Sports Zone

Milestones & Memories

The Chronicle’s Pierre Weil recaps the biggest high school sports stories in the southern Willamette Valley through 2023:

Springfield girls get their revenge

■ The Springfield Millers girls basketball team took down Crescent Valley 44-29 in the Class 5A title game on March 10. The top-ranked Millers got their revenge over CV, which beat Springfield in 2022 for the title.

Back-to-back state player of the year Danaeja Romero-Ah Sam led the way for Springfield with 17 points, 6 steals, and 4 rebounds, while transfer JB Robinson had 16 points, 3 steals, and held CV star Gabby Bland – who scored 31 against Springfield in 2022 – to only 7 points on the night.

Thurston baseball wins state title with walk-off

■ Thurston baseball, led by back-to-back state player of the year Maddox Molony, won its second title in program history (2009) on June 3 at PK Park in Eugene in dramatic fashion. The No. 2-ranked Colts faced off with No. 4 West Albany, and the game went into extra innings tied at 1 run.

In the bottom of the 8th inning freshman Grady Saunders stepped up to lead off for the Colts. Saunders swung on the fourth pitch, smacking the ball deep into right-center field. West Albany’s outfielder was unable to corral the ball in a timely fashion, and Saunders raced home for a walk-off, inside-the-park home run for the Class 5A state title.

Bengtson’s two-sport duty drives Lions’ successes at state

■ Cottage Grove junior Carter Bengtson had a busy fall season. Bengtson competed in two sports this fall for the Lions – racing in cross country and starting on defense for the boys soccer team.

Bengtson had massive success for both teams, leading the cross country team to a league title and winning the Class 4A state race by 41 seconds. He also helped lead the soccer team to its first state title game appearance since 2008. On Saturday, Nov. 4, Bengtson won the state title race in the morning, and started for the Lions soccer team that beat Estacada in the state quarterfinals in the evening.

Billies volleyball reaches highest peaks in almost 50 years

■ The Pleasant Hill Billies volleyball team finished this fall at 24-4 – the most wins in program history – and claimed second place in Class 3A after losing 3-1 to No. 1 Sisters in the state title game at Springfield High School on Nov. 4. The Billies were led by a dynamic duo of back-to-back all-state players in juniors Cheyenne Green and Claire Crawford.

Pleasant Hill made it to the state tournament for the first time since 1995 and made the most of its appearance, sweeping rival Creswell and Santiam Christian en route to the finals. The second-place finish was the best finish by the Billies since their state title in 1974.

Thurston boys, girls wrestle their way to second at state

■ The Thurston Colts boys and girls wrestling teams traveled to Portland on Feb. 23-24 to compete in the state wrestling championships. Both teams ended up finishing second at the state meet to give Thurston two silver trophies.

The girls were led by senior Kaylee Annis, who became the school’s first three-time state winner, while the boys were led by three state champions: Kanoe Kelly (106), Kolton Malone (145) and Vaun Halstead (195). Malone and Halstead both repeated as state champs.

Creswell boys basketball once again top 3A public school

■ The Creswell boys basketball team – led by a quartet of seniors – traveled to Coos Bay from March 2-4 and finished 4th at the state tournament, grabbing the top finish by any public school in Class 3A. 

The 3A boys basketball quarterfinals were four matchups between public and private schools, with private schools winning all four. Thus, the consolation bracket was a battle of the top four public schools in the state, with No. 7 Creswell downing No. 3 Dayton and No. 4 Banks to grab fourth place. Senior starters Connor Hanson, AJ Hodge, Jack Nguyen, and Max Velarde all contributed to the Bulldogs’ success.

New head coaching successes stories

■ The revolving door of coaches at new programs continued across the state this year, but several local coaches enjoyed immense success at new programs in our area.

Last spring, Steve Williams took over the Pleasant Hill Billies softball program. Williams helped lead the Billies to a 21-6 record and Mountain Valley Conference title. Pleasant Hill earned the No. 6 seed in the postseason, where it beat No. 11 Glide – Williams’ former program – before losing to eventual champion No. 3 Burns in the quarterfinals.

This fall, legendary Franklin, Tigard, and Marist Catholic football coach Frank Geske took over the Springfield Millers program. Geske, who has two state titles under his belt, led the Millers to an 8-2 record and No. 4 ranking on the season. Geske also earned his 250th career win with a 36-34 overtime win over his former program Marist in Week Two, and finished the season ranked No. 13 all-time in coaching victories in Oregon high school football.



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