Moments before the opening kickoff for Friday’s high school football game between McKay and Forest Grove, first-year McKay head coach Josh Riddell offered a few words of encouragement to his players.
“Every down, play. No plays off,” Riddell said.
Clearly, they were listening to Riddell’s message.
McKay led 14-0 six minutes into the game, increased its lead to 27-0 at halftime, and rolled to a 43-0 victory before an enthusiastic crowd that filled most of the home bleachers.
It was the first victory as a head coach for Riddell, who has ties that bind at McKay. A 2004 McKay graduate and all-state defensive back, he played for his father, Duane, in high school.
Duane Riddell, who is now the head coach at Perrydale, had a 31-24 record at McKay from 2000-04. His son is trying to rebuild a program that went 4-24 the past three seasons, including a 1-8 mark in 2015.
Josh Riddell, who changed the offense to a versatile spread look from the Wing-T, is off to an encouraging start. In addition to the rout of Forest Grove, McKay (1-2) led late in the fourth quarter at West Salem in the season opener before losing 20-17.
Forest Grove (0-3) is at the bottom of the Greater Valley Conference standings, but the Royal Scots were so dominant in Friday’s game that you’d have to think this is a program on the rise.
“There’s just a really strong brotherhood that’s going on and there’s a change going on,” said senior running back/safety Emmanuel Miranda, who ran for a touchdown and had an interception.
“The main part was coach Riddell coming in and changing things. I really believe in what he’s coaching.”
Riddell was hired in June to replace Brett Rhodes after spending the past three years as an assistant coach at West Salem. He also spent one year as an assistant coach at McNary, and two seasons under his dad’s staff at Gervais.
Riddell brings an authenticity to his new gig at McKay that resonates with the players. They relate to him because he’s walked in their shoes, in the same hallways where they attend classes, and on the same football field.
“He knows what this side of town goes through,” Miranda said. “It just means a lot because he understands what we go through.”
At the age of 30, following a college career that included stops at Foothill Junior College in Los Angeles where he played quarterback for two years, one injury-plagued season at Mississippi State, and two years at Western Oregon, Riddell is happy to be back at his high school alma mater where he works as an instructional assistant.
In addition to his coaching and teaching duties, Josh and his wife, McKenzi, are busy raising their five-month old daughter, Harper.
“I’m getting used to being a head coach with all the added responsibilities, and then on top of that a little 5-month old girl,” Riddell said.
Not that he’s complaining. These are the best of times for Riddell and he’s making his dad proud.
Had Duane Riddell not accepted the Perrydale job before Josh was named head coach at McKay, “in a heartbeat I’d have wanted him on staff,” Josh said.
“I’ve been to a lot of (McKay) practices,” Duane Riddell said. “I haven’t been to any games yet, but I’ve really been impressed with him and the rest of the coaches. The kids play hard, they practice hard. They’re great kids.”
It’s not uncommon for Josh Riddell to run wind sprints with his players during practice. He doesn’t have their endurance, but it’s the effort that matters most.
While Friday’s win was a milestone of sorts for Riddell, he said it was all about the players.
“More than anything I want them to feel the success and kind of feel what it’s like a little bit,” Riddell said. “I want it for them more than for me. We’re trying to build something here.”
Defensive coordinator Greg LaFountaine, who held the same position under Duane Riddell during Josh’s playing days at McKay, and also coached him in baseball, called Josh “a student of the game.”
“He understands what’s going on,” LaFountaine said. “He’s doing a great job getting the kids fired up and excited about playing.”
Senior quarterback Noah Tavera played an excellent game Friday, passing for three touchdowns and operating the read option with precision. Tavara was in tears after a game that he dedicated to his late father, Pancho Tavera, who died of esophageal cancer in April of 2015. Pancho coached youth athletes for 20 years and was a prominent figure in the community.
“Pancho and the Tavera family, they’ve just been big McKay supporters since I was a little boy,” Riddell said. “I can see why he’s emotional with that.”
The entire McKay team plays on emotion, an attribute that could take them far this season, and in the years to come.
Riddell is only three games into his first season at McKay, but all signs suggest he’s an ideal fit for the job.
“He brings a hype, man,” senior running back/linebacker Leo Silva said. “Everyone loves him. He’s just so outgoing. He just gets us going.”
ghorowitz@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6726 or Twitter.com/ghorowitz
Greater Valley Conference/6A
McKay 43, Forest Grove 0
Forest Grove 0-0-0-0 – 0
McKay 14-13-13-3 – 43
McKay – Diaz Jr., 37-yard pass from Tavera (Lua-Anaya kick)
McKay – Silva, 23-yard pass from Tavera (Lua-Anaya kick)
McKay – Jarding, 3-yard run (2-point conversion failed)
McKay – Jarding, 10-yard run (Lua-Anaya kick)
McKay – Miranda, 2-yard run (Lua-Anaya kick)
McKay – Diaz Jr., 4-yard pass from Tavera (PAT blocked)
McKay – Lua-Anaya, 20-yard field goal