No 1 — Troy Polamalu elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame
Following an outstanding 12-year NFL career as a strong safety with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Troy Polamalu received the ultimate honor on Feb. 1 by being elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The 39-year-old, a 1999 graduate of Douglas High School of Winston who starred collegiately at Southern California, was elected in his first year of eligibility. He retired after the 2014 season.
The Hall of Fame postponed the 2020 festivities due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, meaning Polamalu and the other inductees will have to wait until ’21 to receive their gold jackets.
“What’s another year compared to eternity in bronze?” Polamalu said via social media. “In all seriousness, I am grateful and blessed for this honor, and look forward to the celebration alongside my brothers. #HeadedToTheHall — see you in 2021.”
Polamalu, a 5-foot-10, 207-pounder, was a six-time All-Pro selection and eight-time Pro Bowler. He was voted the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2010.
A first-round selection by the Steelers in 2003, Polamalu had 770 tackles, 32 interceptions and three touchdowns during his pro career. The 2005 and ’08 Pittsburgh teams won Super Bowl titles.
“I just loved to play the game of football,” Polamalu said. “I didn’t get into it to try and win any awards. I just truly enjoyed it as a passion of mine.
“To be selected as a Hall of Fame member along with coach (Bill) Cowher (a former Steelers head coach) is a tremendous honor.”
Born in Garden Grove, California, Polamalu moved to Tenmile, Oregon, when he was 8 to live with his uncle (Salu) and aunt (Shelley) in order to escape the dangers of the streets back home. Troy has said many times it’s the best decision he ever made.
Polamalu was a consensus All-American for USC in his senior season in 2002 and was later selected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Troy and his wife, Theodora, have two sons: Paisios, 12, and Ephraim, 10.
NO. 2 — Umpqua Community College basketball
Two talented teams expected to challenge for Northwest Athletic Conference tournament championships never got the opportunity to do so with the cancellations of the men’s and women’s tournaments in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Umpqua women, guided by Dave Stricklin, were ranked No. 1 all season and finished 29-0 overall. Douglas High graduate Darian Mitchell, Grace Campbell and Cielo Gonzalez all received first-team all-South Region honors and Campbell was selected the Defensive Player of the Year.
Stricklin was voted the South Region Coach of the Year and NWAC Coach of the Year. The Riverhawks had 10 sophomores.
“Nobody could beat us. The coronavirus did something 29 other opponents couldn’t do — it kept us from winning a game,” Stricklin said.
The UCC men finished second behind Clackamas in the South and went 25-4 overall under Daniel Leeworthy. They handed No. 1 Clackamas both of its league losses.
“We’ve been saying for a long time, ‘Make history,’” Leeworthy said after returning home from Oregon City. “This was the year that men’s basketball was going to win a championship. For it to end like this is disappointing.
“I’m mainly disappointed for our guys who worked hard all year long, sacrificed for the team, sacrificed the individual. These are all extremely high-character guys.”
Sophomore point guard Brock Gilbert made the first-team all-South team. Gilbert and Oakland High product Cameron Benzel were on the All-Defensive Team.
NO. 3 — Sutherlin girls basketball
The Bulldogs finished second in the Class 3A state tournament in Coos Bay just before the pandemic hit, losing to No. 1 Clatskanie 51-40 in the championship game.
Junior guard Jadyn Vermillion was selected to the all-tournament first team, while senior guard Kiersten Haines and junior wing Paige Bailey were named to the second team for Sutherlin (25-3), the Far West League champion.
Vermillion, the FWL’s MVP, was selected to the all-state first team along with Haines. Junior post Amy Dickover and freshman guard Micah Wicks, both second-team all-leaguers, received honorable mention all-state.
Josh Grotting was named the Far West Coach of the Year.
NO. 4 — Roseburg wrestling
The Indians didn’t have a bad Class 6A state tournament at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. Newberg was just a little better.
The Tigers won their first state title since 2009, compiling 310.5 points. Roseburg, bidding for its 12th state crown in 14 seasons under Steve Lander, scored 262.5.
Nash Singleton (120 pounds) and Darian Thacker (170) earned individual titles for the Tribe. Kahleb Diaz (126) and Tristin David (152) placed second. Roseburg got fourth-place finishes from Kaden Schlatter (113), Rogan Coffman (195) and Hunter Blix (220).
NO. 5 — Small school wrestlers shine at state
Reedsport captured its first state team championship since 1967, winning the Class 2A/1A tournament with 106.5 points. Pre-tournament favorite Culver was second (103).
The Brave, who finished fifth in the Special District 2 tournament, got titles from Aaron Solomon (106), Elijah Carson (120) and Miguel Velazquez (170). Sophomore Kaleb Oliver of Oakland completed an unbeaten season with a championship at 132, finishing 45-0.
“It’s kind of a Cinderella story in a way, but it happened exactly the way it had to happen,” Reedsport coach Bo Hampton said. “We did think we had a realistic shot. We’ve been talking about it with this group for three years.”
Austin VanHouten (170) placed second for the Oakers. Oakland’s Wil Powell (195) and Riddle’s Shawn Scott (285) each took third.
In the 3A tournament, South Umpqua’s Caj Simmons (170) placed third. Jesse Brecht of Douglas (220) was fourth.
NO. 6 — Umpqua Community College baseball returns
On Feb. 22, the Riverhawks stepped out on the baseball diamond for the first time in 35 years, meeting Olympic College in a nonconference doubleheader on the new turf at Bill Gray Stadium at Champion Car Wash Field.
Umpqua, guided by Jeremiah Robbins, sent an audience estimated at around 1,500 home happy with 6-2 and 7-4 wins.
“It was fantastic,” UCC shortstop Michael Freund said of the atmosphere. “You could feel the buzz from the crowd, it kind of fed our players. We were really excited too, and it was a good time to be out there and play some baseball.”
Unfortunately, the Riverhawks (5-5) were able to only play eight more games before their 2020 season ended because of the pandemic.
NO. 7 — Moriah Michaels, Days Creek
Moriah Michaels was a three-sport standout for the Class 1A Wolves, excelling in volleyball, basketball and track and field.
The senior guard was selected the Skyline League Player of the Year in basketball and joined on the all-league first team by teammate Joleen Crume. Michaels made second-team all-state.
Michaels was deprived of her senior track season due to the pandemic. She was expected to be a state contender in the long jump and 200 meters.
NO. 8 — Troy Calhoun gets 100th college win at Air Force
Troy Calhoun, a 1985 Roseburg graduate, reached a coaching milestone on Nov. 20 against New Mexico during the shortened 2020 college football season.
He notched his 100th career win at Air Force Academy, getting there in his 14th season as head coach. The Falcons shut out New Mexico, 28-0, at home.
Calhoun, 54, is a former Air Force quarterback who graduated there in 1989.
“It means we’ve been a part of a really good staff and have kids who embrace being part of a hard-working, disciplined program,” said Calhoun, wanting to credit those around him. “They’ve been able to balance their academic and military demands, and still be competitive on the football field.
“This is a hard school, but a phenomenal place. You pinch yourself every day getting to work here.”
NO. 9 — Small school basketball
The Oakland boys finished sixth in the Class 2A state tournament in Pendleton, dropping a 60-43 decision to Santiam in the fourth-place game.
Senior wing Colton Brownson led the Oakers (25-5), receiving first-team all-tournament honors. He averaged 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds in three tourney games.
Brownson also was voted first-team all-state for the second straight season.
The Oakers won the Central Valley Conference title at 12-0. Brownson, the CVC Player of the Year, was joined on the all-conference first team by senior guard Noah Strempel. Senior wing Triston Mask made the second team. Oakland’s Jeff Clark was named Coach of the Year.
The North Douglas girls advanced to the 1A state tournament in Baker City before losing a pair of games, finishing 24-5. The Warriors won the Skyline League North Division and league tournament crowns.
Senior guard Nicki Derrick made third-team all-state. She was on the all-league first team along with senior Sofia Alcantar. Jody Cyr was selected the Skyline Coach of the Year.
NO. 10 — Roseburg swim relay breaks school record
The Roseburg boys 200 freestyle relay team reset its school record in the championship finals of the Class 6A state meet at Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center in Beaverton in February.
The quartet of senior Rainey Lambert, junior Logan Todd and sophomores Dominic Colvin and Trevor Knox finished second behind McMinnville with a time of 1:27.68, breaking the school record of 1:28.72 which had been set in 2008.
The same foursome placed fifth in the 200 medley relay (1:39.54) and 400 free relay (3:17.64). The RHS boys finished fifth in the team standings with 39 points.
HONORABLE MENTION — COVID-19 stops state contenders
The pandemic deprived two Douglas County spring teams from defending their state championships.
The North Douglas softball team, led by senior all-state pitcher Nicki Derrick, had high hopes after defeating Kennedy 15-6 in the 2019 Class 2A/1A title game and finishing 28-3 overall. The Warriors were seeking their third state crown in four seasons.
South Umpqua in 3A and Glide and Oakland in 2A/1A were coming off strong 2019 seasons. The Lancers advanced to the semifinals.
The Umpqua Valley Christian baseball squad was among a handful of teams expected to compete for the 2A/1A championship. The Monarchs (27-3) beat Kennedy 10-5 in nine innings in the 2019 final.
Reedsport (22-2) also had a strong group returning after losing to UVC 8-1 in the quarterfinals. North Douglas (22-7) returned a talented team after reaching the semifinals.
In 6A baseball, Roseburg was looking to make a postseason run with 10 seniors on the roster. The Indians (17-7) lost to Clackamas 6-2 in the 2019 quarterfinals.