Metro League football preview: 10 questions, top players, projected order of finish

Here are 10 questions for the Class 6A Metro League entering the 2019 high school football season. At the bottom is Rene Ferran’s predicted order of finish.

Text by Rene Ferran. Photos by Chase Allgood, Taylor Balkom, Ben Ludeman, Serena Morones, Rockne Roll and Ken Waz.  

1. Who are the top contenders for offensive player of the year?

3. Ted Atkinson, RB, Jesuit. Atkinson started last season on the Crusaders JV squad, but when injuries ahead of him on the depth chart provided him a chance, he seized the opportunity and finished with 962 yards and eight TDs. With Andy Alfieri likely to be spelled some on offense to keep him fresh for later in the season and Kade Wisher also a starting candidate on defense, Atkinson probably gets the most carries in Jesuit’s crowded backfield.

2. Callum Craig, QB, Sunset. Craig proved to be a more-than-capable replacement for Coleman Newsom in his debut season as the Apollos’ starting quarterback, earning first-team all-Metro honors and leading them to the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs. With another offseason under his belt and both his starting receivers of a year ago back, he should have another big season.

1. Carson Budke, QB, Beaverton. The Beavers have a knack for producing top quarterbacks, going back to Taylor Barton in the late 1990s and including the likes of Michael Dehaan, Carson Crawford and Sam Noyer. Budke, who threw for 2,923 yards (fourth-best in school history for a single season) and 31 touchdowns in 2018, could join them in the college ranks playing Saturdays next fall – and with a deep playoff run, he could even take a run at Barton’s school-record 7,077 career passing yards.

2. Who are the top contenders for defensive player of the year?

3. Ika Ngauamo, DL, Sunset. After earning all-state honorable mention a year ago in anchoring the Apollos’ defensive line, what can he do for an encore? He’ll demand double teams while clogging the middle, freeing up a young, hungry group of linebackers to seek ballcarriers.

2. Sandrey Mitberg, LB, Beaverton. Mitberg blew up on the recruiting trail over the offseason, burnishing his credentials after a monster junior season in which he had 54 tackles (12½ for loss), eight sacks and four quarterback hurries to receive all-state honorable mention.

1. Andy Alfieri, LB, Jesuit. Alfieri is the state’s top recruit according to 247Sports and has committed to the University of California, but before he leaves for Berkeley, let’s enjoy watching him wreak havoc for one more season. He missed parts of four games last year with an injury, so don’t be surprised if the Crusaders are a bit judicious with his snaps during the regular season to save him for what they hope is another long playoff run.

3. Who are the best players that casual fans haven’t paid attention to yet?

3. London Smalley, WR, Westview. Smalley quietly has become one of the top receivers in the state, catching a team-high 41 passes for 518 yards and seven TDs last season and averaging nearly 20 yards per kickoff return. He has climbed to No. 23 on 247Sports’ statewide recruiting list and boasts an offer from Portland State.

2. Regan Wilson, WR/FS, Aloha. The Warriors have a couple players who could fit this bill, but we’ll go with the do-everything Wilson, who shines as a receiver (team-high 58 catches for 1,110 yards and 12 TDs) and in the secondary (31 tackles, four interceptions).

1. Kyle Moxley, OL/DE, Southridge. Moxley had 98 tackles, including 11 for loss, nine sacks, and seven hurries as a sophomore at Aloha last season, yet somehow didn’t make any of the all-Metro teams. Another big year like that will be hard to ignore in the all-league voting again.

4. Who are some top candidates to deliver breakthrough seasons?

3. Jalen Owens, WR/DB, Sunset. Apollos coach Damien Merrick called Owens the team’s most improved player over the offseason, and he’ll play an important role at slot receiver and cornerback this fall.

2. Andrew Simpson, WR/DB, Mountainside. Simpson didn’t play until midseason as a sophomore because of a broken collarbone, yet he still ended up among the Mavericks’ leading receivers. He’s 100 percent healthy now and should have a big season.

1. Aaron Jones, RB/CB, Westview. Jones made his varsity debut as a freshman, providing a brief glimpse of the talent that already has brought him several FBS offers. He’ll be the feature back this fall for the Wildcats and will need a big season along with Smalley for them to return to the playoffs.

5. Which quarterback has the biggest shoes to fill?

Late in camp, Jesuit senior Jack Heyden had the edge in his battle with junior Cooper Wrenn for the starting job. Whoever ends up starting will have a tall task taking over for Will Spitznagel, who won league offensive player of the year honors last fall and received all-state honorable mention in leading the Crusaders to the state semifinals. Spitznagel’s knack for the big moment – see his fourth-down sneak for the winning touchdown in the final minute of a state quarterfinal against Tigard – will be difficult to replicate.

6. Which sophomore might make an immediate impact under the Friday night lights?

Because Jones saw action as a freshman for the Wildcats last fall, we’ll spotlight Beaverton wideout Kyron Albright, who has wowed coach Bob Boyer during the offseason. Albright has some talented mentors surrounding him, including Trent Walker, Cody Davidson and Parker McKenna, and won’t be asked to take on a big role right away – but he has the talent to grab one anyway.

7. What is the best rivalry in the league?

All six Beaverton School Districts reside in the Metro. Throw in Jesuit, and you have a recipe for rivalry games every week. But there’s something extra special when the Crusaders and Beavers face each other every year. This season, that something extra special could include league bragging rights.

8. Does Mountainside make the playoffs in its second year as a varsity program?

Yes. The Mavericks probably don’t crack the top three to grab one of the automatic spots, but they won’t go winless in nonleague play like they did a year ago, and an above .500 finish in league play (they avoid Sunset in the rotation) is very doable. That should get them into the top 32 of the state rankings.

9. How many playoff teams will come out of the Metro League?

Six of the Metro’s seven teams could qualify this season, but three early-September matchups will provide a clue as to whether the bottom half of the league can scrap its way into the top 32 of the OSAA rankings. Southridge plays host to Lincoln in Week 2, and Aloha opens with road games at Century and Gresham, which both narrowly missed snagging a playoff berth in 2018. If the Skyhawks and Warriors win those early tests, they’ll likely end the season among the last teams into the playoff field.

10. Can anyone end Jesuit’s six-year reign atop the league?

The Crusaders have won 41 consecutive games in Metro League play, and their six rivals all pronounced them once again the team to beat in the league. They jump right into Metro action in Week 1 at home against a much-improved Mountainside team, and they finish the season facing a gauntlet – road games at Southridge and Beaverton sandwiching a Senior Night tilt against Sunset. If they extend their streaks to 47 wins and seven league titles, they’ll have earned it.

Predicted order of finish

1. Jesuit

2. Beaverton

3. Sunset

4. Mountainside

5. Southridge

6. Aloha

7. Westview

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