Whether it was Trey Ecker connecting on a pass downfield to Ben DeSaulnier, Nic Gay throwing a pancake block to spring a big run or Trent Hardin stopping an opposing running back dead in his tracks, the Philomath High School football team had some talented individuals performing on the gridiron during the 2010s.
The Warriors opened up the past decade with a rough 1-7 record in 2010. But the program turned things around the next season at 5-4 before reaching the state playoffs in 2012. That year, Philomath went 9-3 and beat Sweet Home in the first round for its first playoff victory since a 14-point win over Mazama in 2000.
In 2013, the Warriors put together an 11-1 campaign that included state playoff wins over Ontario and Gladstone before falling in the semifinals to Ridgeview, a team destined to win the state title that season.
In 2014, Philomath had a 7-3 season with a first-round loss to South Umpqua. And in 2015, the Warriors went 8-2 with a first-round win over Junction City in the mud at Clemens Field before falling to Cascade, 35-34, in overtime in a game in Corvallis that nobody on either side or in the stands will ever forget.
The hazing scandal of 2016 wiped out the season and the program started over with a new coach in Rob Shader. The team won its first game back with a come-from-behind victory over Junction City but ended up 2-6 for the season. Over the past two years under Tony Matta, Philomath has gone 2-6 and 1-7.
In all, under coaches Troy Muir, Shader and Matta, the Warriors finished the decade with a 46-39 record, 4-4 in the state playoffs.
Philomath High’s all-decade first and second teams each includes 12 players on offense (with a kicker) and 12 players on defense (with a punter).
The first team offense includes Ecker (2011-14) at quarterback; Austin Brown (2010-13) and Joe Noble (2009-12) at running back; Cal Stueve (2013-15) at tight end; Ben DeSaulnier (2010-13) and Cole Chambers (2010-13) at wide receiver; Caleb Henderer (2012-15) at center; Hunter Rust (2012-15) and Lucas Sinclair (2010-13) at guard; John Noble (2012-15) and Gay at tackle (2010-13) and Ecker at kicker.
On defense, Justus St. Clair (2011-14), Lucas Sinclair, Gay and Ryan Duenas (2012-15) fill the defensive line spots with Hardin (2010-13), Jack Lehman (2011-14), Trenton Looper (2012-15) and Joe Noble at linebacker and Kenan Conner (2014-15, 17), DeSaulnier and Brown as defensive backs. DeSaulnier also fills the role of punter.
Here’s a closer look at the first-team selections:
Trey Ecker, QB-K — A multi-talented athlete, Ecker earned all-conference first-team honors twice and all-state honorable mention twice as a quarterback. During his junior year in 2013 when the Warriors went 11-1, Ecker threw for 2,425 yards with 26 touchdowns with just one interception. “He understands the system and kind of what (the coaches) are thinking before we call it,” Muir said about Ecker in a 2014 interview “Ecker has all the qualities to be able to do whatever we need to do in the passing game when we need it.” Ecker edges DeSaulnier for the first-team spot at kicker.
Austin Brown, RB-DB — Brown makes the first team at both running back and defensive back with a football career that culminated with all-state selections on both sides during his senior season. In a 2012 win over Yamhill-Carlton, he had six carries for 262 yards rushing and TD runs of 85, 58 and 89 yards. "He shows you that he’s got that speed and that ability to make plays happen,” Muir said about Brown, who had similar games at other times over his last two seasons.
Joe Noble, RB-LB — Noble proved to be a valuable player on both sides of the ball with his play at linebacker and running back. Noble was an all-state second-team selection at linebacker in 2013. One of his top performances came in 2012 when he ran nine times for 131 yards and two touchdowns, had two sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery in a 39-7 win over Newport. Said Muir, “Joe just finds a way to be wherever the ball is.”
Cal Stueve, TE — Despite a thumb injury that slowed him down early on, Stueve had a huge season during his junior year in 2015 that earned him a spot on the all-state first team at tight end. “Cal is an extremely talented athlete,” Muir said. “His improved blocking was really a key for us. ... And you can’t say enough about his hands. It will be interesting how he goes moving forward.”
Ben DeSaulnier, WR-DB-P — One of the top athletes to ever wear a Warrior uniform, DeSaulnier makes the all-decade team at three positions — wide receiver, defensive back and punter — and nearly made it at a fourth at kicker. Following his senior season in 2013, DeSaulnier was an all-state first-team pick at the those four positions, a rare accomplishment. He was also the Oregon West’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2013. First-team selections were earned three straight years at wide receiver and punter (2011-13) and back-to-back years (2012-13) at defensive back and kicker. He was an all-state first-team punter in 2012-13. DeSaulnier had a reputation as a hard worker. “That’s probably what I’m impressed with the most. You never question his work ethic,” Muir said. “What's great is the example he sets.”
Cole Chambers, WR — Chambers earns the other spot at wide receiver with back-to-back selections to the all-OWC second team in 2012-13. He played alongside DeSaulnier during those years and had plenty of opportunities to make catches with his star teammate drawing double teams. Chambers had some memorable games, including a two-touchdown performance in a memorable 28-27 win over Gladstone in 2013. A good number of his receptions went for touchdowns over his final two seasons.
Caleb Henderer, C — Henderer was a two-time all-Oregon West first-team choice and also earned honorable mention all-state status in 2015. Henderer, Hunter Rust and John Noble were all on the OWC first team that season and all make the all-decade team on the OL. “If you were to show up in the weight room at 6 a.m. all spring and summer, they were a common face. They’re a testament to our program and where we’re at and how you can change yourself in the weight room and play at a high level come fall,” Muir said in reference to those three linemen.
Hunter Rust, G — Rust developed into one of the top offensive linemen of the decade for the Warriors. He actually played fullback early on in his PHS career but transitioned to the line as a junior. He made second-team all state on the offensive line in 2015. “The nice thing about Hunter ... it’s like being chased down by the roadrunner with his athleticism and physicality,” Muir said about Rust, also a top defensive lineman. “He’s got speed and agility and great footwork. He’s one of the strongest kids we have in our program.”
Lucas Sinclair, G-DL — Sinclair’s 2013 season earns him a spot on the first team on both sides of the ball at guard and on the D-line. Sinclair was a second-team all-state choice at both of those positions during the Warriors’ 11-1 run to the semifinals. Sinclair was part of the 2013 senior defensive line front (with Mark Brown, Matt Ficek and Nic Gay) that stopped so many opponents. “We try and control the line of scrimmage and be really physical and take care of most of the (offensive) line so our linebackers can make tackles,” Sinclair said in 2013.
John Noble, T — Noble was part of Philomath’s exceptional offense in 2015 when the team headed into the state playoffs as the No. 1 seed and finished 8-2 after the painful OT loss to Cascade. Even though he missed a couple of games because of an ankle injury, Noble’s contributions were well documented with him earning a spot on the all-state first-team offensive line during his senior season.
Nic Gay, T-DL — Gay was among that group of hard workers that saw great success in 2012 and 2013. “I’ve been lifting a lot, not just myself but our entire line has spent a lot of time in the weight room,” Gay said early on in the 2012 season. Gay earned all-state recognition on both the offensive line (first team) and defensive line (second team) in 2013.
Justus St. Clair, DL — St. Clair was a standout on both sides of the ball during the 2014 season but he gets onto the all-decade team as a defensive lineman. St. Clair earned all-state status as a senior on the 4A second team.
Ryan Duenas, DL — Duenas was included as an honorable mention pick at defensive lineman on the all-state team in 2015. “Ryan’s physical presence up front, it caused trouble,” Muir said. “At 305, he’s a terror. You can’t simulate that. He’s a wrecking ball ... and that’s how he plays the game defensively. He made it difficult on other teams.”
Trent Hardin, LB — Hardin was one of the top defensive players of the decade with his play at linebacker. He earned all-state recognition in 2013 on the first team at the position and he was an all-conference first team pick in 2012 and 2013. During that senior season, he earned the Oregon West’s Defensive Player of the Year honor. “We like to play hard-nosed football and that kind of plays into what we like to do,” Hardin said in a 2013 interview.
Jack Lehman, LB — Lehman had a stellar senior season in 2014 with postseason honors that included all-state first team and recognition as the Oregon West Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Lehman had a reputation for being all over the field and causing turnovers. “He’s a special kid. There’s not a lot to him physically but he’ll make the plays and he’ll bring the hits to you,” Muir said about Lehman after a 35-17 win over Gladstone in the 2013 playoffs.
Trenton Looper, LB — Looper was the perfect example of toughness during his years with the Warriors. He started for three seasons, even though he broke his ankle twice during his junior year to limit time on the field. As a senior in 2015, he earned the Oregon West defensive player of the year honor and was on the all-state first team at linebacker. “Defensively, he cleaned up a lot of mistakes,” Muir said. “He was a little banged up last year but we knew he was the real deal coming into this season.” Looper was also a standout on offense at running back.
Kenan Conner, DB — Conner had an immediate impact on the program as a freshman in 2014 and the following season as a sophomore, made the all-state first team at defensive back. After the 2016 season cancellation, Conner came back as a senior in 2017 and was named a Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the conference for his play at quarterback. At defensive back, Conner was a first-team pick in the conference and all-state honorable mention as a senior.
The second team’s offense includes Conner at quarterback; Looper and Chris Coudriet (2011-14) at running back; J.P Parsons (2010-13) at tight end; Logan Williams (2013-15) and Isaac Manning (2011-14) at wide receiver; Mark Brown (2010-13) at center; Conner Hewitt (2009-12) and Eric Sinclair (2010-13) at guard; Eli Holton (2009-12) and Justus St. Clair at tackle; and DeSaulnier at kicker.
On the second team, the defensive line includes Hunter Rust, Brody Hiner (2017-19), Kane Rust (2015, 17-18), John Hanson (2008-11) and Matt Ficek (2010-13); linebackers Brooks Stearns (2015, 17-18), Issiah Blackburn (2017-19) and Matt Trask (2008-11); and defensive backs Ecker, Daz Bennett (2008-11) and Riley Davis (2015); plus punter Logan Hannigan-Downs (2018-19).
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