You wouldn’t necessarily know at first check, but the Lewis & Clark Pioneers could be one of the fastest rising programs in the west at the D3 level. Head Coach Jay Locey is as good as they come. Not just from a football perspective, but from an overall life standpoint. Anyone sending their kid off to play ball at LC will know their son is in good hands.
Locey has put together one of the more impressive coaching staffs anywhere in the country, comprised of former D1 coaches and athletes. Defensive Coordinator Eric Jackson has done a phenomenal job on the recruiting front, specifically over the last few years. Speaking to this, Oregon former small school standouts Andrew Werst (6-4 260 So. DL) of Salem Academy and Pete Lahti (5-11 195 So. Safety) of Taft (Lincoln City), are two of the returners who will lead the D next season. Werst had a big 2016 campaign recording 42 total tackles, 3 sacks, and 5 tackles for loss, while Lahti led everyone in the secondary with 54 total tackles and 3 INTs.
Jackson’s coaching experience at Princeton and Portland State is big. His local ties and ability to recruit high end academic athletes coincide with some of the necessities at Lewis and Clark. Add to this former Oregon State QB Lyle Moevao, who brings a wealth of experience to the position, playing under Coach Mike Riley and Locey while at OSU. Former McNary HS Head Coach Isaac Parker was another great get for the Pioneers, as he is leading the big boys up front.
Much like in the Ivy League, the requirements academically to be accepted at LC are stringent to say the least. The focus put on success in the classroom couldn’t be more clear. Talking with Coach Locey on some of the teams goals and objectives he says, “Our philosophy is to help make men of excellence in school, life, and football & in the process create a brotherhood.”
There is no sugar coating the fact that it has been a tough couple seasons for Lewis and Clark but things look to be turning around. The Pio’s return 6 of their top 7 receivers who caught a total of 133 balls last season. Dejour Williams So. (33 receptions), Dennis Kamakana Jr. (32), and Gage Bumgardner Jr. (26) to name a few.
The teams 16 total receiving TD’s, to 1 rushing touchdown at the end of last season, will be something the group will look to balance out in 2017. Senior to be Eric Hawkins (Jr. RB ) will return after leading the team in carries last year with 70. The graduation of senior QB Niko Fortino (13 Tds/ 8 INTs) will be felt, but Locey and company feel good about incoming Junior Mike Machado who started 2 games last season.
Referencing the incoming recruiting class look for local standouts Berkeley Neuman (DL 6-0 280) of Sheldon HS, and Matt Figueroa (LB 6-1 220) of state champion West Linn to play a role early. With maybe the biggest steal, in my opinion, being DB James Bullock out of Grant HS. Bullock went somewhat under the radar throughout his high school career and will make an immediate impact, projecting as one of the top players in the conference before all is said and done.
In summary Coach Locey and his team have a lot to look forward to you. The school recently hosted the Northwest Best Showcase, with 300 of the region’s top athletes, setting foot on what many consider one of the best kept secrets from a campus standpoint in the Western region. Expect to hear much more on the up and coming group out of the Northwest Conference as the season draws near.