When it came to ranking the top high school running backs in Oregon, nobody gave Jonas Larson a second look — or even a first.
That didn’t matter to Brian Crum. In fact, the Mountain View coach says, he welcomed the anonymity. Because the Cougars were well aware of the talent they boasted in the backfield: a 6-foot, 170-pound bull who only sees red ahead of him.
“We knew he was a special kid,” Crum says of his junior running back. “He’s athletic as all get-out. I’ve seen him develop in the weight room and track. We’re not surprised he’s doing what he’s doing. He has some special gifts. He can cut, he can stop and accelerate, he has great vision. He’s a pretty special tailback. We knew nobody knew a lot about him, and after that first week at South Albany, one of the first things I said was, ‘Hey, 5A football just figured out who Jonas Larson is.’”
In Mountain View’s season opener, a 28-7 victory at South Albany, Larson was introduced to the state, rushing for 157 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. His tour continued in a 28-21 Cougars’ victory at Central last Friday, when Larson erupted for 213 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 36 carries. Through two games, the junior has racked up 370 yards and has averaged 26 carries per game.
“You just laugh,” Crum says about Larson not being on many pundits’ radars before the season began. “You know who you had. Nowadays, if you’re not doing all that extra 7-on-7 mumbo-jumbo or those special showcases, that’s where all those internet people make all their money is hyping those guys. But we knew who Jonas was. It was not a huge surprise to our staff or our players.”
Paced by Larson, who missed a bulk of last season due to injury, Mountain View (2-0) heads into its 5A Special District 1 opener undefeated for the second straight year. And for the second straight year, the Cougars, ranked No. 1 in 5A, put their unblemished record on the line Friday night against visiting No. 8 Hermiston. Last season, Mountain View traveled to the Eastern Oregon school and, as Crum puts it, “it was over in a quarter and a half,” as the Bulldogs built a 28-point lead en route to a 35-21 win.
Now, the Cougars are prepared for payback.
“I don’t know if our kids are focused on (league play). I just know that they want to play Hermiston,” Crum says. “I think 95 percent of it is because of what happened last year. We didn’t quite know who we were at that time. We were 2-0 and beat two pretty good teams, just like we have this year. … We know that they have some outstanding athletes with that receiver, Dayshawn Neal, and their quarterback, Andrew James, hurt us last year. We’ve got to make sure to limit some of their big plays, and we’ve got to do what we do.”
Hermiston (1-1) is coming off its first win of the season, a 26-0 home victory versus Lewiston (Idaho) last Friday. The Bulldogs, who are playing their final season in Oregon (they will join the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association starting next fall), are set on going out on top. And Hermiston, the 2014 state champion, has the weapons to do so.
Quarterback Andrew James has passed for 396 yards and three touchdowns this season for the Bulldogs, and he leads the team with 255 rushing yards and two scores. His top target is wideout Dayshawn Neal, who has accounted for 229 receiving yards and three touchdowns this year.
Mountain View, though, is “a different defense than we were last year,” Crum assures. One reason is a new defensive coordinator, Neil Elshire, who helped mold Summit into the top 5A defense during their state championship run in 2015 and who was part of the Mountain View coaching staff that guided the Cougars to the 2011 state title.
“We knew it was going to take a little while just for our kids to get comfortable back in a slightly different scheme,” Crum says. “Neil’s going to attack all the time. We move so much around up front that it causes teams problems. I know that, because I had to coach against him.”
Led by linebacker Dalton Payfer-Locking, who had five sacks against Central last week, and defensive linemen Riley Straly, Brandt Waller, Rylee Ettinger and Luke Schulz, Mountain View is primed to deal Hermiston a tasty dish of payback. And they will do so, Crum says, by being confident and aggressive.
“That’s going to be who we are,” he says. “We’re going to attack.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0307, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prep football this weekend
Bend (1-1) at Redmond (0-2), 7 p.m.: One of the oldest rivalries in the state rekindles as the Lava Bears and the Panthers begin Class 5A Special District 1 play. RBs Nate Kelly and Payton Davis, who combined for 103 yards and two TDs rushing in last Friday’s 42-28 win at Corvallis, headline Bend, which has won three of the past four meetings against Redmond. The Panthers, who fell 45-6 at Silverton last week, are led by RB Jack Taylor, who has 93 rushing yards and a TD through two games.
Hermiston (1-1) at Mountain View (2-0), 7 p.m.: The rushing attack of Mountain View faces another stiff test as the Cougars open Class 5A Special District 1 action. RB Jonas Larson, who has rushed for 370 yards and four TDs this season, including 213 yards and a TD in last Friday’s 28-21 win at Central, leads Mountain View in its home opener. Hermiston comes off last Friday’s 26-0 home win versus Lewiston (Idaho) and is highlighted by QB Andrew James and WR Dayshawn Neal, who have connected for 229 yards and three touchdowns through the air this year.
Ridgeview (0-2) at Hood River Valley (1-0), 7 p.m.: The Ravens look for their first win of the season in their Class 5A Special District 1 opener. RB Conner Benz has rushed for four TDs this season, including a 59-yard scoring run in last Friday’s 21-13 loss versus Eagle Point in Klamath Falls. Hood River Valley, meanwhile, has not played a game in two weeks as last Friday’s game against Gresham was canceled due to a nearby wildfire. The Eagles, who were winless last season, won 45-7 at St. Helens on Sept. 1 as QB Caden Leiblein passed for three TDs.
Summit (1-1) at Pendleton (1-1), 7 p.m.: The Storm head into Class 5A Special District 1 play after one of their more dominant defensive games in recent history. During last Saturday’s 46-0 win over Ashland in Lakeview, Summit allowed just 93 yards of total offense, down from 531 yards in its season-opening loss at Clackamas. A week after recording three takeaways, the Storm match up against Pendleton, which won 34-12 versus Pendleton last Saturday as QB Nick Bower passed for 197 yards and five TDs.
Crook County (0-2) at Sisters (1-1), 7 p.m.: Last Friday’s 21-0 loss at Sweet Home marked the first time the Cowboys were shut out since 2009, and they will certainly be tested against Sisters. Looking for its second win in 12 games dating back to 2015, Crook County, highlighted by defensive back Colton Burkhardt, who returned an interception for a TD in the Cowboys’ season opener, takes on an Outlaws team that lost 17-14 in overtime at Cascade last week. RB Jake Stevens, who rushed for a 61-yard TD in the defeat, leads a Sisters squad that has won the last two meetings against Crook County, each by double digits.
Valley Catholic (2-0) at Madras (0-2), 7 p.m.: Though they are winless through two weeks, the White Buffaloes, who lost 49-13 at Cottage Grove last Friday, in two games already surpassed last season’s scoring total. Now Madras, highlighted by RB Treyvon Easterling’s 170 yards rushing and two TDs this season, looks to snap a 23-game losing streak as it hosts unbeaten Valley Catholic. The Valiants, fresh off last Friday’s 27-10 win at Yamhill-Carlton, are led by RB Trey Eberhart, who had two rushing TDs and a receiving score last week.
La Pine (2-0) at Burns (1-1), 7 p.m.: The Hawks have already displayed an offensive balance that their first two opponents had difficulty defending. QB Angelo Roes has passed for 238 yards and five TDs this season for La Pine, which won 43-20 versus Culver in Lakeview last Friday, and is complemented by 249 rushing yards and three TDs by RB Ben Plant. The Hilanders, who logged a 41-13 win at Lakeview last Friday, last played La Pine in 2015, when Burns won 48-0 at home.
Santiam (2-0) at Culver (0-2), 7 p.m.: After last Friday’s 43-20 loss to La Pine in Lakeview, the Bulldogs are in search of their first win of the season. With QB Jorge Olivera leading the way with four passing TDs and a rushing score this season, Culver prepares for Santiam, which advanced to the Class 2A state quarterfinals last season. RB Trevor Tinney, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 2016, headlines the Wolverines, who won 42-7 at Winlock (Wash.) last Saturday.
— Grant Lucas, The Bulletin