CAMAS VALLEY — Six Camas Valley seniors could be playing in their final high school football game Saturday afternoon when the No. 3-seeded Hornets (9-1) meet No. 6 Falls City (8-1) in a quarterfinal contest of the OSAA Class 1A eight-man playoffs at Roseburg High’s Finlay Field.
One of them is Jacob Payne. The Hornets’ first-team all-league guard and noseguard is looking forward to the challenge as Camas Valley looks to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2014.
“We definitely expect it to be tougher (than last week’s 42-6 first-round win over Cove at home),” said Payne, the Hornets’ most imposing player at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds. “We’re gearing up in every way possible and we’ll be ready. I really don’t think there’s any team we can’t beat (in the state), but we have to stay healthy.”
The 18-year-old Payne, a home-schooled student, doesn’t talk a big game but his performance on the field speaks volumes.
He’s in his fourth year as a starter on defense — Payne was selected the Special District 2 West Defensive Player of the Year this season — and has been a starter on offense for three years.
If opposing offenses are going to move the ball on the Hornets, they’re probably going to have to double-team Payne in the middle. Easier said than done.
“Jake’s as dominant as Kila Peck was (for C.V.’s state championship teams in 2011-12), and that’s pretty good company,” said Camas Valley head coach Eli Wolfe. “He’ll never be our leading tackler, but you have to double him and he takes guys off our linebackers.”
Wolfe agrees that Payne, who can bench-press 355 pounds, is a leader by example.
“Sometimes as a coach you wish he’d have a little bit of an edge, but Jake’s a super great kid to be around,” the coach said. “He’s super humble ... he doesn’t want to talk about himself, he’d rather talk about his teammates. When he does show a little bit of emotion the kids get real excited.
“This has been his best year (in football). He’s super coachable, and goes out and does his job. He’s a perfectionist in a lot of ways, and wants to get better. He’s just driven.”
Payne hit the weightroom hard during the offseason, and it’s paid dividends this year.
“I worked out five days a week and notice a big difference in my strength,” he said.
“That’s a testament to his hard work and dedication,” Wolfe said. “He bought into the idea that success doesn’t happen by accident. He’s certainly put in the work.”
The C.V. defense will be tested by a Falls City offense that’s averaging 51.8 points per game. The Hornets haven’t allowed more than 28 points in a game this season.
“We’ve been pretty solid on defense,” Payne said. “There’s always little things to work on, but that’s been our strongpoint, for sure.
“I’ve heard (the Mountaineers) are physical. We know their offense isn’t complicated. We expect them to come out and try to run, and hopefully we can put them in situations where they have to throw.”
Payne anchors an offensive line that’s helped Camas Valley average 46.9 points a game. The other starters up front are senior center Devan Ewing and junior guard Bridger Godfrey.
“We really are brothers — the whole team is,” Payne said. “I love playing next to them on the line. They’re great guys and good football players.”
Payne, who’s considering a career as a personal trainer, is undecided on his college plans at this time. He said this will be his last year of playing football.
GAME NOTES — Senior quarterback/safety Ryland Brown (separated right shoulder) and senior running back/linebacker Ryan Weickum (ankle) are expected to play for the Hornets. Both suited down for last week’s playoff game, but were held out.
Senior end/cornerback Jack House (torn rotator cuff) played last week and will be in the lineup Saturday. He’ll have surgery after the season, Wolfe said.
C.V. will be without junior linebacker/quarterback Ozi Brown, who’s ineligible this week. Brown made his first start at quarterback against Cove. Freshman Nathan O’Connor will see time at linebacker, the coach said.
Falls City defeated No. 11 Echo 58-20 in its playoff opener. The Mountaineers have won eight straight since opening the season with a 50-12 loss to defending state champion Dufur at the Dufur Classic Aug. 31.
“They’re very talented,” said Wolfe, who scouted the Echo-Falls City game. “They put kids on the field who are all 180 pounds or bigger. They don’t do a lot (offensively), but what they do they do it well. I didn’t see a lot of weak spots.”
Four players who impressed Wolfe were senior running back/safety Jeremy Labrado (5-7, 165), senior quarterback/cornerback Jesse Sickles (5-10, 180), senior running back/linebacker Noah Sickles (5-9, 185) and junior end/defensive end Austin Burgess (6-3, 190).
Labrado was selected the Offensive Player of the Year in Special District 3 West. Noah Sickles was a first-team running back and Jesse Sickles was a second-team QB. Burgess was a first-team pick on defense.
“We have to match their physicality,” Wolfe said.
Laric Cook, in his fourth year as Falls City’s coach, expects Camas Valley to be his team’s toughest test since the Dufur game. The two clubs played against each other in a jamboree at North Douglas prior to the season.
“We’re healthy. We have 13 on our team and are only playing eight,” said Cook, who guided Mohawk to 1A crowns in 2005 and 2007. “This is the best team I’ve had in four years. We’ll find out Saturday if we’re as good as some people think we are. I think we’re a good football team, but Camas Valley is a real good team.”
Camas Valley has won seven in a row since dropping a 28-14 nonleague decision to No. 1 Triad in Klamath Falls Sept. 16.
“(The Hornets) are hard to defend,” Cook said. “They get in so many formations. We’re pretty physical on defense, but we’ll have our hands full.”
Cook mentioned Ryland Brown, House, Bryson Wolfe and Payne as impact players. Wolfe, filling in for Weickum at running back last week, had a career-high 216 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns.
“(Ryland Brown) is a gunslinger,” Cook said. “(Payne) is a man amongst boys.”
The Hornets will be playing on turf for the third time this season, while the Mountaineers are making their first appearance on artificial surface.
“Doesn’t matter to us,” Cook said. “We’ll play you in a concrete parking lot if we have to.”
The Falls City-Camas Valley winner will take on No. 7 Adrian (8-1) or No. 2 Dufur (9-0) in the semifinals.