In 5A girls soccer all-state voting, Ashland senior Joelle Annen anchored her team’s defensive efforts and was named to the second team.
For as dominant as the Crater volleyball team was throughout the regular season, there was no doubt that at least one Comet would land on the Class 5A all-state first team and sure enough that player proved to be senior outside hitter Kendra Bittle.
The 6-foot-2 Bittle averaged 13.8 kills, 6.4 digs and 2.3 aces with a .343 hitting percentage to propel the Comets to an undefeated run in the Midwestern League that included straight-set victories in every match.
Crater, which placed fifth at the state tourney, also received honorable mention selections for senior outside hitter Madison Kocina and senior setter Kate Stidham.
At the Class 6A level, South Medford senior Katie Clevenger was a second-team all-state pick after averaging 14.1 kills, 9.1 digs and 2.9 aces per match in helping the Panthers advance to their first-ever appearance at the state tournament.
Kelsey Dunn was an integral force in guiding St. Mary’s to its first trip to the state tournament in 12 years and received first-team all-state honors at the Class 3A level.
Dunn, a 6-foot-3 middle blocker, finished her season with 385 kills, 41 aces, 78 blocks and an 88% service percentage.
Also at the 3A level, Cascade Christian junior outside hitter Madison Todd was named to the third team and honorable mention recognition went to Cascade Christian sophomore right side Poppy Freeman and junior setter Molly Griffin and St. Mary’s senior libero Albie Borovansky.
In 1A all-state voting, Rogue Valley Adventist senior middle blocker/outside hitter Emma Bischoff was a first-team selection while Red Tail Hawks senior teammates Michaela Porter (middle blocker) and Isabell Zamora (outside hitter) landed on the honorable mention squad.
Bischoff amassed 88 kills, 22 blocks and 45 digs during three state tournament matches for RVA, which went 74-14 during her four seasons as a starter.
Reach sports editor Kris Henry at email@example.com or via Twitter @Kris_Henry