The 74th edition of the Les Schwab Bowl is set for Saturday night at Linfield University in McMinnville, and one of the teams will include several Central Oregon football players and coaches.
In total, six local football players and two coaches will make up Team Willamette when it squares off against Team Columbia in the annual all-star high school football game.
“It was a big honor to be asked,” said Summit coach Corben Hyatt, who is an assistant with Team Willamette. “Coaching the best players in the state you see in film and read about in the newspaper is a different dynamic that I’ve never had. Every kid I talked to who we nominated was ecstatic to play and happy to be selected. I’m glad they wanted to represent what Summit football is all about.”
The Storm are coming off their best season since 2016, making an unforeseen run to the Class 6A quarterfinals this past fall. Summit has five players on Team Willamette, which is coached by Dan Lever, who coached at Tualatin last fall before resigning.
Of the five Summit players, four graduated in June and will get to put on the pads and helmets one last time before heading off to their respective colleges. Those players include defensive back/wide receiver Joe Schutz, linebacker Jack Clemans, running back/defensive back Ryan Powell and kicker/punter Soren McKee.
Additional senior-to-be offensive and defensive lineman Spencer Elliott is playing and Summit assistant coach Tony Graziani is on the Team Willamette coaching staff. The Storm’s Chip Allers, one of the rising defensive prospects in the state, was selected but was unable to join the team due to a family trip.
“That was one of the big pieces to coach this game was to coach our graduating seniors one last time,” Hyatt said. “I wanted to make sure our kids from Central Oregon were getting highlighted and get to hang out with them.”
McKee, who was also the goalkeeper on Summit’s state championship soccer team and will be a placekicker for the Eastern Washington University football team, is making his second appearance in the Les Schwab Bowl.
“Anytime we get inside the 50-yard line, we can kick (a field goal),” Hyatt said of McKee’s ability.
Also from Central Oregon on Team Willamette is Mountain View running back/defensive back Ben Yundt, who will be one of the key players for the Cougars this coming fall.
This year’s Les Schwab Bowl comes with additional flair.
Traditionally, the teams are broken up into North and South squads and are only played with graduating seniors. Last year’s game introduced players with eligibility left, while this year there was a draft to determine rosters.
With the first pick in the draft, Central Catholic coach Steve Pyne of Team Columbia selected his own player in Riley Williams, while Lever followed suit and picked Tualatin running back Malik Ross with Team Willamette’s first pick.
For the high school bowl game that is nearly 75 years old, small changes are likely to continue down the road, Hyatt said. Tweaks to the game are likely needed with the everchanging dynamic of college and high school football.
“Bottom line is, as coaches we want to see this great game keep progressing in the right trajectory,” Hyatt said. “I think this will keep going.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets range from $15 to $20 and are available at lesschwabbowl.com. The game can also be streamed on the website for $10.