Skip to main content

Dylan Espinosa of South Medford started playing football his sophomore year … now, he’s a Les Schwab Bowl participant

“After my first practice, I loved it. That day, I went to Dick’s and got some cleats, because I knew I wanted to play.”
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

By Dan Brood 

Sure, you could call Dylan Espinosa a late starter. 

But, wow, the 2023 South Medford graduate has made up for lost time — in a big way.

Espinosa, who didn’t start playing football until he was a sophomore in high school, is capping his prep career by playing in the Les Schwab Bowl, a high school football all-star game featuring many of the top players from around the state, which will be played Saturday at Linfield University in McMinnville. 

“Oh, I’m just really excited to represent my team,” said Espinosa, who will be playing linebacker for Team Willamette in Saturday’s game. “I’m really proud that my coach nominated me and Deacon (Edgar) to be here and to represent South Medford. We want to show what kind of athletes are out there, because a lot of people don’t pay any attention to anything south of Salem. We’ve got to represent for the valley. Yeah, that’s motivation.”

Dylan Espinoza 2 South Medford Dan Brood 2

He’s been motivated since his sophomore year when he started playing football — in a roundabout way.

“I wanted to lift, and all the gyms shut down during COVID,” Espinosa said. “I knew the football team lifted. I said, ‘I might as well lift with them.’ It was a good decision.”

It certainly was.

“My first practice, I didn’t wear cleats, because I didn’t know if I wanted to play,” Espinosa said. “After my first practice, I loved it. That day, I went to Dick’s (Sporting Goods) and got some cleats, because I knew I wanted to play.”

Last fall, Espinosa earned first-team all-conference accolades at linebacker and was voted defensive team captain as he helped the Panthers go 6-4 and qualify for the Class 6A state playoffs.

The football late-starter is also set to play college football at Western Oregon University.

“My coaches, (South Medford head coach) Bill (Singler) and Coach P (Chris Parnell), really helped me develop,” Espinosa said. “Coach (Mike) Tejada and Coach (Jason) Bauer — everyone really supported me and taught me well.”

Dylan Espinoza 2 South Medford Dan Brood

Espinosa’s talents go beyond the football field. He also plays guitar in the honor jazz band and he plays the tuba in the honor wind ensemble.

“I really like music,” Espinosa said. “Sometimes I have to sacrifice music in order to play football, but I make it work.”

Saturday, it’s all about football for Espinosa — and all about trying to help Team Willamette come away with a victory in the battle with Team Columbia.

“It’s really important,” he said. “We have to represent South and everything — not just South Medford, but all of south Oregon.” 

Proceeds from this year’s Les Schwab Bowl, presented by Express Employment Professionals, will benefit the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association general scholarship fund, the Brayden Bafaro Scholarship Fund, and various youth charities.

This is the 75th game in the series, but just the second that won’t be North vs. South. Instead, players were drafted by the Team Columbia coaching staff, with head coach Steve Pyne from Central Catholic, and by the Team Willamette coaching staff, with head coach Josh Line from Sheldon. In last year’s game, the first under this format, Team Columbia posted a 28-9 win over Team Willamette.

Gates will open at 3 p.m. Saturday, with food carts on site. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.

Tickets for the game can be purchased at The game can also be streamed online, at a cost of $10, at