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Dan Virtue named football MVP after leading SH to playoffs


November 22, 2016

FOOTBALL AWARD WINNERS include, from left, Dillon Stutzman, Josh Rice, Colton Smith, Jake Porter, Kelton Gaskey, Keanu Aiona and Dan Virtue.

Daniel Virtue was named Most Valuable Player at the Sweet Home football team’s awards dessert Tuesday, Nov. 15.

Virtue, a senior, completed 98 of 226 pass attempts for a 43 percent average, for 1149 yards and 11 touchdowns, giving up just nine interceptions.

But as Head Coach Dustin Nichol told the crowd at the event Tuesday, that doesn’t really tell the story.

After posting one of the best years in Sweet Home history at wide receiver last year, Virtue took over as quarterback of a brand new read-option offensive system for the Huskies.

He led a very young team – only 15 of the 34 players who earned letters were upperclassmen.

“Going from both sides of the ball as a First Team All-League defense and receiver, I’m sure it was pretty difficult for him, the change from receiver to quarterback,” Nichol said, noting that coaches agreed that Virtue would be the best prospect to head the new offense. “I could see he wasn’t real comfortable, not loving what he was doing.”

Still, Virtue and the sophomore-heavy Huskies made steady improvement, ending the season with a play-in game at Marshfield and a 3-6 record, a far cry from the 35-2 loss in their opener at Hidden Valley – which finished 3-5 and didn’t make the playoffs.

Nichol noted that Virtue improved as well, from finishing the season with 253 yards against Sisters in the final league game and 231 against Marshfield.

“Dan and other people stepped up,” he said. “He put everything he had out on the field. This is where Dan’s at, the type of athlete he is.”

Virtue is ranked sixth in school history in single-season receiving yards – 567, and 10th in career yards, after only one season at the position, in which he finished with 23 catches to rank 14th in the record book in that category.

Again in a single season, he’s 10th among Sweet Home quarterbacks in career passing yards, and seventh in single-season touchdowns (11).

Nichol pointed out that eight different Huskies scored touchdowns this season, from four different positions.

“This system works when people are unselfish with their routes and their responsibilities,” he said. “That’s why this team was successful, and Daniel was the leader.”

Most Inspirational selections were seniors Keanu Aiona and Dillon Stutzman.

Aiona was also named Top Defensive Player.

Assistant Coach Jay Horner, in making the announcement, called the senior “an outstanding kid, from my perspective. He loves to play football. He playss very high-speed. I love his attitude and love his leadership. He’ll be hard to replace.”

Assistant Brandon Gaskey said Aiona “led by example every day.” He noted that Stutzman was known for being “a big jokester – some really good, some less than good...”

Ten players were nominated for Most Inspirational, he said.

“That says something about this team. They tend to motivate each other very well. These guys just buckled down and got after it. They both have unique abilities.”

Most Improved, voted on by the team, were sophomores Colton Smith and John Lynn. Voted by team.

“We had three senior starters both sides of the ball,” Horner said. “We had a lot of young guys.”

Smith was a backup at receiver and linebacker early on, but at Junction City he “made some big plays,” Horner said. “He really just owned that position at receiver.”

Lynn got bumped around in the line, Horner said, but eventually “found his home on the defensive line.”

Lynn eventually settled in at nose guard and “caused havoc” in the Huskies’ 25-7 win at Sutherlin, Horner said.

“At Junction City a big guy fell on him, but he gets up and comes back for more.”

Assistant Brent Gaskey said similar things about Jake Porter, who was selected Outstanding Lineman on defense.

“He tries all the time. He never gives up,” Gaskey said.

Horner said that senior Josh Rice, chosen Outstanding Lineman on offense, was a steadying influence on the line among younger players.

“He got everyone on the same page in a new offense,” Horner said.

Best backs were Virtue on offense, and Aiona on defense.

Dick Reynolds Coaches Awards went to Noah Moore, Kelton Gaskey, Justin Miller and Gabe Glynn.

The award recognizes players “who may not get a lot of accolades over the loudspeaker on Friday night, but fill a role Friday night,” Nichol said. “It goes to players we see in practice who are really working hard. They’re taking whatever God gave them for talent and using it to the n-th degree.”

Moore, a sophomore, played in various roles on the offensive line after moving from defense, then moved back to defense when teammates went down with injuries.

“Here’s this kid who came in outside his area and moved into the not-so-glamorous life in the trenches,” Nichol said. “Not one complaint. Stoic face. That’s selflessness.”

Gaskey, he said, is another sophomore who had a big impact. Miller and Glynn are both seniors, who came to football late.

“I just wish I had two more years with them,” Nichol said. His voice broke as he described how Glynn persisted through family difficulties with an “attitude second to none.”

“That’s one of the reasons why I get up every day, and come to school and coach,” Nichol said. “To see kids like Gabe.”

There were no three- or four-year letter winners this year.

Second-year letters went to Keanu Aiona, Bryce Coulter, Kelton Gaskey, Austin Griffin, Keegan Holly, Austin James, Nick Marler, Hayden Nichol, Jake Porter, Josh Rice, Conner Russell, Dillon Stutzman, Jake Swanson, Austin Taylor, Daniel Virtue, manager Kat Kinker and statistician Caleb Simonis.

First-year letters went to Levi Baird, Boe Baxter, Eric Blanchard, Trenton Cole, Gabe Glynn, Lance Hansen, Nate Jeppson, Blake Keeney, Johnny Lynn, Hayden McDonald, Noah Moore, Austin Olin, Damion Shocker, Austin Sills, Colton Smith, Nathan Virtue, Justin Miller, Dominick Tuttle, Robbie Yunke, manager Caitlin Jiminez and film technician Bryce Nichols.

Special awards went to Cayden Knight and Christian Morris, both sophomores who practiced with the varsity but didn’t get into games at that level.

Nichol said parent involvement was a “big change” in a positive way this year.

“There’s been an upwelling of involvement in school, in school spirit, in activity,” he said, noting that the haul in this year’s canned food drive was about quadruple what it was a year ago.

Players also conducted themselves well during the season, he said.

“We did not have one disciplinary issue we had to deal with kids, with administration, with grades at the varsity level. That is an anomaly. You folks should be proud of your kids.”


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