As the lone placekicker and punter Matt Hedges may be the last guy expecting a starring role for the South team, but that doesn't mean he won't make an impact in the Les Schwab Bowl Saturday in Hillsboro.
Picture this: It's fourth-and-10 late in the fourth quarter, and the South lines up for a 30-yard, game-tying field goal attempt. But "¦ it's a FAKE! And, oh my, there's Hedges, wide open in the corner of the end zone, hauling in a game-winning touchdown pass from holder and Ashland High quarterback Danial White.
It could happen, if Hedges gets his way.
What: Annual Oregon all-star football game for 6A and 5A graduated seniors.
When/Where: 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium.
Ashlanders: Ashland quarterback Danial White, linebacker Mason Montgomery and kicker/punter Matt Hedges will be there, along with Ashland coach Charlie Hall (receivers).
"I'm planning on asking (coach John Mannion) tomorrow," Hedges said on Wednesday.
Good luck with that, Matt.
In the meantime, Hedges and his two Ashland teammates, White and linebacker Mason Montgomery, who also made the South roster for the annual North versus South all-star football game for recently graduated seniors from Class 6A and 5A schools, are doing their best to prepare for a series that dates back to 1948. Ashland head coach Charlie Hall will also be on hand as the South receivers coach.
There are scores of plays to install and chemistry to build, and a short window of opportunity to do so — players arrived Monday and kickoff is 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Hillsboro Stadium. But they can't help but enjoy themselves despite the daily doubles, thanks to an extracurricular schedule that includes a trip to the movie theater to watch X-Men: Days of Future Past, a bowling night and a fire wing eating contest at Buffalo Wild Wings (reportedly, South Medford's Anthony Gomez edged Jesuit's Charlie Langdgraf).
The football should entertain as well, since the game features some of the most electrifying players in the state, including Oregon State-bound running back Ryan Nall (Central Catholic), Southern Oregon University-bound running back Keegan Lawrence (Sherwood) and Wyoming-bound linebacker AJ Hotchkins (Tigard). Also on hand is Central Catholic quarterback Aidan Wilder, who's headed to Portland State, and Roosevelt linemen Semise Kofe and Sione Taumoe'anga, who are also headed to Portland State.
"I'm really excited," said Hedges, who's headed to Saint Martin's University, an NCAA Division II school in Lacey, Wash., on a golf scholarship. "It's a lot of fun to be around all these great players. It's kind of a weird feeling to have all the best players from Oregon — every kid over here's a superstar from their team, so it's pretty neat to see all the talent coming together and learning new plays."
The players are staying at the Pacific University dorms in Forest Grove, for the most part rooming with somebody from their own team. The exceptions to that rule are the kickers — Hedges' roommate is non other than North kicker/punter Alex Beekman of Southridge.
"We're all in the dorm complex, so we've met each other and you kind of find your little groups that you hang out with," Hedges said. "It's a pretty friendly group and a lot of fun."
The South will be trying to narrow the gap in the all-time series, which the North leads 32-30 with four ties. The North won last year's game, 21-14.
How sophisticated will the offenses be? That depends on how much information the players can absorb in a week of practice. They're working hard to make it an entertaining game, holding a pair of two-hour practices Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in addition to a single practice Monday and another today.
Mannion, who coaches Silverton, is tasked quickly bringing together a talented South squad.
"(Mannion's) putting in his concepts for the most part and we're trying to just kind of put those in formation-wise, and he's got a handful of runs and passes," Hall said. "We try to find some similar terminology, and we're not going to do any no-huddle — we're not doing stuff where we have to code everything. Things are very basic."
The North team will be coached by Central Catholic's Steve Pyne.
The Bowl will have a few rules typical for all-star football games — blitzes are not allowed, only simple four-man fronts can be employed, teams can't disguise a defense and may use only one free safety. The rules are designed to encourage aggressive play-calling on offense and limit the chances of injury.
"It's very offense-tailored, much like you see in college all-star games," Hall said.
Tickets range from $6 for students and seniors up to $15 for reserved adult seats. Kids ages 3 and under get in free.
The game will be broadcast live on The Game 750-AM in Portland. The Game is also streamed live online at 750thegame.com.
Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-776-4469 or email@example.com.