There are several players on the Dufur Rangers that will be key components to getting the football team back atop the 1A upper echelon.
There were six players awarded 1A Special District 3 all-league honors, and the tandem of Cooper Bales and Trey Darden capped their junior campaigns as OSAA 1A All-State recipients.
Bales picked up first-team votes at defensive back, while Darden was named as a second team defensive lineman.
In a more pronounced role as the starting quarterback and defensive back, Bales chalked up a second-team, all-league bid at quarterback and defensive back.
On a defense that gave up 20 points or less in four games, Bales posted 63 tackles, seven for loss, and hauled in six interceptions, one for a pick-six, forced and recovered a fumble and hit the end zone on one fumble return.
“It means a lot to be recognized as a top player in the state,” Bales said. “I worked really hard from spring all the way to football season to get my body in shape and to make myself better in every way I could, which makes me feel like all the work paid off. Obviously, you have goals as an athlete, and I always knew I could do it, but it never really came to mind all year because I just wanted to help the team win as much as we could and I wanted to help put my team in the best position to do so.”
Edged out of state recognition at quarterback, Bales accounted for 1,836 yards of offense and also had 21 kickoff returns for 513 yards and a pair of scores.
Bales completed 37 of 90 passes for 553 yards and five touchdowns, with 11 of those plays going for 20 yards or more.
On the ground, Bales totaled 1,283 yards on 158 attempts with a high of 72 yards. He had 23 rushes eclipse 20 yards or more and scored a career-high 21 touchdowns.
Bales caught five balls for 130 yards and two touchdowns to help lead a Dufur offense that put up 4,090 yards of offense.
An imposing figure in stature, standing at 6-feet-6-inches and weighing 225 pounds, Darden posted 36 tackles, nine for loss, with five sacks that equaled 47 yards in losses.
“It’s cool to be selected for awards like this, but it really wasn’t something on my mind for this year,” Darden said. “The main goal for next season is to put full effort into everything we do and bring the Dufur Rangers back into contending with the big dogs for some new hardware.”
Darden received Dufur’s only first team league bid for his contributions on the defensive line and he added a second-team selection at offensive end.
Offensively, Darden hauled in 15 catches for 203 yards and three scores, to go with 10 point-after conversions. Six of his 15 receptions went for 20 yards or more.
The Dufur offense finished 11th in scoring offense (434 points/39.3 points a game), totaled 3,009 yards rushing and eclipsed 34 points or more in six of 11 games and went 6-0 when that occurred.
Both Bales and Darden are in the middle of basketball right now, but once spring hits, they will immerse themselves into a rigorous offseason training program ahead of their all-important senior campaigns.
“I am excited to put even more work in,” Bales said. “Getting this is award is a good feeling and it makes me want to work harder to be even better for next year. I am excited to see where the team can go next year with a little more experience under our belts. We are all pretty thirsty to have a better season than we did last year, so I know the whole team will be working this summer to work towards our goals in the fall.”