MORO – With a talented roster of athletes, the Big Sky Conference champion Sherman Huskies won nine games, finished sixth in the 1A state rankings and just missed out on a state semifinal berth after a close playoff loss to North Douglas.
Maverick Winslow, Isaiah Coles, Max Martin, Jacob Justesen, Treve Martin and Ryan Asher earned spots on the Big Sky Conference’s first-team list, both Winslow and Justesen were first-team recipients on both sides of the ball and Winslow picked up Defensive Player of the Year recognition.
“Looking back, we did some very good things both on and off the field this season,” said Sherman head coach Bill Blevins. “We had a group of student athletes who came together as a single unit and won the league, worked their tails off, and never gave up. With team accomplishments, come individual all-league awards.”
When it came to offense, the Sherman Huskies put on an impressive display through six league games, averaging nearly 60 points a contest with an average margin of victory of 48.1 points.
One of the most dangerous dual-threat running backs in the state, Winslow rushed 43 times for 735 yards and 16 touchdowns, with four games surpassing the century mark in yards.
In a 30-24 win over Dufur, that all but sealed a league crown, Winslow rushed 17 times for 149 yards and a pair of scores, including the eventual game-winner, a 70-yard touchdown run with 21 seconds left in regulation.
“Maverick was really the heart and soul of this team,” Blevins said. “He led us in rushing yards and total tackles to earn Defensive Player of the Year in the conference.”
Coles, a senior running back, made his presence felt on the ground and through the air with a combined 100 yards a game in six league tilts.
In Sherman’s league opener against Ione, Coles tallied 130 yards receiving with a touchdown, and he rushed six times for 75 yards and two touchdowns in a 50-0 victory.
Against Perrydale, a 62-22 romp on Oct. 21, the team’s league finale, Coles posted 107 yards rushing with a score and added three catches for 92 yards and another end zone trip.
All told, Coles totaled 274 yards receiving on 10 catches with three scores, and he rushed a team-high 49 times for 595 yards and 10 scores.
“Isaiah ran very hard from the line of scrimmage, earning almost nine yards a carry and 13 TDs as a rusher,” Blevins said.
Although a knee injury short-circuited his season, Justesen still managed big numbers in Big Sky play, as he made up the Huskies’ three-pronged rushing attack.
Justesen, a junior tight end and back, had his two best games against Arlington and South Wasco County.
In a game that was later deemed a Redside forfeit, Justesen rushed five times for 100 yards and two touchdowns, and he added 69 yards on three receptions with a score.
On Oct 13 in Arlington, Justesen had touchdowns receiving, rushing and two punt returns for scores in a 69-6 romp.
He had a 38-yard touchdown grab, he had seven rushing attempts for 115 yards and a score, and he totaled 85 yards on his two punt returns.
Justesen rushed 41 times for 503 yards and seven scores, he had 11 catches for 220 yards and two touchdowns, and he posted three special teams scores in his six league matchups.
“Jacob had more than 21 yards per catch and 11 yards per carry on his way to getting first team,” Blevins said. “He also led the team with 10 interceptions in as many games.”
With Winslow, Coles and Justesen doing damage in the ground game, Treve Martin was the recipient of several open looks in the air.
The junior had a season-high 103 yards receiving and a tally against Perrydale, he scored in the Arlington win, and he totaled 68 yards on four catches in the team’s triumph over Dufur.
“Treve continued to improve with each game and became a huge threat in the passing game with his route running, size, speed, and hands,” Blevins said.
Entering the regular season, the biggest question mark for the Huskies was the offensive line and how they would fare.
Asher, a senior, came through with one of his best efforts from the guard position to help the Husky offense finish fourth in the state with 592 points scored.
“Ryan provided a very steady anchor for our offensive line and was responsible for many of the holes that our running backs took advantage of,” Blevins added. “He will be a big loss for us moving on and trying to replace him.”
While Asher paved the way for a dangerous offense, junior Nic Lesh burst onto the scene as a future anchor on the offensive line to earn second team status at center.
“Nic did a quality job at the center position for us again this year,” Blevins said. “I am really looking forward to having him back as a senior.”
Coming back from a shoulder injury sustained last year, Kyle Fields ended his high school football career with a bang from the quarterback position to secure second-team league honors.
In six league contests, Fields completed 42 of 63 passes for 802 yards and eight touchdowns.
He also had a breakout running effort against Perrydale, where he rushed three times for 94 yards and a score.
In that same game, Fields was 11 of 14 for 168 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and he also had another two-touchdown effort in a win over Arlington.
On Sept. 16, on the road against Ione, Fields had a career-high 288 yards passing and two touchdowns to lead the Huskies to a 50-0 win.
“Kyle did a fantastic job at quarterback for us this year,” Blevins said. “His numbers show just how efficient he was. He was 99 of 130 for 1,740 yards and 23 TDs overall this year. He made fantastic decisions with the ball in his hand, and had a calm demeanor, no matter the situation.”
Winslow grabbed a first-team nod at linebacker and Justesen for his play at safety, and in the trenches, Max Martin made a difference for the Huskies at defensive end to pick up a first-team selection.
With those three levels taken care of, Sherman’s defense allowed 58 points in six leagues, for a 9.67 average, with two shutouts.
“Max played great leverage football from the defensive end position,” Blevins said. “He did such a great job of holding the edge of the line of scrimmage.”
Treve Martin and Coles were each named to the second team as linebackers, Reese Blake was a second-team recipient for his contributions from the safety spot and junior Kyle Hensley earned his first all-league award, a second team bid at defensive tackle.
“Kyle made a great improvement from last year, anchoring the defensive line from the nose guard position,” Blevins said.
Sherman is scheduled to lose five seniors to graduation, so eight juniors are going to headline the Huskies next season, as they search for another league crown and a deeper playoff run.
One name to keep an eye on next fall is Makoa Whitaker, a first-year player, who was an honorable mention pick by opposing coaches.
Blevins likes the idea of having added depth on the defensive front.
“Makoa really came into his own at the defensive end position,” Blevins said. “He’s a pretty quick learner and I can’t wait to see his improvement in his second year of playing football.”
As of now, Sherman is expected to bring back 12 varsity players next season, and there is a handful of others slated to join the high school ranks, so Blevins and his coaching staff looks to be reloading in 2017.
After back-to-back years of coming close to ending up in the semifinals, Blevins knows he has a motivated team ready to impose their will on the rest of the Big Sky Conference.
“The end of the season was indeed disappointing, but that’s usually the case for all but one team in each classification,” Blevins said. “We felt we had a group that could compete for a state championship, but came upon a very good North Douglas team in the second round.”