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Football: Canby out to prove progress at Metro Area Lineman Challenge


The Cougars place sixth out of 15 teams at the annual event as they prepare for the fall.

by: JEFF GOODMAN - Austin Schwartz tries to flip a 350-pound tractor tire July 20 during the fourth-annual Metro Area Lineman Challenge at Tualatin High School. He and seven other Canby football players participated in the event.TUALATIN — Resting his back on the padded black bench, Alejandro Sandoval seemed unruffled by the 185-pound bar resting on the rack above him.

Surrounded by cheering teammates, he reached up with both hands, grabbed the bar and steadily pumped out 15 repetitions.

It if looked like he’d done it before, well, it’s because he had.

“I’ve been working out every day,” he said. “I guess the conditioning is working.”

Sandoval was a member of the Canby football team’s contingent at the fourth-annual Metro Area Lineman Challenge, which drew scores of area athletes to Tualatin High School for a variety of individual and group strongman contests July 20.

A year ago, when the Cougars made their first appearance at the event, Sandoval participated in the same bench-press competition. He couldn’t lift the weight even once.

Indeed, the progress he and his teammates demonstrated this time around had fourth-year coach Mike Vaught excited for the upcoming season.

Vaught said the incoming seniors, including the linemen, remind him of the Canby teams that reached back-to-back state semifinal games in 2002-03.

“This is really a unique group,” he said. “You can coach all you want, but these kids have stepped it up in the weight room and really committed themselves. Their work ethic has been phenomenal.”

Of course, whether their improved strength translates into success this fall remains to be seen. by: JEFF GOODMAN - Eight members of the Canby football team participated in speed and strength contests July 20 during the fourth-annual Metro Area Lineman Challenge at Tualatin High School. From left: senior Alejandro Sandoval, senior Kyle Rademacher, senior Zach Kraus, senior A.J. Schlatter, senior Nick Kraxberger, sophomore Austin Schwartz, senior Chad Coon and junior Braxton Ennes.

Last year, the high hopes Vaught had for his linemen entering the season were ultimately muted by weekly injuries and a brutal itinerary that included games against three of the four eventual Class 6A semifinalists.

On offense, the Cougars were inconsistent in paving the way for running backs and giving senior quarterback Sam Stelk enough time to find receivers.

On defense, they struggled to stuff opponents’ ground attacks. They gave up 224 yards and four touchdowns to Jesuit running back A.J. Glass, ceded 209 yards and a score to Oregon City standout Mitch Thompson, allowed 290 yards and four touchdowns to Lake Oswego’s running backs and surrendered 308 yards and four touchdowns to Clackamas junior Dan Sherrell.

“We went against a tough schedule, but I think we could’ve done a lot better,” Zach Kraus said. “We want to prove we can go against the best teams in the state.”

Heading into its 2013 campaign, which begins Aug. 30, Canby seems to have the experience to match its size up front. The returning group includes Sandoval and Kraus as well as fellow seniors Kyle Rademacher, Nick Kraxberger and Craig Fobert. Also in the mix are junior Chad Coon and sophomores Tony Kraus and Austin Schwartz.

Although they will miss Southern Oregon recruit Cody Churchwell and fellow all-league honorees Hunter Cory and Chris Barham, members of the line believe they can improve on last year’s outing.

“We got a lot bigger, a lot stronger,” Kraxberger said. “We’re so close, and we’ve been working out all year. Everyone just has to do their job and compete on every play.”

That kind of never-quit attitude was on display at the Lineman Challenge, where the Cougars took sixth place out of 15 teams overall with 33 points. Tualatin (74), Jesuit (68), Tigard (66), Oregon City (44) and Lake Oswego (43) posted the top five scores.

Canby won the tug o’ war competition, took second in the farmer’s carry and placed sixth in the bench-press and tire-flip contests.

A.J. Schlatter, a multi-sport athlete who played at tight end and linebacker this past season, logged the team’s best score and finished at No. 8 out of 130 contestants on the individual leaderboard.

Showcasing his agility and quickness, Schlatter finished the obstacle course in 27.34 seconds to edge star Jesuit linebacker and overall champion Joey Alfieri (27.50) for top honors in the event. He also recorded a vertical jump of 27 inches, ran the 40-yard dash in 5.01 seconds and flipped a 350-pound tire 14 times in a minute.

Sandoval, meanwhile, had the highest score of the Cougars’ true linemen in attendance. He carved out 19th place overall, snagging fifth in the farmer’s carry (107 feet) and sixth in the tire flip (15 repetitions).

Canby’s eight-man contingent also included junior Braxton Ennes (37th), Rademacher (40th), Zach Kraus, Kraxberger, Schwartz and Coon.