Quarterback’s best friend

Imagine you are a quarterback.

It’s third and long. You take the snap and drop back. Suddenly, several defenders who eluded blockers are on the verge of hammering you into the turf.

Desperate for help, you look over the middle and see your savior: 6-foot-6, 220-pound tight end Dustin Stanton.

Blessed with size, speed, strength and stellar jumping ability, Stanton is a reliable lifeline on the gridiron.

“What a best friend for a quarterback! When in doubt, throw it up to the big guy,” said Dan Teeter, Stanton’s head football coach at Lakewood High School.

During the past three years, Teeter has watched Stanton emerge as a star on both sides of the ball. As a tight end, Stanton made a total of 26 receptions for nearly 400 yards and five touchdowns over his sophomore and junior seasons — in addition to being a dominant blocker for the Cougars’ prolific offense. On defense, Stanton has been a fearsome, unusually tall outside linebacker who last season averaged 7.3 tackles per game. He earned All-Cascade Conference second-team recognition at both positions.

Cascade Conference football preview

• Lakewood tight end Dustin Stanton is a quarterback’s best friend
• Player to watch: Alex Galgano, Archbishop Murphy
• Teams at a glance

[Click here for the Wesco preview.]

Heading into the 2011 season, Stanton — an Oregon State University recruit — is primed for his best season yet. It all starts with the senior’s awe-inspiring work ethic.

“He works so hard, it’s insane. He’s probably the hardest worker on the team,” Lakewood senior Christian Melton said of Stanton, also a standout basketball player. “That’s what makes him so good. He just goes hard every play.”

Stanton is already a two-time winner of the Lakewood coach’s award, handed out at the end of each season. Early in his high school career, Stanton proved he was worthy of the prestigious honor.

“Sometimes (the coach’s award) goes to a skilled athlete and sometimes it goes to a person who just works really hard, but it’s my personal favorite,” coach Teeter said. “It’s going to go to somebody who does all the things that you want them to do. They’re going to show leadership, they’re going to hustle throughout all the drills. They’re going to be an example to everybody else.

“To win it as a sophomore, that’s a pretty big deal,” Teeter added. “And at that time we didn’t know he was going to be a Division I-type athlete. He was still kind of developing and growing into his body, but his attitude was top notch.”

Stanton’s attitude has stayed that way as his physical gifts continue to emerge. Despite all his success, he yearns to keep improving, which will help him in his final season at Lakewood and in the future against Pac-12 foes.

Oregon State coaches “want me to be the all-purpose tight end — blocking, receiving, all that stuff — which is exactly what I do here at Lakewood,” Stanton said. “They told me they know I have hands and they know I can catch, so keep working on blocking. Keep getting those pancakes.”

Stanton received a scholarship offer from OSU head coach Mike Riley in April and verbally committed in May. The Air Force Academy also offered a scholarship to Stanton, and other Pac-12 programs have expressed interest.

But the coaching staff and overall atmosphere at Oregon State are perfect, said Stanton, who plans to sign an NCAA National Letter of Intent in February and wants to study business.

Before Stanton heads to college, he and his football teammates expect to have one of the best years in program history. Last season, the Cougars finished third in the 2A/1A Cascade Conference and lost against Burlington-Edison in the 2A District 1 playoffs. It was a momentous year for Lakewood, which went 7-3 and hosted a 2A playoff game for the first time.

With nine starters returning on both sides of the ball, Lakewood believes it can dethrone perennial conference favorite and state-title contender Archbishop Murphy.

“We’ll definitely fit in at the top. We’re looking to clinch the conference. We’re really excited,” Stanton said.

Lakewood lost prolific quarterback Justin Lane (career passing stats: 8,030 yards, 83 TDs), who accepted a scholarship from Illinois State University. But Stanton and Teeter both expressed confidence in juniors Justin Peterson and Kolby Schueller, who will split time at QB this season. Peterson was an all-conference first team receiver last year and cleared 6-4 in the high jump during his sophomore track season.

So how high can Lakewood fly in 2011? Melton, the senior running back/linebacker, has played football side by side with Stanton since elementary school. Melton, Stanton and Lakewood’s other seniors plan to make the most of their final season together.

Propelled by Stanton’s leadership, the Cougars just might reach new heights.

“Now we’re finally seniors,” Melton said, “and we’re going to tear it up.”

Big target
At 6-foot-6, 220 pounds, Lakewood High School tight end Dustin Stanton is both a tenacious blocker and an outstanding receiver. The Oregon State University recruit has compiled increasingly impressive pass-catching numbers every season. Here are Stanton’s year-by-year stats.

2008 (freshman year)
1 reception, 20 yards, 20 yards per catch, no TDs

2009 (sophomore year)
7 receptions, 104 yards, 14.9 yards per catch, 1 TD

2010 (junior year)
19 receptions, 291 yards, 15.3 yards per catch, 4 TDs

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