A last hurrah at Les Schwab Bowl
Local players are relishing the opportunity to compete in Saturday's annual Les Schwab Tires Bowl, an all-star football game showcasing many of the state's top high school seniors.
Twelve members of the North team are from the Portland Interscholastic League, Jesuit, Central Catholic or David Douglas. The North team also features assistant coaches Randy Heath (Grant), Steve Pyne (Central Catholic) and Wes Warren (Lincoln).
The players say their selection for the 71st installment of the game is one of the biggest accomplishments of their high school athletic careers.
Some are using Saturday's contest — which kicks off at 6 p.m. at Hillsboro Stadium — as a launching pad into summer conditioning with their college programs. Others are looking forward to representing their high school and having one last hurrah with teammates.
Players from both teams gathered on Monday at Pacific University to begin practices and participate in a series of community events. Player selection is based on athletic and academic achievement and community involvement.
Alphabetically, the players from Portland schools who will compete on Saturday are: Romeo Akil, Jefferson; Grant Ewell Jr., Grant; Dylan Gabriel, Central Catholic; Isaiah Henderson-Brazie, Jesuit; Damon Hickok, Grant; Jordan Hill, Lincoln; Kitan Oladapo, Central Catholic; Xavier Peraza, Franklin; Jaydin Proctor, David Douglas; DeMarques Singleton Jr., Grant; Hoyoung Sohn, Lincoln; Korbin Williams, Central Catholic.
Here is a look at each of them:
Romeo Akil, Jefferson
The 5-11 Akil will play defensive back for the North. He started for three years at quarterback for the Democrats and was an all-PIL wide receiver and defensive back last season.
"I feel like my role is to come in and be the swaggiest player on the field," he says. "Just bring some extra intensity and a different vibe to the game."
Akil is headed to Western Oregon on a football scholarship. At Jefferson, he was a member of the Black Student Union and Self Enhancement Inc. He also is interested in music, and takes pride in representing Jefferson football.
"(I want to show) everybody we are good and we are great football players," he says.
Grant Ewell Jr., Grant
Ewell, 6-1 and 180 pounds, will rotate between linebacker and defensive back on Saturday. Like Akil, he is headed to Western Oregon for football, and expects to get a look at both those defensive positions. He was all-league as a running back and linebacker.
Ewell also lettered four times in lacrosse and was a three-year letterman in basketball.
He says playing in Saturday's game under Heath and with his Generals teammates is a privilege.
"A lot of people don't have the opportunity to play one more time after high school, so I think it's really special," he says.
Dylan Gabriel, Central Catholic
Gabriel lettered three times for the Rams on the offensive line and will play for George Fox in the fall. He was an all-Mt. Hood Conference center at 6-0, 280.
Central Catholic was eliminated by Clackamas in the Class 6A quarterfinals, but Gabriel says playing in the Les Schwab comes with its own special recognition.
"I was just very proud. It was one of my goals heading into my senior season to play in this game," he says.
Gabriel finished with a 4.27 GPA and will study computer science at George Fox. He has volunteered at St. Francis Dining Hall, Oregon Food Bank, Special Olympics and Catholic Youth Organization.
Isaiah Henderson-Brazie, Jesuit
Henderson-Brazie, 6-2, 220, is a tight end headed to Washington State as a walk-on. He was an honorable mention all-state tight end and first team all-state linebacker last season. Henderson-Brazie's father played in the Les Schwab Bowl and he is "excited to honor that legacy."
Henderson-Brazie says he is excited to represent the school.
Jesuit coach Ken Potter gave Henderson-Brazie the rundown on what to expect.
"He's had a lot of experience with it," Henderson-Brazie says, "so he told me a lot about it, how fun it will be and how this experience will last a lifetime."
Henderson-Brazie says the week of practices and game can help him work back into football shape.
Damon Hickok, Grant
Hicock will play defensive back. He was a two-time all-PIL defensive back and twice made the second team at wide receiver. Last season, he caught 24 passes for more than 1,000 yards and anchored a secondary that did not allow a receiving touchdown. Hickok turned down a chance to play football and basketball at WOU, electing to walk on in football at Oregon.
Off the field, Hickok had a 3.2 GPA and was named the PIL's 2017-18 Sportsman of the Year.
Jordan Hill, Lincoln
The 6-4, 190-pound Hill figures to be a big target at outside receiver for the North. He transferred to Lincoln this school year after moving from Texas.
Hill wants to use this game as a springboard to football at Portland State. "I feel like I'm a really big target. Catch the ball good, real big, just want to show the best that I can do," he says.
Lincoln and Grant are rival schools, and this will be the first time Hill plays alongside Grant quarterback DeMarcus Singleton Jr.
"I didn't know him at all, actually," Hill says. "Playing against him, I knew what his number was, just read the scouting reports, but he's a good player."
Kitan Oladapo, Central Catholic
Oladapo, before going to Oregon State as a walk-on at defensive back, wants to use Saturday's game as a chance to get rid of a "bad taste in his mouth." Clackamas bounced the Rams from the postseason on the way to its first 6A championship, and this game is a chance for the Rams' three players to play together one more time.
Clackamas coach Joe Bushman is in charge of the North coaching staff, and the Cavaliers have six players on the all-star game roster. Oladapo says it will not be awkward playing for Bushman or his players. "I met a couple of them, and it's all fun and games. We're teammates now," Oladapo says.
Oladapo was all-conference at defensive back and graduated with a 3.3 GPA. He plans to study computer engineering at OSU.
Even though many college coaches require graduated seniors to report early for summer conditioning, and some players decline their invitation to play, Oladapo says the Les Schwab Bowl remains a talent showcase.
"It gets all of the best high school players in the state to go against each other," he says. "You get to see it come together all at once in one game."
Xavier Peraza, Franklin
Franklin's Peraza lettered four times in football and track and field and was a two-way all-conference lineman in 2017. The 6-3, 290-pounder will continue his football at Linfield.
"I want to take this as a great practice opportunity, earning from the coaches and other players, making friends," he says.
Peraza, who had a 3.65 GPA, was a member of the Advanced Scholar Program for three years.
He says it's important to him to play in this game and represent the PIL.
"It's one of the greatest honors for any football player in the state," he says.
Jaydin Proctor, David Douglas
Proctor, a 6-3 wide receiver, describes himself as "physical and fast" and someone who can "catch anything that goes in the air."
Last fall, he set single-season records for the Scots in touchdown receptions (13) and receiving yards (1,192). Proctor led the state in both categories and was a second-team all-conference wide receiver and defensive back.
He was involved with David Douglas youth football through high school, as well.
Proctor will play football for American River College in Sacramento, California, this fall in hopes of earning a Division I scholarship.
The Scots were winless last season, so Proctor says his selection to play is a "real big deal.
"I'm going to miss my guys, but being out there representing my school — I know we had a tough season — it's a good thing to go out there and end it on a good note."
Demarques Singleton Jr., Grant
Singleton Jr. is one of two quarterbacks listed for the North. He compiled about 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards for Grant last season. He was the PIL offensive player of the year.
Singleton, 5-11 says he uses his speed to make plays.
"Once I get on the field, it's different than walking around normally. My instincts kick in. I just do what I've been training for all these years," he says.
He was a member of Grant's state champion basketball team and says his selection to play for the North is as big of an honor.
Singleton recorded a 3.25 GPA and is a member of the Black Student Union and Self Enhancement Inc. He will attempt to walk-on in football at UO.
"Me and Damon are headed to Oregon to try and play football there, so I still have him, but Grant (Ewell Jr.) is splitting off his way (to Western Oregon). It's good to play together one last time. We've grown up together, so it's a special bond between us," Singleton says.
Hoyoung Sohn, Lincoln
Sohn is the North kicker and punter and a future walk-on at OSU. He moved to the U.S. from South Korea in 2012, played soccer for two years and began playing football his junior season. "I didn't realize there was a lot of running, and I didn't like it," he says of soccer. "So I switched to football, where I could just kick."
Sohn says Warren, who will coach Franklin starting next season, has played a big role in his success.
"He helped me a lot as a player, as a person, and as a student throughout high school," Sohn says. "I'm sad that he's leaving Lincoln."
Korbin Williams, Central Catholic
Williams is a speedy, 6-2 wide receiver who will participate in football and track and field at the University of Oregon. He was an all-MHC wide receiver for the Rams and a member of the 2017 and 2018 state champion 4x400-meter relay teams.
Williams, who posted a 3.4 GPA, says is looking forward to playing with Gabriel and Oladapo and under coach Steve Pyne one last time.
"It's really fun, because Kitan is going to Oregon State and I'm going to Oregon," he says, "so this is the last time we're going to be playing together as teammates."
Williams says his goal for the week is "to live every second of it and have fun."