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3A GSHL football preview: Evergreen just gets stronger

Mountain View a strong contender behind McCarthy at quarterback

By Joshua Hart, Columbian sports reporter
Published: February 25, 2021, 7:08pm
3 Photos
The Evergreen offense is anchored by sophomore center Carlos Churape, who started every game in 2019.
The Evergreen offense is anchored by sophomore center Carlos Churape, who started every game in 2019. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Evergreen football averaged an eye-popping 36.4 points per game last year.

Behind standout athletes Zyell Griffin (now with UNLV football), Carter Monda (Clark baseball) and Tae Marks (Central Washington football), the Plainsmen were two points shy of toppling Garfield and earning their first state berth since 2004.

Despite graduating that strong senior class, Christian Swain’s group is somehow entering this shortened 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League season bigger, faster and stronger.

“We are blessed with great athletes,” the Plainsmen second-year coach said. “I think we can have a better offense than we did last year.”

Enter big eyes emoji here.

Western Oregon signee Jaylen Fite (25 catches, 307 yards) will become a more prominent part of the offense. Sophomore Jonathan Landry, a star defensive back already receiving Division I offers, will also take a more active part in the offense.

Calling the shots is Lake Oswego transfer JJ Woodin, a three-year starter for the Oregon 6A state runner-up. He also won a championship with Lake Oswego in 2018. With a 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, the quarterback is the real deal, Swain said.

“He has the best work ethic of any kid I’ve ever coached,” Swain said.

He’s also had no trouble transitioning into a leadership role. He transferred to Evergreen 15 months ago, a big reason his assimilation into the Plainsmen program has been seamless. Jonah Hayes, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound tackle, comes in from La Salle Catholic Prep to anchor an experienced offensive line for Evergreen.

“They’re a really smart, coachable group,” Swain said. “We’re just excited to get a chance to play football.”

Mountain View will be one of Evergreen’s biggest foes in an extremely competitive 3A GSHL. The Plainsmen toppled the Thunder 40-35 in 2019 to help keep Mountain View out of the postseason, a rarity under coach Adam Mathieson.

But Mathieson has had teams falter in the past. Each time, the following year’s team made a giant leap forward. Helping usher in renewed success is quarterback Riley McCarthy, a Portland baseball signee.

McCarthy becomes just the second returning quarterback Mathieson has coached in 23 years of high school football.

“Riley knows the offense better than I do,” Mathieson said. “There’s great comfort in that.”

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The Thunder also boast an offensive line with experienced “program guys,” Mathieson said. The group is led by 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior Gavin James-Dues.

At Prairie, the Falcons, coming off their first state appearance since 1992, will look a little different this year. Standout quarterback AJ Dixson is now at Bishop’s University in Quebec. In steps Skyview transfer Brandon Baum, a senior.

“He’s picked up the offense very fast,” coach Mike Peck said. “We’re going to try to highlight his strengths.”

In the backfield is Dustin Shelby, who ran for 888 yards and 11 scores last year. Senior Ian Davis anchors the defense while Brody Schlaefli leads the offensive line.

Kelso, again, will be a tough out. The Hilanders are traditionally big in the trenches and this year’s squad is no different with Clay Lindberg, Brady Phillips and Masyn Allison. Budding star Conner Noah, a sophomore, will likely become a household name this winter.

Heritage drops down from the 4A ranks to add depth to an already highly competitive 3A GSHL. The 4A and 3A GSHL are combined for scheduling purposes, but two separate league champions will be crowned.

Players to watch

Jaylen Fite, sr., WR, Evergreen

The blistering fast receiver and Western Oregon signee will be new quarterback JJ Woodin’s primary target in the a speedy Plainsmen offense.

Jonathan Landry, so., WR/DB, Evergreen

The defensive back broke onto the scene as a talented freshmen and enters his second year with a pair of college offers from Utah State and Florida Atlantic.

Riley McCarthy, sr., QB, Mountain View

The University of Portland baseball signee returns to head the Thunder offense after accounting for more than 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.

Brody Schlaefli, sr., OL/DL, Prairie

The anchor of the Falcons offensive line and Riverside City College commit will be relied on upon to lead a trench group coach Mike Peck is very excited about.

Dustin Shelby, sr., RB/LB, Prairie

After running for 888 yards and 11 touchdowns on 90 carries last year, Shelby is expected to contribute an even bigger role in the Falcons’ backfield this season.

Key Dates

Feb. 26 — Prairie vs. Evergreen

March 5 — Mountain View vs. Union

March 23 — Evergreen vs. Mountain View

March 27 — Kelso vs. Prairie

Columbian sports reporter