By Logan Brandon • Sports Editor • 

Top 10 Sports Stories of 2019

Marcus Larson/News-Register##
Amity s Michael Duncan celebrates his game-winning three-pointer against Dayton in the Class 3A state semifinals.
Marcus Larson/News-Register## Amity's Michael Duncan celebrates his game-winning three-pointer against Dayton in the Class 3A state semifinals.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##
McMinnville s Zane Fodge sprints toward the finish line of the Class 6A OSAA Track and Field Championships.
Marcus Larson/News-Register## McMinnville's Zane Fodge sprints toward the finish line of the Class 6A OSAA Track and Field Championships.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##
Willamina 113-pound wrestler Moses Mercier is crowned Class 3A state champion.
Marcus Larson/News-Register## Willamina 113-pound wrestler Moses Mercier is crowned Class 3A state champion.
Marcus Larson/News-Register##
Yamhill-Carlton s Hannah Jolly celebrates her first career high school goal during a Tigers  regular season win.
Marcus Larson/News-Register## Yamhill-Carlton's Hannah Jolly celebrates her first career high school goal during a Tigers' regular season win.

The year 2019 featured an impressive array of sports stories in Yamhill Valley.

Everything from individual championships, personal and school records, in-depth features to truly astounding team performances.

Amity witnessed a historic underdog tale unfold during the boys basketball team’s journey to the Class 3A State Championship game.

McMinnville’s Zane Fodge and Vic Downs, pillars of the Grizzlies’ running community, both capped their respective careers this year.

Both state wrestling and track and field championships featured noteworthy efforts from area athletes.

Several head coaches embarked on new paths, either through retirement or career changes.

Overall, local sports fans weren’t left wanting in 2019.


What a magical ride.

Through upset after upset, the Amity boys’ basketball team forged a path to a historic Class 3A OSAA state championship. In an eight-day span, the 10th seed Warriors knocked off the seventh-ranked Horizon Christian Hawks, 67-50, edged second-seeded Santiam Christian, 60-59, and stunned longtime rival and third-rated Dayton, 38-37, in their ascent to the state finals.

It became Amity’s first appearance in a boys’ basketball state championship since 1938.

While the Warriors didn’t celebrate the perfect storybook ending, losing to De La Salle North Catholic, 58-45, their status as an uplifting Cinderella team is cemented in Amity lore.

Fans won’t soon forget the run Amity made to the state championship. Winning its quarterfinal and semifinal contests by a combined two points infused an overwhelming sense of drama to the Coos Bay tournament.

No moment proved more exceptional, more astonishing, more mystical than Michael Duncan’s game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer which beat the Pirates during the semifinal clash.

The journey felt remarkable, said Amity head coach Scott Nelson. He added, “If you do things the right way and you play hard, then there’s no regrets. It’s so hard to get here – we’ve had several great teams in the past which never made it into the winner’s bracket.

“Fear the ten, and we proved that time and time again.”


Jordan Reyes and Moses Mercier: decorated members of Willamina wrestling’s “little guys,” Bulldog athletes who compete in the lower weight classes of Class 3A competition. The two wrestlers captured Oregon state championships last Saturday, competing at 106 and 113 pounds, respectively.

In the finals, Reyes faced Yamhill-Carlton’s second-ranked Reily Liesegang. The two had never met before their recent bout, but Reyes established a clear strategy entering the title match.

“I just wanted to let it loose. I’ve never wrestled him, and while I’ve seen him wrestle some of my teammates, I knew I just had to wrestle my style,” he explained.

Using his patented aggressiveness, Reyes scored a takedown roughly one minute into the contest. Liesegang opened his own account with an escape, but the Bulldog clamped down for another two points as the first round concluded.

In the second, Reyes reversed his Tiger opponent to go up 6-1.

Reyes secured two additional take downs in the third round, while Liesegang added another escape. Reyes’ second two-pointer solidified a 10-2 major decision and his second career state title.

“It was definitely special,” Reyes said of his recent triumph. “I was hoping for four, but to come out with two, that’s okay.”

Reflecting on his career, he added, “Willamina is an amazing place to be – it’s one of the best 3A teams and it always has been. It was great representing this school, my coaches Ariah and Barry, my assistant coaches like my brother and Tyler; it was such a great support system.”

While Reyes’ title match went the distance, Mercier made swift work of his La Pine opponent, Dylan Mann. The sophomore relentlessly attacked in the match’s opening moments, earning a takedown and a three-point near fall.

With 42 seconds gone, Mercier pinned Mann to the mat for the fall and the championship.

“It feels really good,” noted Mercier.

Last season, Dayton’s Blake Larsen snatched a state title at 195 pounds. In 2019, the Pirate junior embarked on another title quest, but in the 285-pound heavyweight division.

The result? Championship gold.

Larsen battled Willamina’s Jordan Mode in the heavyweight final. The two had wrestled previously, and Larsen knew the Bulldog senior would try everything in his power to throw him off his game.

“I can’t let him make me mad,” he explained. “He’s good at head-butting and trying to make me mad, but I stayed focused when he got me a couple times.”

Larsen ultimately prevailed by an 8-2 decision, cementing his choice to wrestle at the heaviest weight class.

“My quickness is my greatest asset. I cut a lot of weight last season, but I decided to wrestle up this season. I already won the 195, so I wanted to give heavyweight a try, no matter who my opponents might be,” said Larsen.

Dayton head coach Rob Henry cited Larsen’s desire to improve as helping the junior buck a trend of state champions declining in effort and results.

“When you win a state title, you either stay the same and be satisfied, or you can pour yourself into the sport and make yourself better. Blake did that; he was in the wrestling room all summer. He really worked on the craft and that made all the difference from what he was last year and how dominant he was this season.”


CLACKAMAS – Zane Fodge gazed out at the capacity crowd. Narrowing his focus, the McMinnville distance runner searched for friends and family in the upper rows of the track and field complex at Mt. Hood Community College.

The senior Grizzly had just finished the final race of his athletic career May 25 at the Class 6A OSAA Track and Field Championships. Huddling in the media tent, safe from the weather’s liquid onslaught, Fodge reflected on his McMinnville journey.

Tears mixed with rain as he spoke, “You know, just looking around and savoring it. . .it’s such a big deal. I’m really proud of it – my whole career. It’s weird to reflect, but I had a lot of ups and downs. A lot of weird downs that didn’t really go my way, but sometimes that’s how it goes.

“I can’t say I did everything I wanted to – I think I had a lot more which I wished to accomplish.”

Fodge concluded his career with an unparalleled supply of achievements and records. He finished in the top-10 at the state meet six times, won 45 individual and team meet titles and currently holds the Mac school records in the 800m, 1,500m, 3,000m and mile events.

Yet, his ultimate goal of a state championship proved elusive.

Fodge finished agonizingly close.

During the 3,000m final, he battled Franklin’s Charlie Robertson in the race’s final 200 meters. The crowd roared approval as both runners sprinted the home stretch and Fodge pulled even with the sophomore Quaker.

Cutting through a relentless downpour, the two crossed the finish line within a second of each another. Robertson inched ahead at the last moment, winning in eight minutes, 32.08 seconds, while Fodge clocked in at 8:32.50, a school record.

In the 1,500m, Jesuit’s Will Sheaffer captured the victory in 3:57.02, while Fodge again fell just short in 3:57.80 to place second.

“It was agonizing – you come out of both of those knowing you’re a sliver away. It doesn’t feel good,” he said.

“There were a lot of disappointed boys in that (1,500). Lots of tired legs out there today and the cold, rainy weather didn’t make it easy,” observedMac head coach Vic Downs.

Downs, when asked about Fodge’s legacy at Mac, became increasingly emotional. The longtime head coach, speaking earnestly, said, “He’s a pretty special kid. Nobody deserved to win a title more today than Zane. Unfortunately, there’s only one champion and it’s rare to win a title. Getting second was tough on his last chance.”

After spotting his group of supporters in the stands, Fodge smiled, then grew contemplative once more.

“I faced my share of obstacles, but I think handling that adversity taught me more than success ever could. I’m happy with what happened,” he said. “This was a crazy experience and looking at my family up there, I want to soak it all in.

“I won’t ever have this again.”


For the first time in school history, the Yamhill-Carlton football team achieved an undefeated regular season and captured their first league title since 2007.

Asked about his team’s accomplishments this season, Y-C head coach and Class 3A Special District 1 – East Coach of the Year Brennon Mossholder replied, “It’s extremely gratifying – for me personally and for the community. We were winless two years ago and now we’ve earned an undefeated season.”

He continued, “I tried to implement a new culture when I was hired four years ago. The kids bought in, and that’s what it takes to turn around a program.”

The historic season came to a competitive conclusion November 9 in front of a raucous and supportive home crowd. In the first round of the Class 3A state playoffs, the seventh-seeded Tigers lost a back-and-forth battle to 10th-ranked Vale, 27-23.

The matchup featured seven lead changes. After Y-C grabbed a 23-20 advantage with 4:45 remaining, the Vikings marched 70 yards on 11 plays in roughly three minutes to score the game-winning touchdown with 1:31 left.

Mossholder, who emotionally addressed his team following the loss, doesn’t want his athletes to forget this incredible season.

“When this initial sting subsides, we can really be proud of what we’ve accomplished this year. We earned the first league title in 13 years and the first undefeated regular season in school history – those are things to really be proud of,” he said.


YAMHILL – In the past four years, Yamhill-Carlton girls’ soccer fans witnessed a gradual and marked improvement in their program.

In 2019, Y-C dispatched first-round opponent Westside Christian 2-1 in a gritty overtime victory. With the opening playoff in its rearview mirror, the Tigers then knocked off Santiam Christian, 3-0.

In trouncing the Eagles, Y-C qualified for the first girls’ soccer semifinal appearance in school history.

Facing number-one seeded Catlin Gabel in the semis, the Tigers fell 5-1 on the Eagles’ home field to fall one round short of the Class 3A/2A/1A state championship.

The journey of her team remains a common point of reflection and pride for Y-C head coach Brittany Hartmann. The fifth-year head coach, who has captained the program’s improvement, highlighted the importance of her players’ character in defining the recent season.

“We took a team from Yamhill-Carlton, a public school, to the final four,” she said. “Our kids are working all summer - they’re not playing soccer year round. We took these farm kids out and competed against a (school) that takes 30 grand a year to attend.

“These girls had a lot of heart. They’re background gave them that.”


The 2019 OSAA Class 3A State Track and Field Championships, held at Mt. Hood Community College, may have lacked the pageantry and history of prior meets hosted by the University of Oregon at historic Hayward Field.

However, the new venue appeared smaller, more intimate, but no less exciting for the student-athletes from Amity, Dayton, Willamina and Yamhill-Carlton.

Willamina’s David Hensley finally met his goal.

The Bulldog set a state-winning mark in the boys’ triple jump – 42 feet, 8.5 inches. His winning jump was his second attempt of the event, which beat runner-up Dawson Patton of Salem Academy by 1’5.5”.

As an encore, Hensley decided he’d conquer the field in the boys’ long jump, too. He launched 20 feet, 5.5 inches to secure his second career title.

“It feels great, especially after last year when I got second place. It’ll make a cool picture holding up both second place and first place medals,” noted Hensley.

Amity hurdler Jonathan Mather emulated his old track friend, Ibrahima Niakh, and swept the boys; 110m and 300m hurdles during the state meet. He posted a blistering time of 15.26 seconds in the 110m, beating Santiam Christian’s Brennen Sorah. Mather later captured the 300m hurdles in 39.37 seconds.

“It feels amazing,” Mather said after his first title. “This is what I’ve been looking forward to for three years, ever since I watched Ibra get it.”

Regarding his post-race plans, Mather replied, “I’m definitely going to give Ibra a call.”

Sadie Horne ended her Yamhill-Carlton athletic career a champion.

She shattered her previous best in the girls’ discus to win with a mark of 131’5”. Horne also secured second place in the girls’ shot put, recording a mark of 40’8.75”, while Felicia Robbins was seventh (36’1.5”).

Following the event, Horne hugged her shot put and discus coach, Ariel Oliver, then stared out at the crowd.

What does it mean to cement her status as an all-time great Tiger?

“It means everything. I’ve worked so hard the past four years – all the early mornings and late nights of practice finally paid off. To PR at state, when it matters, is so important,” she said.


Wyatt Smith stands alone atop the Linfield football single-game passing touchdowns list.

He passed for a school-record eight TDs during this season’s 77-22 rout of University of Puget Sound October 12.

Yet, the junior signal-caller will be the first to say his historic performance wasn’t simply a solo act. No, he says, the record should be shared among his offensive linemen and receivers.

“It feels good, I guess. I don’t think the credit should be all mine – our team and receivers all had great days. It was awesome,” said Smith.

Adding to Smith’s moment in history was the man he overtook for the record: current co-offensive coordinator and former Wildcat quarterback Brett Elliott.

Elliott led the 2004 Linfield football team to a Division III National Championship amidst a season where he passed for a season record 61 touchdowns.

Elliott held the Wildcat single-game high marks for touchdowns with seven in both the 2004 and 2005 campaigns.

“It feels great. As a coach, you always want those records to be broken. He has had a hell of a season so far. I can see a lot more following in the next year and a half,” said Elliott.

“I think it’s been great,” said Smith. “For me personally, he’s always put me in a position to make plays. He’s always pushing me to better and I think that’s great.”

Colton Smith, Wyatt’s brother, snagged nine total catches for 147 yards and two TDs on his brother’s record-setting day.

For the two siblings, who grew up playing football together, Saturday represented one of their finest moments.

“I mean, it’s always special. He and I grew up wanting to be Wildcats, so it’s always special,” noted Wyatt.

“It was awesome. When you’re playing in the game, (the record) kind of creeps up on you. Then you look up and ‘holy smokes’ he has seven, eight touchdowns,” added Colton.

Asked about the parallels between Elliott and Wyatt’s latest effort, Coach Joseph Smith, Wyatt’s father, observed, “It’s pretty neat. Coach (Aaron) Boehme and Coach Elliott were both such great quarterbacks here and it’s neat to have them both mentor Wyatt. Obviously, they’ve had a huge impact on Wyatt’s development.”


Rob Umbenhower’s lengthy tenure with the Dayton softball team reached its conclusion this season.

Fittingly, the longtime head coach led his squad to its fifth consecutive Class 3A State Championship appearance. The Pirates ultimately lost 10-5 to the Clatskanie Tigers.

Dayton’s seniors took the loss the hardest.

Centerfielder Shylar Halverson, who caught five outs but also committed two crucial errors, buried her head in her hands as the team awaited the trophy presentation. Veteran first baseman Catie Jacks consoled Emily Elliott with a hug after the Pirates received their second-place medals.

Elliott, Jacks and senior utility player Tate Ashley all played varsity four years, ending their careers as one-time state champions (2018).

Asked about the tone of his postgame message, Umbenhower briefly gazed toward his players in the dugout. With sadness in his voice, he answered:

“They should be proud of being the team that was here. But, really, there isn’t anything you can say to them right now because it’s going in one ear and out the other. They’re kicking themselves in the butt because they made mistakes.

“There was no one thing that did it – it wasn’t one person. This was a team effort. We step on the field together and we step off together – whether we win or lose,” he added.

Despite the loss, Umbenhower didn’t discredit the Pirates’ effort.

“My girls put their hearts on the line.”


A phenomenal season for Linfield softball ended bitterly in Game Three of the NCAA DIII Super Regional against Texas Lutheran May 19. The Wildcats fell, 5-2, to fall agonizingly short of an appearance in the College World Series.

Linfield lost Game One, 6-5, before bouncing back with a 9-7 triumph in Game 2.

Linfield head coach Jackson Vaughn, after the team finished with a dominant 39-8 record and an NWC title, noted his team’s overall talent.

“We ended up being a really strong team one through nine. This year, one through nine could hit and I think that helped a lot. We had some close games and comeback wins, so that helped, too. Our team just bought in – they care for each other a great deal,” he said.

Vaughn added, “I’m proud of the team – we didn’t know what we had going into this year, but girls have stepped up all season long. We lost a lot of talent from our lineup last season, but we’ve witnessed players fill those roles.”


This year, the News-Register highlighted the lasting impacts of head coaches from Amity, Dayton, Linfield, McMinnville, Sheridan, Willamina and Yamhill-Carlton.

For their lasting legacies in area sports, Amity’s Joel Magill, Dayton’s Ron Hop, Linfield’s Jackson Vaughn, McMinnville’s Vic Downs, Sheridan’s Barb Justen, Willamina’s Cliff Toney and Y-C’s John Kuehnel were honored with features exploring their careers on and off the field.

Magill, Hop, Vaughn and Kuehnel shared their different approaches to coaching, education and life.

Downs, Justen and Toney reflected on their respective retirements from cross country and track and field (Downs, Justen) and baseball (Toney).



Amity boys are 7-1 in an early start of the season with a month of away games before their first home game last Saturday. Have not noticed any mention of their games in the News Register. KLYC has been covering games well.



Amity boys basketball results are always included in our roundup. We have not been sent regular stats for that team, however, so recaps are often short.

Amity's road-heavy preseason is another reason we haven't got out to feature them yet.


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