Hagen Pence played 50 games and 200 quarters in his four-year high school career, and dealt with a separated shoulder, broken bones, torn ligaments, knee injuries and a dislocated elbow – and only missed two games.
It came down to toughness and fighting through adversity, a characteristic passed down by his father, Rocky, as Hagen said he was raised with the philosophy of not giving up and of pushing forward, even when he’s struggling with the injuries he’s sustained.
“I’m very amazed and proud of myself for being able to play the game like nothing ever happened,” Hagen said. “I’ve learned through football that there’s two types of pain – when something hurts and when your injured. Just because something hurts, it doesn’t mean it should stop you. No pain, no gain.”
This fall, Hagen Pence helped lead the Dufur football team to a 12-0 record, its third consecutive state championship, and he picked up first-team all-state recognition for his play at linebacker and running back, and was voted on as the state’s 1A Player of the Year.
This was the third straight season a Ranger gridiron athlete earned such lofty praise, which is an accomplishment never achieved before in a program that has won nine state titles.
“This award means a lot to me,” Hagen said. “It’s the biggest one that I have ever gotten and it’s a great feeling to be recognized, especially by other coaches. I believe that’s because of my playing style, because I’m a man that doesn’t care how big or who you are, I’ll hit you. I love the contact of the sport and the physicality of the sport and how much strength it takes to be successful.”
While dealing with stretched ligaments and tendons in his foot this year, Pence totaled 103 rushes for 1,285 yards with a team-leading 23 touchdowns, and through the air, he caught nine balls for 129 yards and a pair of scores.
He also completed 4 of 5 passes for 153 yards and four touchdowns.
On defense, the senior linebacker made his presence known with his physical tackling and awareness on the field by totaling 153 tackles.
“Hagen had the senior year that you hope every senior has,” Dufur head coach Jack Henderson said. “He elevated his game on both sides of the ball this season, and became a dominant force in all of our games. Offensively, he was a bruising running back, and defensively, he was a punishing defender. His desire to succeed was a great example for his teammates and he leaves a legacy that won’t be replaced any time soon.”
Pence, who measures in at 5-feet-10 inches and weighs 200 pounds, won a second-team Big Sky Conference award as a freshman linebacker, and then he steadily progressed over the years.
As a sophomore, Pence rushed 102 times for 853 yards and 12 touchdowns, and tacked on 21 catches for 528 yards and another seven end zone trips to secure second-team all-league recognition at running back and linebacker.
In his junior campaign, Pence suffered a knee injury that cost him the rest of his baseball season, and there were thoughts that he would not be ready in time for football, but he still played.
Later that fall, on Sept. 30, he tore elbow ligaments on a tackle against Sherman, and his season was in jeopardy once again, but he missed just two games.
Even with the injury, Pence still managed 513 yards rushing with nine touchdowns, and added five touchdowns and 247 yards through the air in his limited playing time, scoring first-team all-league and all-state awards on both sides of the ball.
As a parent, Rocky Pence expressed how proud he was of Hagen’s and the team’s accomplishments, but said that it is all due to a collaborative effort between the players, community members and coaches.
Three consecutive championships do not occur without everyone pulling in the same direction.
“I want to thank Jack and the coaching staff for pushing and teaching the kids,” Rocky said. “Jack and (defensive coordinator) C.S. Little have played a huge role in the development of these kids’ lives, as they prepare to go into adulthood. They teach responsibility, accountability, and how to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead.”
Against Hosanna Christian in the state championship game on Nov. 25 in Cottage Grove, a 60-18 victory, Pence posted a career-high 303 yards rushing with three scores and added a nine-yard touchdown pass on his way to being named the Moda Health Player of the Game.
Following the title contest, there were tears of joy shed, hugs and kisses exchanged, and high fives all around in an on-field celebration.
Rocky and Hagen were amongst that group of revelers, a snapshot Rocky will never forget.
“Sharing this moment with Hagen has been an unforgettable time in my life,” Rocky said. “There are not many kids, teams, and communities that can say they’ve accomplished this feat, if at all. His mom and I are beyond proud. Three straight titles are the result of hard work, discipline, and the drive to be the best you can be.”
While his high school football days are over, Hagen plans on attending college and continuing his gridiron exploits.
With the work ethic and commitment to excellence instilled in him by his parents, Rocky and Candie, coupled with the role model attributes he wants to set for his football brothers and his younger brother, Kaleb, Hagen feels that he is better equipped to take on a new journey and make his dreams a reality.
“My family is very important to me. I want to make them proud as much as I can,” Hagen said. “My mother, she’s a hard worker, works long days, and it’s always nice, at the end of the day, to have my whole family together. My parents are the ones that push me to strive for the best. They told me to give 110-percent in whatever I’m doing, so they are the reasons why I have that drive to be successful, and play the way and as hard as I do.”