After losing a handful of impact seniors to graduation, the Dufur Rangers had a common goal in mind – win another state championship.
The Rangers finished 12-0 with a No. 2 ranking, added a Big Sky Conference crown, won their third consecutive state title and wound up as MaxPreps Football’s 12th ranked program in the nation.
For that, Hagen Pence, Ian Cleveland, Curtis Crawford and Tabor McLaughlin were first-team all-Big Sky winners on both sides of the ball, and teammates Asa Farrell, Russell Peters and Wade Blake were first-team recipients, with Peters and Farrell being named on defense.
Along with that top group, Derek Frakes, Cole Kortge and Peters received second-team offensive honors, Abraham Kilby and Anthony Thomas had their names called as second-team defenders, and Pence capped his final campaign as the Big Sky’s Defensive Player of the Year.
“At the beginning of the season, we were all ticked off, and during daily doubles, we were going all out,” Pence said of the team’s mindset. “When people were being negative about us, it made us feel down in the dumps, because we couldn’t believe that people didn’t expect anything out of us. We made a pact saying that it wasn’t about the people that just left, it is about us right now. We all wanted to show everybody what we could do and that’s what we did this year.”
As part of the league’s top-ranked scoring offense, 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.
Pence also tossed four touchdowns on 4 of 5 passes for 153 yards.
On defense, the senior linebacker made his presence known with his physical tackling and awareness on the field with more than 120 tackles.
“Hagen had the senior season that you hope your senior’s have – he was a beast on both sides of the ball,” Dufur head coach Jack Henderson said. “His improvement on defense this year was amazing. He was a dominant force in the middle of our defense. Hagen was a four-year starter for us, and was a key component of three state championship teams.”
From his fullback position, Cleveland was second on the team with 59 rushing attempts, 588 yards and nine end zone trips, and he wreaked havoc on opposing offenses with his relentless motor down in the trenches at defensive tackle with four sacks and two fumble recoveries.
“Ian had an amazing senior season,” Henderson said. “Offensively, he was difficult to tackle for all of our opponents and was a great blocker out of the backfield. Defensively, he was simply dominant. Ian is as hard of a worker as we have ever had at Dufur. His drive to improve is unmatched. When you think of a model kid as a teammate Ian is it. He made everyone around him better. Ian’s toughness is a great model for his teammates.”
Due to his concise route running and soft hands, Crawford was always a reliable presence at tight end, as he posted a team-leading 25 receptions, on 36 targets, for 494 yards and nine touchdowns.
With his sack and tackle numbers at defensive end, Crawford had 151 yards for loss on those plays, recovered two fumbles and turned one of those into a touchdown.
“Curtis has been a huge part of our program in his four years,” Henderson said. “He led us in pass receptions throughout his high school career. He has great hands, plus had the ability to seal the edge in our running game. Defensively, he created all kinds of problems for our opponents. He single-handedly shut a lot of plays down. Curtis’s work ethic is amazing and will serve him well in the future.”
As an undersized guard at 5-foot-11 inches and 160 pounds, McLaughlin helped pave the way for an offense that racked up 5,147 yards and 91 touchdowns, 3,595 on the ground with 59 scores.
At defensive back, the junior notched three sacks and four interceptions, one going for a touchdown.
“Tabor had a phenomenal season on both sides of the ball in 2017,” Henderson said. “Defensively, he became a great run stopper, as well as pass defender. He was in the middle of a lot of stuff in most games. Offensively, Tabor was a key performer for our trap game. His speed and quickness more than made up for his size. Tabor will be a great player next year.”
Farrell missed a few games at the start of the year, but made a huge impact as a first-team defensive back and honorable mention running back.
The sophomore carried the ball 55 times and gained 484 yards, made good on a team-high eight conversions and scored seven touchdowns.
Coming out of the backfield, Farrell tallied five catches for 120 yards and three scores.
On defense, Farrell added two interceptions and 22 tackles in seven contests to earn his first-team bid.
“Although hobbled by injury for a large portion of the season, Asa’s athleticism was a huge benefit to the Rangers when he returned,” Henderson said. “Defensively, he was tough on the run and covered the pass equally as well. He is a hard worker, who will have the chance to be the best player in the state at his positions next season.”
Peters was thrust into a pivotal role at center on the offensive line, where he was a second-team recipient, and opened holes for a rushing attack that averaged 8.5 yards a carry and 24 plays go for 40 yards or more.
The first-team defensive lineman had 34 tackles, four sacks and 59 yards in tackles for loss.
“Russell had a great junior season on both sides of the ball for the Rangers,” Henderson said. “On offense, he did a great job at center for us. We had virtually no problems with our center-to-quarterback exchanges. Defensively, at tackle, he had a great season. His strength and quickness were real keys for us on the defensive front. He has the potential to be an all-state player on both sides of the ball for us next season.”
As a bookend on the offensive line, Blake dominated in the trenches to earn his first-team selection. The senior allowed the passing game to rack up 29 plays of 20 yards or more and 10 plays of 40 yards or more on 135 attempts, to go with a completion rate of 63.7 percent.
Because of Blake’s play, the Dufur offense amassed 54 points or more in nine of 12 games.
“Wade had a great senior season at his offensive guard position,” Henderson said. “His strength and quickness were a great asset for our running game this season. He worked hard to develop his potential and developed in to a great lineman for the Rangers.”
In his 12-game slate, Frakes completed 70.7 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns and three interceptions on 82 attempts.
The junior totaled 1,094 passing, 15 conversion passes, 44 of his attempts went for first downs and seven throws hit for 40 yards or more with a passer rating of 144.1.
Frakes added 196 rushing yards on 40 tries with two touchdowns and four conversion runs, and he hauled in two passes for 90 yards and two end zone trips to secure second-team league honors.
“As a first-year starter this season, Derek improved every day and become a very good quarterback,” Henderson said. “His ability to throw the ball was very good, and as the season progressed, he became a threat running the ball as well. Derek will be a force during his senior campaign.”
When Crawford was double teamed in pass patterns, Kortge emerged as a sure-handed threat, where he chalked up a second-team award for his contributions at offensive end during the program’s perfect 12-0 season.
On 25 targets, Kortge caught 20 passes that racked up 390 yards, 216 coming after the catch. He posted a team-leading 11 touchdowns through the air, and tied Crawford with seven conversion grabs and 18 first down receptions. He averaged 19.5 yards per catch and three of those grabs went for more than 40 yards, 60 being his longest play from scrimmage.
“Cole had a great season as a first-year starter at offensive end,” Henderson said. “He ran great patterns and has great hands. He caught many key passes for us this year and was a threat as a receiver on every play. Although not real big, Cole blocked very well for us as well. Cole will have a great senior season next fall.”
Crawford, Peters and Cleveland were unstoppable forces on the defensive line, and Kilby had the speed on the edges to make the big hits on the quarterback.
Overall, Kilby, a junior, tallied 14 tackles for loss that totaled 169 yards, added nine sacks and picked up three of the team’s 14 fumble recoveries to take hold of a second-team award.
“Abraham had a great season for the Rangers in 2017,” Henderson said. “He is amazingly athletic, which is a huge benefit at his defensive end position, where he led us in sacks this season. Abraham will be a dominate player for the Rangers in 2017.”
Thomas, a second-team defensive back in his junior campaign, rattled off 33 tackles, five for loss, picked off a team-leading five passes and recovered two fumbles, one for a touchdown in helping the Rangers to the state’s top defense.
“Anthony had a great junior season at his defensive back position,” Henderson said. “His speed and quickness make him a great cover guy and he is an efficient tackler as well. He made many key plays for us and he is poised to be a dominant player in 2018.”