By Logan Brandon • Sports Editor • 

2021 Sports in Review

The Yamhill Valley athletic landscape appeared much different in 2021. Masks, physical distancing, shortened seasons, no playoffs – all resulted from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Fall and winter sports in 2020 were postponed to 2021, forcing players and fans to anticipate a condensed athletic schedule starting in March.

As school’s adapted to shifting COVID-19 protocols, each prep sport was forced to adhere to guidelines set by the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA). OSAA, in turn, structured its policies on the recommendation of the Governor’s Office.

What resulted were “wait-and-see” practices for local programs. In February, high school football, volleyball and basketball coaches didn’t know whether there would be a competitive season for their respective sports.

Teams were allowed to hold practices, assuming mask and distancing guidelines were followed. Athletes diligently trained for games that might never occur.

But in late February, OSAA was given the green light. Prep sports would return, but in a truncated format.

Six weeks and a culminating match were the best the governing body could offer.

Yamhill County’s teams excitedly seized the opportunity, allowing student-athletes to regain a semblance of sporting normalcy as the 2020/21 school year reached its conclusion.

Despite the shortened campaigns, local athletes lived up to their potential and stood among the best in every sport.

This fall, athletics resembled past protocols, more or less. Masks were still required for fans and coaches, but athletes no longer needed to wear them during competition.

Regular playoffs returned for 2021 fall sports, with several programs making history during postseason runs.

Unfortunately, cancellations have remained constant throughout the year. Teams have followed strict quarantine rules when players or coaches have tested positive, placing additional strain on basketball and volleyball teams, especially.

Still, student-athletes have proven eager to compete in sports once again. The sense of camaraderie and social interaction remained invaluable as other educational activities were eliminated during lockdowns.

As 2021 comes to a close, the News-Register reflects on the most pivotal sports moments of the past 12 months.

Local wrestlers claim state championships

All the training, the cutting weight and grueling matches finally paid off for Yamhill County’s prep wrestlers. By season’s end, the top grapplers in the Valley stood alone on top of their respective podiums in the 3A and 6A classifications.

At Newberg High School, McMinnville’s Jacob Barnes excised the ghosts of his past state tournament failures to capture his first and only career championship.

Barnes defeated Century’s Broderick Reese in a 1-0 decision for the Class 6A heavyweight state title. He avenged a title loss to Reese suffered during last year’s OSAA State Championships.

“It feels amazing. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do in my life, and I’m glad I got it done before high school ended,” said Barnes.

The Grizzly heavyweight underwent a positive transformation to his outlook on high school wrestling. Weighed down by impossibly high expectations of his own creation, Barnes always sought to achieve the same status as his brothers, J.T. and Brian.

Early losses in his career, capped by fifth- and fourth-place finishes in 2018 and 2019, invited ghosts to haunt Barnes on the mat.

“I was scared from the moment I lost in the semis as a freshman that I would always find a way to choke and not live up to my seeding. It means a lot to know I’ve finally gotten over that fear, but I still know there’s a lot of work to be done,” noted Barnes.

Thankfully, there were no letdowns during the 2021 tournament.

With his championship victory in hand, Barnes celebrated with a takedown of Mac head coach Jordan Barich. The senior heavyweight then embraced his father, John, at the podium to cement his wrestling legacy with the Grizzlies.

At the 3A level, competitors from Amity, Dayton, Willamina and Yamhill-Carlton ventured to Redmond High School for their state finals. Representing Special District 2, local wrestlers claimed nine out of 14 weight classes at the Culminating Week event.

After placing fifth at districts, the Willamina wrestling squad stepped up to snag second place in the team standings, finishing with 107 points.

Dayton and Y-C also placed in the top-10, with the Pirates earning fourth with 88 points and the Tigers finishing sixth with 66.

Y-C’s placement was the program’s highest finish in school history.

Michael Fox led the Bulldogs with an individual title in the 160-pound weight class. He defeated Vale’s Ronnie Norton by fall (2:40) to secure his first state championship after placing runner-up the previous two seasons.

Dayton took only five wrestlers to state, but every athlete scored points to help the Pirates plunder the fourth-place trophy.

David Bowlin sealed the Pirates fourth-place finish with a last-second pin of Willamina’s Spyre Nelson in the 182-pound final. The extra points allowed Dayton to edge Burns for a top-four finish.

Tony Cisneros pinned his way to the title at 138 pounds. He tallied a second-round fall over Pleasant Hill’s Jackson O’Connor to earn his first career championship. Cisneros actually trailed 7-2 in the finals match, but reversed his opponent and recorded the pin.

Y-C’s historic finish was led by a pair of individual champions: Reily Liesegang and Ethan Russell.

At 126 pounds, Liesegang won his first title with a narrow 2-1 decision over a familiar foe: Willamina’s Moses Mercier.

Russell pinned all three of his opponents in the heavyweight division, including a second-round fall of Rainier’s Sterling Bruce in the state finals.

Amity’s Blake Runion became the first Warrior in school history to win back-to-back state championships. He won the 120-pound bracket with a 12-3 major decision over Burns’ Ethan Peasley.

Runion also won the 113-pound final last season.

Yamhill-Carlton earns 1st state title since 1992

Throughout the 2021 boys basketball season, players and coaches for the Yamhill-Carlton team showed no fear when voicing their expectations for the 2021 campaign.

Y-C and its head coach, Heather Seely-Roberts, were never shy about its lofty intentions: championship or bust.

The Tigers foresaw a path to success built around surviving both the toughest league in 3A – which included Dayton and Amity – and an extraordinary collection of non-conference foes ranging from 6A opponents like Summit and Mountain View to 4A state runner-up Cascade.

Coach Seely-Roberts deliberately asked her team to face the staunchest competition in Oregon. She wanted them prepared for a playoff run.

In the end, Y-C defeated Cascade Christian 52-48 in the 3A Boys Championship Game June 26 at the Pirate Palace in Coos Bay. The Tigers overcame a 32-21 halftime deficit to claim the school’s third major championship and first state title since 1992.

Coach Seely-Roberts made remarkable history of her own; she’s the first female coach in Oregon history to lead a boys team to a state title.

Moroni Seely-Roberts led all scorers with 31 points, while twin brother Malachi Seely-Roberts contributed 19. Richmond scored the Tigers’ remaining two points.

The Y-C head coach applauded her entire team for the victory, crediting the reserves for playing well in spot minutes. She also highlighted the support of the Y-C community in Coos Bay and for her assistant coaches, Cindy Anderson, Karl Hudson and Anthony Cicoria.

She felt relieved to deliver a championship to the team’s four seniors, Richmond, Mikel Rivas, Brycen Williams and Quinten Ramsey-Buress.

The Seely-Roberts family would later leave the Y-C school district for Lincoln High School in Portland. Heather currently coaches the Cardinals, while Malachi and Moroni are starters on the 6A squad.

Valley athletes shine at track and field finals

All the hard work. Every exhausting hour of training. Each minute of patient waiting.

It all culminated in a final showcase.

Fittingly staged at Harrisburg’s Legends Field, local track and field athletes packed up their gear and joined 3A schools from around Oregon in the 2021 season’s version of the state meet.

Amity, Dayton, Willamina and Yamhill-Carlton sent their best to May 18th’s mid-valley exhibition. The four Yamhill County schools took on the elite from programs like Catlin Gabel, Sutherlin and St. Mary’s of Medford for the right to claim the top marks in the 3A season.

When the dust settled on the one-day Culmination Championships, five Yamhill Valley athletes stood alone atop the podium.

As a sophomore with the Willamina Bulldogs, Hallee Hughes realized her immense potential in the three throwing events.

She qualified for the 3A Culmination Championships in the discus, javelin and shot put. She unleashed some of her best throws at Legends Field, setting a PR in both the shot put (31 feet, 5.75”) and discus (116’10”).

Hughes claimed a title in the discus, finished runner-up in the javelin with a throw of 122’10” and placed fourth in the shot.

Keenan Graham couldn’t help showing disappointment following the conclusion of the high jump final, which he won with a clearance at six feet. Entering the event with lofty goals, including setting the Amity school record, Graham’s dreams took a hit when the conditions of the jumping area weren’t up to standard.

Graham easily cleared six feet in the early rounds, knocking out competitors who struggled to clear 5’10”. With the bar raised to 6’2”, only Graham and Catlin Gabel’s Miles Grant remained. Grant easily sailed over 5’10” earlier, but skipped six feet with the expectation of battling Graham well into the 6’4”, 6’6” range.

Unfortunately, adverse weather and a short landing pad played head games with the two elite leapers. A moderate amount of rain left the runway slick, particularly the area in front of the bar. Neither jumper could manage a clearance at 6’2”, bringing an unceremonious end to the event.

Cristin Brethower traveled to the Culminating Championship with a pair of imposing goals. First, she wanted to finish the girls 3,000m final with a sub-11-minute time. It meant shaving almost five seconds off her personal best – no easy feat in track and field’s longest race.

But, if Brethower could meet her first expectation then her second – winning a state title – would become much simpler.

Down the final stretch, Brethower kicked furiously toward the finish line. No competitors were pushing her – she was nearly a minute ahead of her closest challenger.

Only Brethower’s iron will propelled her across the home straightaway.

With a time of 10 minutes, 58.89 seconds, she captured the title.

With the culminating week representing the final track meet of the season, Amity’s Olivia Farrior knew she had nothing to lose if she pushed herself to the limit. The sophomore Warrior qualified for the girls long jump, 100m hurdles and 300m hurdles, and snagged sixth-place results in her initial two events.

Only the grueling 300m hurdles remained.

Seeded second in the final, Farrior probably needed a career-best to upset St. Mary’s Mackenzie Walker.

After the eight-girl field made the turn to the final 100 meters, Farrior began to break away. With perfect form to clear the hurdles and quick strides to earn an advantage in the sprints, Farrior leaned across the finish line with a time of 48.14 seconds.

A personal best, and, most importantly, first place at the final meet of the year.

As primarily a football and basketball player, Trey Richmond needed persuading when the time came to join Yamhill-Carlton’s track and field program.

In May, Richmond took up the challenge one last time. Competing in the 110m and 300m hurdles, Richmond first snagged a runner-up result in the former, finishing in a personal best of 16.62 seconds.

Fresh off his second-place achievement, Richmond became the fastest 300m hurdler at Legends Field.

Long strides carried the senior Tiger closer and closer to the finish line. Creswell’s Jack Nguyen followed directly behind in Lane Two. Richmond launched himself toward the final hurdle, sailed over it and dashed forward for the championship in 42.41 seconds.

Dayton soccer teams make school history

It was a great year to be a Dayton soccer fan. In the spring, the Pirate boys advanced to the Culminating Championship against Western Christian, setting the stage for a phenomenal run of success for the program.

A few months later, the Dayton boys used an 11-match unbeaten streak to qualify for the program’s first ever 3A/2A/1A state championship. During the stretch, the Pirates upset number-two Riverdale, 2-1, and number-three Riverside, 2-1.

All-state athletes Benji Hudson, Danny Anguiano and Tyler Spink led Dayton into the state final against top-seeded Catlin Gabel.

While the Pirates ultimately lost to the Eagles, head coach Jony Miramontes was named All-state Coach of the Year for directing Dayton’s historic run to second place.

The Dayton girls also enjoyed an inspiring campaign during the fall season. With their first ever appearance in the 3A/2A/1A state semifinals, the Pirates have ascended to a new plane of success.

During the postseason, the Pirates captured wins over Brookings-Harbor and Sutherlin to reach the Final Four.

Head coach Pat Myer called Dayton’s 2021 campaign “Our best season ever.”

Y-C baseball reaches 1st tournament final

Yamhill-Carlton’s baseball team finished a few runs shy of capping an incredibly successful spring season with a state title.

After claiming the program’s first league championship in over 30 years and qualifying for the team’s first tournament final in school history, the Tigers entered May 22nd’s 3A Culminating Week Tournament Championship against undefeated Brookings-Harbor with a lengthy resume of recent success.

An impressive 10-1 victory over Rainier in the state semifinal handed the Tigers confidence before matching up with the Bruins in the title game.

Though Y-C ultimately lost 11-2 in the state final, head coach Brennon Mossholder asked his players to hold their heads high.

“I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish this season,” he said. “I’m as competitive as anyone and I wanted to win, but our guys need to really appreciate what we’ve achieved this year.

“As far as we know, this is the first time we’ve made the state title as a baseball program. It’s our first trip to the semifinals since like ’71 and our first league title since the ‘80s. This was a special season,” added Mossholder.

Y-C initially appeared to ride their wave of momentum to a clear advantage in the championship game. With right-handed ace Wyatt Hurley on the mound, the Tigers shut out Brookings-Harbor during the opening two frames.

An RBI single by Carson Robarts in the second and a booming double by Hurley in the third gave the third-seeded Tigers an early 2-0 advantage.

Brookings-Harbor scored 11 runs over the final five frames to secure first place in 3A.


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