High School Football Preview: Sheldon Irish Reload After 6A Championship Season

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Sheldon quarterbacks stretch out during practice last week. (David Saez/EDN)

Lane Johnson eschews any talk about state football championships, a tough task for a coach who in two seasons as the head football coach at Sheldon High School has led the Irish to two-straight 6A state championship games. “We approach all the seasons the same way,” Johnson said. “We never talk about state championships until the week comes.”

Sheldon quarterbacks stretch out during practice last week. (David Saez/EDN)
Sheldon quarterbacks stretch out during practice last week. (David Saez/EDN)

When the day came a year ago, the Irish knocked off Lake Oswego 13-6 in the state championship to finish with a 14-0 record, and the year prior, the Irish fell to Lake Oswego, 47-14 and ended the season 13-1. That puts the third-year coach at 27-1 entering the 2013 season. The 2012 state champions corralled 14 all-state honors, including seven first-team all-state players. The Irish lost 12 of those players to graduation. That group included Connor Strahm, the 6A Defensive Player of the Year.

The reigning 6A coach of the year, Johnson returns 22 seniors and 25 players with varsity experience. Leading the returning offensive players is senior offensive lineman Tanner Davies, a second-team all-state selection. The other offensive starters back are senior running back Yadie Dunmore, senior wide receiver Mitchell Herbert, and senior offensive lineman Marcus McGovern. Also returning is second-team all-state kicker Nathan Starnes, who made 8-of-13 field goals and totaled 97 points.

Herbert enters the season as the top producer on offense. The receiver caught 22 passes for 409 yards and nine touchdowns. Herbert’s touchdowns were good enough for second-best on the team last year and his 54 points were third-best. Dunmore finished the 2012 season with 61 carries for 386 yards and five touchdowns.

Sheldon coach Lane Johnson and his players huddle up during practice last week. (David Saez/EDN)
Sheldon coach Lane Johnson and his players huddle up during practice last week. (David Saez/EDN)

Directing Sheldon’s spread offense will be senior quarterback Joseph Kuehn, who had opportunities to play last year once the Irish had secured their leads. Kuehn takes over the spot held last year by first-team all-state quarterback Taylor Allie. Last year, Kuehn completed 21-of-24 passes for 252 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. “He’s had a great summer,” Johnson said. “He has improved from last football season to this week…His precision throwing has improved and his command of the offense has improved. He’s never been the guy before, but he’ll get that chance this year. He’s practicing with a lot of urgency.”

Sheldon returns four defensive starters from last year: Herbert, sr., free safety; Kellen Strahm (junior, defensive back); Levi Rotherham (senior, strong safety); and Liam Talty (senior, defensive end). Tatly is the leading tackler returning with 96 total tackles, 11 of which were solo. Along with seven starters who graduated last year, the Irish did lose defensive lineman Wyatt Spear to a wrestling injury this summer.

The Irish start the season against Southridge, a team Sheldon defeated twice last year. “We have a bunch of kids who have paid their dues and are ready to go,” Johnson said. “(Southridge) has almost everybody back, so we’ll have our hands full…(Last week) we had our sights set on getting better. (This week) we have our sights on Southridge. That’s the way we’ve always done things. We focus on the week.”

So any talk about the state championship and becoming the first team to repeat as 6A champions since Jesuit in 2006 will have to wait.

Sheldon Assistant Coaches: Marty Johnson (offensive line); Les Phillipo (offensive and defensive lines); Dennis Jernberg (wide receivers and safeties); Scott Wright (wide receivers, secondary and special teams).

Sheldon High School 2013 Football Schedule (All games start at 7 p.m.)

  • Aug. 30 – at Southridge
  • Sept. 6 – Central Catholic
  • Sept. 13 – South Eugene
  • Sept. 20 – at North Medford
  • Sept. 27 – South Medford
  • Oct. 4 – at Crater
  • Oct. 11 – Roseburg
  • Oct. 18 – Thurston
  • Oct. 25 – at Grants Pass

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David has been a sports reporter for five of his 10 years as a professional journalist. Before moving to Eugene in 2010, he worked as a reporter with daily newspapers in Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, Minnesota and Florida. He is a journalism instructor at the University of Oregon and believes that strong reporting and compelling story telling will keep them reading.

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