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

Who are the top centers 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 centers.

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! 

Nathan Fillinger-Palotay (Sherwood) photo by Taylor Balkom  

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

Dylan Bake, Century, senior

Bake is back after a junior season during which he earned all-conference honorable mention. Jaguars coach Danny Kernan described him as “a smart football player who can help get everyone on the same page when needed.”

Dominic Beyer, Kennedy, junior

Beyer was one of three members of the Trojans offensive line to earn all-Tri-River honors last season in helping them reach the 2A state final.

Matix Carpenter, Central Catholic, junior

The three-year starter earned all-Mt. Hood honorable mention as a sophomore — one of five Rams linemen receiving some level of all-conference recognition last fall. “He’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever been around, and he has a high motor,” 20th-year Rams coach Steve Pyne said.

Roice Cleeland, Jesuit, senior

The son of former University of Washington and NFL tight end Cam Cleeland had an immediate impact after transferring from Skyview of Vancouver in the summer of 2021, making the all-state second team despite battling injuries. He has received an offer from Portland State and ranks No. 13 on 247Sports’ Oregon recruiting list. “He played well last year but was not 100% healthy all the time,” coach Ken Potter said. “We expect great things from him.” 

James Coleman, Roseburg, senior

Coleman is a returning two-way starter who was a first-team all-league selection at center last fall. He spent most of his summer playing baseball but quickly transitioned to football mode, coach Dave Heuberger said. “He wants to learn, he’s a hard worker, and he does what he’s coached to do,” the coach added. 

Andrew Demianew, Pendleton, senior

Demianew has the body type of a tight end but has made himself indispensable as the pivot point of the offensive line, earning second-team all-NWOC East honors a year ago. “Andrew is an extremely hard worker in the weight room and on the field,” Buckaroos coach Eric Davis said. “His knowledge of the game and leadership qualities have proven so valuable for us at center.”

Dylan Dinh, Grant, senior

A second-team all-PIL selection last fall, Dinh embodies the template for creating an offensive lineman, coach Alex Melson said. “He’s totally bought-in to that position,” Melson said. “He’s transformed his body. He’s done the little things in the offseason to get better. He really prides himself on being the leader of the offensive line. He makes all our line calls, makes adjustments, makes checks.”

Sebastian Echeverria, Hillsboro, senior

Echeverria was the Spartans’ starting center as a freshman in 2019, the last time the team made the OSAA playoffs, and he was honorable mention all-conference at that position last season. “The kid’s a workhorse,” coach Dan Shuff said. “Great leader for us by just the way he carries himself on and off the field. And when he’s on the field, he’s a vocal leader.” 

Clayton Eilers, Lebanon, senior

A second-team all-league offensive lineman as a junior, Eilers is a standout center who is the son of assistant coach Bryan Eilers. “Clayton is the leader of our offensive line,” coach Troy Walker said. “He is a super intelligent coach’s kid and always the first one to volunteer.”

Nathan Fillinger-Palotay, Sherwood, senior

As a junior, Fillinger-Palotay was a first-team all-Pacific selection at center and served as “the anchor of the O-line,” Bowmen coach Mark Gribble said. “Nate is the guy that makes our offense click.”

Reed Gerber, Mountainside, senior

Gerber became a starter during the spring 2021 season, following in the footsteps of one of the program’s “originals,” his older brother Shane, who was an all-league offensive lineman. Reed served as the team’s long snapper last season, and coach John Mannion moved him to center from guard this season. “He has definitely matured physically quite a bit,” Mannion said. “He’s one of the foundations of our program coming into the season and has earned his stripes, for sure.”

Carl Harward, Sheldon, senior

Harward is a returning all-conference selection who is one of the leaders for the Irish up front. “Carl is a little undersized for a center, but he makes up for it with grit and toughness,” coach Josh Line said. 

Aiden Kanott, Hidden Valley, senior

Kanott was a second-team all-Skyline selection on both sides of the ball last season. Mustangs coach Mike Fanger praised his “great motor” and called him “our leader — he will have to bring people along and make them follow.”

Mariano Martinez, Estacada, senior

A second-team all-Tri-Valley selection last season, Martinez returns as the Rangers’ starting center.

Charlie Medina, North Marion, senior

Medina last season was a first-team all-Tri-Valley selection for a Huskies team that moved down to Class 3A this year and snapped a nine-game losing streak with a season-opening win over Harrisburg. 

Braeden Morris, Henley, junior

Morris started at center as a sophomore, earning all-Skyline honorable mention, and is one of the many Hornets players who spent plenty of time in the weight room during the offseason, adding 20 pounds of muscle. “He had a really great sophomore season, and we expect even more out of him this year,” coach Alex Stork said. “He’s a great communicator at the center position.” 

Carter Nelson, Summit, senior

Nelson is a two-way standout who plays center and middle linebacker. As a junior, he was a first-team all-league selection on offense. “He is an undersized center, which is kind of typical for us at Summit,” Storm coach Corben Hyatt said. “He is such a smart kid and an amazing leader. He’s really a quarterback for us on both sides of the line of scrimmage and is really a glue guy. He’s just tremendous.”

Ty Percell, Oakland, junior

Percell was a third-team Class 2A all-state selection as a sophomore and was expected to anchor the offensive line again this fall. He suffered a knee injury during baseball season, however, and is not expected to return this season. 

David Shaw, Baker, senior

The second-team all-GOL offensive lineman is the anchor of the group, a “big, strapping kid who is a beast in the weight room,” Bulldogs coach Jason Ramos said.

Alex Smith, Roosevelt, senior

The 6-1, 235-pound Smith is a third-year starter. He was second-team all-PIL as a junior. Roughriders coach Ryan McCants praised Smith’s football IQ and overall intelligence and said he has a leader’s work ethic. “He’s one of the ‘first people to show up, last people to leave’ type of guy,” McCants said.

Hayden Smith, Klamath Union, senior

The youngest of Pelicans coach Tom Smith’s sons to come through the program was an all-state honorable mention selection after the 2021 spring season. He spent the summer on the camp circuit, trekking to California, to Utah and throughout Oregon and prepping to become a two-way starter this season. “He was just trying to push himself to the next level, see what it looks like to go against top-notch kids,” Coach Smith said. “The experience really changed him, but it was humbling, too.”

Cole Steketee, Sprague, senior

Steketee received all-Mountain Valley honorable mention last season and has two years of starting experience on the offensive line. A state champion heavyweight wrestler, Steketee is around 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds. “Cole has really good feet for a big guy,” coach Jay Minyard said. “He also has good physical and mental toughness.”

Dante Thanhardt, Marist Catholic, senior

A returning starter on the offensive line, Thanhardt earned second-team all-league recognition as a junior. Coach Frank Geske spoke highly of his leadership and personality, calling him “fun to be around.” 

Jaden Whitworth, Bend, senior

Whitworth received all-league honorable mention at center last season and does an excellent job of run blocking in Bend’s wing-T scheme. “Jaden is one of the fastest linemen I’ve ever seen play for us,” coach Matt Craven said. “He does a great job of getting on linebackers and is just an outstanding high school football player.”

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