Hood River Valley had a near perfect swan song against traditional “Intermountain Conference” football opponents in 2021 and a new set of foes awaits the Eagles this season in a revamped Special District 1.
HRV posted its best soccer season in two decades a season ago thanks to a core group of seniors who had a special bond, according to coach Caleb Sperry. The Eagles were runners-up in District 1, finishing with a 9-2 record and winning a state playoff contest for the first time since 2002.
“At the beginning of the season we have a lot of optimism,” Sperry said. “We have a good (team) attitude.
“Football is a numbers game. We are going to be a team of small numbers… but the ones that are out are good”.
There are some important shoes to fill from last year’s quarterfinal state team. Gone are the two-way first-team players from all leagues, Trenton Hughes, Alex Whitaker and Ryles Buckley. Gone are players from across the leagues Mason Spellecy and Rolando Flores, and Joey Frazier, Kyle Smiley and Robert Rowan.
The attention to detail, specifically the team roster, will be a prerequisite for Eagle fans who will primarily be hearing an entirely different set of names over the public address system this fall. Similar attention will be needed to learn the roster of HRV’s league opponents. (To avoid frustration, fans are better off being patient for a month or so and avoiding trying to figure out the state’s playoff plan for soccer, which includes two 6A groups.)
Awaiting a new batch of Eagle footballers is a special district that includes two Class 6A schools, two other long-time 6A schools, and arguably the best of the bunch, Wilsonville’s 5A powerhouse. The latter team finished the HRV season a year ago in the state quarterfinals before losing in the 5A semifinals to eventual runner-up Thurston.
Hood River Valley will compete in the Northwest Oregon Conference in most other sports, but football leagues seemingly reset almost every year these days; therefore, Special District 1 and other conferences throughout the state have a single composition primarily for football.
HRV district foes also include full-time 5A newcomer Canby, whose senior year in 6A last fall was capped by an appearance in the 5A football semifinals; Southridge, the suburban Beaverton school that had a rich 6A football history until nearby Mountainside opened in 2018 and district boundaries were rearranged; and the former 6A Forest Grove and Centennial schools. Rounding out District 1 in football are Putnam and Hillsboro, perhaps surprising to some, has won the most state football championships (three) of any other school in the league. At least there will be some familiar faces on Coach Sperry’s lineup when the Eagles open the season Friday in Redmond. Rugged running back Shaw Burns returns for his senior season. Burns, often HRV’s second career choice a season ago behind Hughes, had back-to-back games of 140-plus rushing yards in Weeks 5 and 6 of 2021. He’s also a returning starter at defensive linebacker, al just like the runner. Ethan Rivera, a junior.
“We made some adjustments (offensively) with the same concept” of establishing the running game. We have had some consistency in the program; We know who we are and what we do.”
Sperry said the quarterback duties will be handled by either junior Grady Williams or sophomore Davis Parr.
Protecting the quarterbacks and opening holes for Burns and his backfield partners will be a solid group of linemen led by all-league junior Malcom I’aulaulo. He will be joined by his older brother Mynoah, who transferred from The Dalles, sophomore Logan Lavoie and senior Devon Boydston.