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Marist Catholic has another title contender — on paper. On the field … ?

Here’s our look at the Marist Catholic Spartans of the Class 4A Oregon West Conference.

By Mitchell Forde | Photo by Leon Neuschwander 

SBLive Oregon will break down every 6A, 5A and 4A team in the state leading up to the 2022 football season. Here’s our look at the Marist Catholic Spartans of the Class 4A Oregon West Conference. 



Frank Geske, 15th season (112-44)


2021 (fall): 10-3 overall, 3-1 in Sky Em (lost in 4A final)

2021 (spring): 4-2 overall, 2-0 in Sky Em

2019: 9-2 overall, 4-0 in Sky Em (lost in semifinals)

2018: 5-5 overall, 3-1 in Sky Em (lost in quarterfinals)


Lucas Tuski, first team RB, first team LB

Kaiden Ayoma, first team RB

Conner Chase, first team WR, first team DB, second team P

Ryan Cary, first team WR, first team DB, second team K

Kale Paslay, first team OL, first team DL

Tanner Relling, first team OL, first team DL

Owen McOmber, first team LB

Wolfgang Betts, first team LB

Joshua Rodriguez, first team DB

Carter Greene, second team QB

Juan Molina-Gomez, honorable mention OL


Jackson Gibeau, QB, sr.; Blake Herring, QB, sr.

The two seniors will vie for the starting quarterback job during preseason practices. After starting for the junior varsity squad for the past two seasons, Gibeau knows the Spartans’ offense. Herring received a few varsity snaps behind center at Sheldon last season before transferring to Marist Catholic. Geske praised Herring’s athleticism.

“Jackson Gibeau has been in our system and was a quarterback, was the backup last year and started for two years on the JV team. He knows the system real well and is a leader,” Geske said. “And then there’s a transfer, Blake Herring, and he’s a strong, fast, physical kid that just has to learn our system and the way we do it, and I think he’ll be fine, too.” 

Parker Nelson, RB/LB, sr.

Geske’s excitement about Nelson is palpable. Nelson rushed for 482 yards and started at linebacker for Cottage Grove a season ago. After transferring to Marist Catholic, the senior should help ease the burden of losing star Lucas Tuski.

“Nobody’s going to believe me, but he could end up being one of our top players — I mean in the top three,” Geske said of Nelson.

AJ Sargent, WR/DB, sr.

Sargent earned all-league honors as a kickoff returner last season, and he should retain those duties during his senior year. Geske believes Sargent can play a larger role on offense, too. The coaching staff moved Sargent to the slot a year ago, but Geske said he’s better suited to lining up out wide. The offense will look to the senior as a playmaker this season.

“He was the best route-runner in the program two years ago as an outside receiver, and I moved him inside last year, and I told him it was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made,” Geske said.

Jack Keifer, WR/DB, sr.

The other wideout to watch for Marist Catholic will be Keifer. While he didn’t get a ton of playing time last season due to the production of Conner Chase and Ryan Cary, he should play a larger role as a senior, both as a receiver and on defense.

“He’s got good height, runs good routes, has sticky hands and has great vision on defense, too,” Geske said. “He had all the talent in the world to start for us last year, but there were a couple seniors that were just a little bit quicker.” 

Sam Keen, OL/DL, jr.

After losing three of five starting linemen from a season ago, the Spartans will look to Keen to anchor both lines of scrimmage. He started on both sides of the ball as a sophomore.

“He’s a big, strong, smart, Jekyll-and-Hyde type of kid,” Geske said of Keen. “He’s the nicest kid in the world off the field, and if you’ve seen his play, he loves to impose his will on people.”

Dante Thanhardt, OL/DL, sr.

The other returning starter on the offensive line, Thanhardt mans the center position. He earned second-team all-league recognition as a junior. Geske spoke highly of his leadership and personality, calling him “fun to be around.”

Jet Sims, OL/DL, sr.

Sims missed much of last season because of injury, but Geske said he’s back to full health and looking strong. Sims started on both lines of scrimmage before getting hurt, and he’ll be in line to do so again this year. Geske said he could play guard or tackle on the offensive line. 

“He’s a 300-pound cleaner and 500-pound squatter, and he’s quick,” Geske said. “He’s got one of the quickest L-run times on the team.” 

Aiden Hazen, LB, jr.

While the Spartans lost a bunch of production from last year’s defense, they do return Hazen at middle linebacker. Not only is he back for his junior season, Geske said he’s in even better shape than a season ago.

“He’s dropped 20 pounds and gained a lot of muscle, gotten a lot quicker,” Geske said. “I think he’s going to be one whole heck of a lot better player.”

Drew Salnas, RB/DB, sr.

Salnas started part-time in the secondary as a junior and should be in line for an expanded role this season. Geske said Salnas also could earn a spot in the team’s rotation of ball-carriers. An accomplished track runner, Salnas brings speed to both sides of the ball.

Kaden Starr, WR/DB, sr.

Starr split starting duties with Salnas last season. He’s spent most of his offseason playing baseball — he pitches for Marist Catholic as well as for the Emerald Challengers of the American Legion — but Geske said he’s still been working out with the football team in the mornings. 


Marist Catholic has established itself as a Class 4A powerhouse over the past four seasons, advancing at least to the quarterfinals of each of the past three state playoff brackets. The Spartans nearly reached the mountaintop last season but fell to Marshfield in the state title game.

So, is this year championship or bust? Not exactly. Geske doesn’t want to put that type of pressure on a team that will need to replace a senior class that included 11 all-league performers.

“That was an outstanding senior class that led us on a pretty good three-year run, and we have to replace everybody, everywhere,” Geske said. “We have a couple coming back, but we definitely lost the bulk of the team.” 

The uncertainty starts at quarterback. Geske said it will be a two-man competition to replace Carter Greene, who threw 21 touchdowns and two interceptions last season. Gibeau and Herring will vie for the starting spot. Neither has much varsity experience, but Geske has liked what he’s seen from both candidates during the offseason.

“We’re going to be OK either way,” he said.

Marist Catholic also will need to replace the bulk of its skill position production. The Spartans graduated two first-team all-league running backs and two first-team wideouts from a year ago.

While replacing the production of Tuski, who rushed for 988 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, will be difficult, Geske believes his team will be “just fine running the ball.” Look for carries to be divvied up among Salnas, Nelson and senior Drew Prickel. Geske believes he found “an absolute gem” in Nelson, a transfer from Cottage Grove. At wideout, Sargent and Kiefer will be asked to take on larger roles. 

Geske is more concerned about the defensive side of the ball, where Marist Catholic lost eight of 11 starters from 2021. At this point, he’s not even sure what the unit will look like schematically. He said the Spartans will “start in our base defense and gravitate from there” depending on the players’ strengths.

“I don’t know if anything is below Square One,” he said, “but we’re at that.” 

If there’s a strength of the defense, it should be the linebackers. Hazen is back after earning all-league honors as a sophomore, and Geske is even more bullish about Nelson’s defensive ability than his offensive play.

Salnas and Starr split time at defensive back last season and could both start this year. On the defensive front, Geske is looking for Keen and Sims to serve as stalwarts.

While Marist Catholic fans might have gotten used to seeing the Spartans contend for state titles, Geske isn’t ready to set that as a goal for this season quite yet. On paper, there’s a lot to like about his roster, including the fact that he said the group has shown little ego and a willingness to work. But with so many first-time starters, he needs to see how the players react when they take the field under the lights.

“We could say we’ve got a great-looking team without pads on,” Geske said, “but that’s not how football is played.” 


“The players know that everything is a year-to-year deal. And you can certainly go on runs, but it has a lot to do with the so-called Jimmies and Joes in them.” — Frank Geske