The Dufur Rangers had their quest for five straight state championships come to an end last week in Crane, but the team celebrated a list of six players who were named to the 1A Special District 3 all-league list.
Overall, there were six different players picking up honors, led by Trey Darden, Cooper Bales, Kaleb Pence, Josiah Dave, Caleb Olson, Jacob Jones and Isaac Anthony.
Darden received the only first team bid for his stout play on the defensive line, and added a second-team selection at offensive end.
On a defense that gave up 20 points or less in four games, Darden posted 36 tackles, nine for loss, with five sacks that equaled 47 yards in losses.
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.
“Trey matured throughout the season as a player and was a force on both sides of the ball,” Dufur head coach Jack Henderson said. “He could be one of the top players in the state next year.”
Entering his junior year, there were a lot of unknowns about how effective Bales would be as the starting quarterback and defensive back.
He answered those questions with a second-team bid at quarterback and defensive back.
The dual threat maven 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 scores, 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.
As a safety, Bales posted 63 tackles, seven for loss, hauled in six interceptions, one for a pick-six, forced and recovered a fumble and hit the end zone on one fumble.
“Cooper improved immensely throughout the season on both sides of the ball,” Henderson said. “He rushed for over 1,200 yards and led the team in interceptions. After the way he played, I know Cooper will be a state Player of the Year candidate next season.”
Although he missed three games, Pence, a 5-foot-11-inch, 210-pound running back, showed why he was a second-team pick for his all-around offensive play.
Pence rushed for 633 yards on 92 totes with 10 scores, and 11 of his runs amassed 20 yards or more.
On the receiving end, Pence had 177 yards on eight catches and two touchdowns, and he played a little quarterback in a handful of games and completed 6 of 9 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns.
Although he was not voted on for his defense, Pence finished fourth on the team with 45 tackles and recovered a team-high three fumbles.
Henderson is glad to have Pence back for two more seasons.
“Kaleb ran for tough yardage until being injured late in the season,” Henderson said. “He brings a tough running style and an all-out mentality to this team. He has a bright future for the Rangers.”
The Dufur offense eclipsed 34 points or more in six of 11 games and went 6-0 when that occurred, so that meant Dave, a second-team winner at guard, had a huge hand in the state’s 11th-ranked scoring offense (434 points, or 39.3 points a game).
“Josiah had a nice season on the offensive line, and will be a force next season for the Rangers,” Henderson said.
At one end spot, opposing defenses had to contend with the 6-5 Darden, so the 6-1, 180-pound Olson saw plenty of opportunities to play downhill from multiple defensive spots to get his second-team selection at defensive end.
On the year, Olson ended up third on the team with 57 tackles, 11 for loss, and chipped in two sacks and an interception.
At one end position on offense, Olson caught 12 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown, as six of his grabs went for first downs.
The junior had a breakout game in Dufur’s state opener on Nov. 8 at Perrydale, a 22-14 Ranger win, with 74 yards on five catches and a 25-yard scoring reception.
“Although undersized, Caleb plays with a huge amount of heart and makes things happen,” Henderson said. “He played both defensive end and middle linebacker for the Rangers this year and had a great season.”
On a roster of 15 underclassmen, Jones gave Henderson an anchor at the center position and helped pave the way to 3,009 yards rushing for an average of 6.78 yards a rushing with 49 of those plays going for 20 yards or more.
Standing at 5-9, 180 and still growing, the Dufur offense has a key piece returning for two more seasons.
“Jacob had a great sophomore season,” Henderson said. “Him and Cooper had very few snap problems during the season and that was due to his ability as our center.”
One overlooked component of football teams, across all classifications, is the importance of having a solid kicker and punter to handle those responsibilities.
Anthony, an honorable mention pick as kicker and punter, netted 194 yards on 14 punts with a season-best 54 on the year, and had two attempts downed inside his opponents’ 20-yard line. Teams only had 30 yards on his punts.
“Isaac was very efficient in punting the ball consistently long, giving us field position advantages,” Henderson said.