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Liberty linemen Mitch Mahlum, Patrick Wooley to honor late Falcons great Brayden Bafaro at 2023 Les Schwab Bowl

“I knew Brayden Bafaro when I was younger. So, with his passing, this is a big deal to me. It means a lot for me to play in this game.”
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By Dan Brood 

To get selected to play in the Les Schwab Bowl certainly could be considered something special. 

To get to take part in the game — a high school football all-star game featuring many of the top players from around the state, which will be played Saturday at Linfield University in McMinnville — alongside a teammate could be even more special.

But for Liberty offensive linemen Mitch Mahlum and Patrick Wooley, who will both play for Team Columbia in Saturday’s contest, it goes even deeper — and is even more special — than that. 

“It means a lot to me,” the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Mahlum said after a Team Columbia practice Tuesday. “I knew Brayden Bafaro when I was younger. So, with his passing, this is a big deal to me. It means a lot for me to play in this game.”

Bafaro, a Liberty graduate who played in the 2016 Les Schwab Bowl, passed away in 2022. Part of the proceeds from this year’s game will go to the Brayden Bafaro scholarship fund.

“It means a lot to me to represent my school and my community and especially Brayden Bafaro,” Wooley (6-4, 305) said. “And I get to come out here and show my family, and everyone, what I can do. Football is a big part of my life.”

Playing next to Mahlum is a big part of football for Wooley. 

“It’s really special,” Wooley said. “He’s a good friend of mine, and we’re teammates, and we’ve played alongside each other for three years now. So, it means a lot to be out here with him, to represent our school.”

Mitch Mahlum and Patrick Wooley  

Mitch Mahlum and Patrick Wooley  

“It’s pretty cool,” Mahlum said. “We’re the only two (from Liberty) on the team, and we get to come out, both on the same side of the ball, and we get to compete and work together. There’s stuff we already know, and we’re able to communicate. So, that’s pretty cool.”

Last fall, Mahlum and Wooley helped the Falcons reach the semifinal round of the Columbia Cup postseason tournament, part of a 7-5 season. Mahlum was a first-team all-Pacific Conference pick at offensive tackle, while Wooley earned honorable mention accolades at offensive guard.

The Liberty linemen are looking for bigger things for the Falcons this upcoming season.

“We’re going to win league next year,” Mahlum said with a smile. “We’re going to beat Sherwood and win the Pacific Conference.”

“It’s going to take a lot of teamwork,” Wooley said of reaching that lofty goal. “But our team is really starting to come together. We’ve always been a team that wants to build the best relationship and not worry about ourselves.”

Before the 2023 high school season, the Liberty duo wants to help Team Columbia get the victory over Team Willamette in Saturday’s contest.

“It’s pretty important,” Mahlum said. “It’s my first time here, and I want to win, and I want my team to win.” 

“This game is pretty important, and I don’t want to lose,” Wooley said. “I don’t like losing.”

Proceeds from this year’s Les Schwab Bowl, presented by Express Employment Professionals, will benefit the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association general scholarship fund, the Brayden Bafaro Scholarship Fund, and various youth charities.

This is the 75th game in the series, but just the second that won’t be North vs. South. Instead, players were drafted by the Team Columbia coaching staff, with head coach Steve Pyne from Central Catholic, and by the Team Willamette coaching staff, with head coach Josh Line from Sheldon. In last year’s game, the first under this format, Team Columbia posted a 28-9 win over Team Willamette.

Gates will open at 3 p.m. Saturday, with food carts on site. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.

Tickets for the game can be purchased at The game can also be streamed online, at a cost of $10, at