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Oregon’s top high school football players: Meet the state’s best tight ends

Who are the top tight ends in Oregon high school football this season?

By René Ferrán, Mike Wilson, Bob Lundeberg, Mitchell Forde and Paul Valencia

Over the next week, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at some of the top returning players in Oregon high school football. Our next list focuses on the tight ends. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: These lists were compiled early in the season and are based mostly on last year’s performances and what happened in the first few weeks of this season. Before the season ends, we will be highlighting many of the new stars who have emerged this fall.

There are hundreds of standout football players in Oregon and these lists are not intended to be comprehensive. Let us know about any other players you think should be added!

Jace Swygard (Lakeridge) photo by Naji Saker  

Our complete high school football preview:

Breaking down every 6A, 5A, 4A team in the state

State leaders through Week 5:

Class 6A | Class 5A | Class 4A

Richie Anderson, Tualatin, senior

Anderson recently committed to Colorado State after a phenomenal junior season for which he earned all-state honorable mention on both sides of the ball. He caught 10 passes for 132 yards at tight end. “He’s an exceptional athlete, and I expect big things from him this year,” coach Dominic Ferraro said during camp. 

Brett Boen, Kennedy, senior

Boen was a first-team all-state selection for the 2A runner-up Trojans last season, catching 12 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns.

Gus Donnerberg, West Linn, junior

Donnerberg last season earned all-Three Rivers honorable mention on offense with 11 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns. “He plays with leverage for a long guy,” coach Jon Eagle said. “As a tight end, he’s able to set the edge, which we like, and understands how to create his own space. He can get dirty inside but can also get downfield in a hurry, if needed.” 

Gus Donnerberg (West Linn) photo by Ken Waz 

Gus Donnerberg (West Linn) photo by Ken Waz 

Preston Doran, Hillsboro, junior 

Spartans coach Dan Shuff said the team had to get the ball more to Doran this fall after he earned all-NWOC West recognition last season with a team-high 45 catches. “We’re trying to find ways to get Doran the ball a heck of a lot more,” Shuff said in August. “He might play fullback.” 

Oliver Fisher, Sherwood, senior

Fisher made his mark on defense last season, but it’s his potential as a tight end that led to his commitment to Boise State in the summer. He caught only five passes for 80 yards in the Bowmen’s wing-T last season, but with leading receiver Cody Hall graduated, the state’s No. 4 prospect according to On3 Sports (No. 7 by 247Sports) is getting more targets this fall. “Oliver will be a weapon for us in the passing game,” coach Mark Gribble said last month. 

Kayden Gardner, Crater, junior

Gardner, a second-team all-Midwestern selection at tight end last season despite missing three games because of injury, became the focal point of the offense with Caden Lasater’s graduation. He caught 13 passes (second to Lasater on the team) for 256 yards and a team-high four touchdowns as a sophomore. “He’s a big target with soft hands who we can line up all over the field,” coach Berk Brown said. 

Brock Hubert, Stayton, senior

The senior is in his third season as a starter at tight end. His combination of size — Eagles coach Randy Nyquist said he’s up to 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds — and agility makes him a matchup nightmare for opponents on both sides of the ball. “That’s one thing I can hang my hat on, knowing that people are going to have to figure out how to deal with him and defend him,” Nyquist said. “I think he’s an improved blocker, which will make us a better football team.” 

Brysen Kachel, West Albany, junior

Kachel is a special athlete who stands almost 6-foot-3 and weighs around 235 pounds. He caught 15 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns last season, making the all-state second team. “Brysen is just a very unique football player, the type of kid that doesn’t come around very often as far as being big, strong, fast and smart,” coach Brian Mehl said. “His instincts are really good, and he has big-time ability.” 

Luke Leighton, Sheldon, senior

Leighton was an all-state honorable mention selection on offense last season, when he caught 43 passes for 660 yards and eight touchdowns for the Irish. The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder holds offers from Air Force, Army and Portland State. “Luke is really intelligent, really tough, and he’s just a playmaker,” coach Josh Line said. “When we need something positive to happen for us in a big moment, he typically comes up with it.”

Henry Masters, Tigard, senior

Masters didn’t get much action at tight end last season, but he was a red zone weapon, catching two touchdown passes. This fall, the Tigers have given him more responsibility on offense (he also is a returning all-TRL linebacker), and he’s rewarded them by posting big performances during their undefeated start. “We’ve always known he could be a force on offense,” coach John Kemper said. “He’s really come along since he has learned the physicality that goes into it.” 

Henry Masters (Tigard) photo by Dave Ball 

Henry Masters (Tigard) photo by Dave Ball 

Ty May, Philomath, senior

Philomath’s top weapon in the passing game is May, a 6-foot-6 tight end who represents a problematic matchup for opposing defenses. He earned first-team all-league honors a year ago. Look for the offense to manufacture ways to get the ball in May’s hands. “We’re going to feature him quite a bit offensively,” coach Alex Firth said during camp. 

Caden McGowan, Corvallis, senior

An all-league selection on both sides of the ball as a junior, McGowan can play multiple positions for the Spartans. The senior is sturdily built at 6-2 and 220 pounds. “We line him up all over the place,” coach Chris McGowan said of his son. “He played a lot of tight end last year, and I think he will be more of an H-back this year since we’re going to be more of a spread team based on the personnel we have.” 

Noah McIlmoil, La Grande, senior

The coach’s son had a big junior season for the Tigers, making the all-GOL first team (and all-state honorable mention) on offense. He spent the summer on the camp circuit, and Rich McIlmoil thinks “he’s on the cusp of really breaking out. He’s well-known as a blocker and a really physical player, but he’s been putting a lot of extra time into getting better.”

Pete Pennington, Churchill, senior

Pennington was an honorable mention all-Midwestern selection last season. First-year coach Kirk Miller said he “will definitely be one of our big weapons this fall. He’s a big kid who runs really good routes, has good hands and is very strong.” 

Colby Pope, Glide, senior

Pope was a first-team all-league and third-team 2A all-state selection for the Wildcats last season. 

Emmit Pratt, Putnam, senior

Pratt was second-team all-NWOC East as a junior and has been on an upward trajectory since, Kingsmen coach Tim Jacobs said. “He’s really put some time in the weight room,” Jacobs said. “He’s improved his blocking; he’s improved his catching.”

AJ Pugliano, North Medford, junior

Pugliano received all-state honorable mention at tight end as a sophomore, when he caught 20 passes for 358 yards and three touchdowns. He’s rated the nation’s No. 92 recruit for the class of 2024 by 247Sports — No. 1 in Oregon — and holds offers from Arizona, Oregon, Oregon State and Washington State. “He’s worked really hard on his body, his speed and his skill,” coach Nathan Chin said. “Obviously, the expectation is for him to be a productive two-way player for us. … It’s going to be fun to watch him this year.” 

Lucas Steffen, Summit, senior

Steffen is a gadget player for the Storm who makes plays all over the field. He is a returning rotation player at linebacker and could get time at fullback, slot receiver or tight end, the position where he earned all-Mountain Valley recognition last fall with 13 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns. “He’s not super imposing, but I know when Linfield saw him at team camp, they absolutely loved him,” coach Corben Hyatt said. “I think he’s your typical really good high school football player and is a Division III type of kid that’s going to give you great effort.” 

Jace Swygard, Lakeridge, senior

Swygard last season received all-TRL honorable mention for his two-way play at tight end, catching 15 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown while also being a strong run blocker. “Jace can do anything on the field,” coach Spencer Phillips said. “He’s a super athlete, a very quiet and humble player.”

Leithan Thompson, Sandy, senior

Thompson was an impact player in all phases last season, making second-team all-Mt. Hood Conference on offense with 22 catches for 480 yards and six touchdowns. “He’s a really savvy football player, a really smart football player,” Pioneers coach Josh Dill said. “We’ll line him up outside and try to isolate him on a corner and have a matchup that we like. He catches the ball very well, and he’s proven to be a very good blocker as well.” 

Our complete high school football preview:

Breaking down every 6A, 5A, 4A team in the state

State leaders through Week 5:

Class 6A | Class 5A | Class 4A