▶️ Santa Claus: The Central Oregon Daily News Interview

It’s the interview any journalist would give their careers for. 

Central Oregon Daily’s Eric Lindstrom sat down with the big man himself — Santa Claus.

Among the probing questions:

  • Which of your many names do you like to go with?
  • How are the reindeer doing and which one is your favorite?
  • How does he manage working on a Christmas Sunday when there’s NFL football that day?
  • And where is Eric on the Naughty or Nice list this year?



▶️ Behind the scenes: Wheeler County Rattlers 6-player football title repeat

Two weeks ago, Eric Lindstrom introduced us to a rural high school football team from Eastern Oregon — the Wheeler County Rattlers. They’re a small-town team with big time talent and a unique story.
This past weekend, they made their way to Bend to defend their state football championship in 6-player football and Eric took us behind the scenes and into the locker room.
The boys from Wheeler County arrived in Bend Friday night — cowboy boots in tow — and were greeted by 14 degree temperatures and a frozen turf field at Caldera High School for their final practice of the season.
They were back on the same turf Saturday with the 1A title on the line. And they were facing the same team they were up against last year — the Triangle Lake Lakers.
Wheeler County Rattlers fans
But this year did bring something different. For the first time, the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) was sanctioning the state title game for 6-player football.
For the Rattlers, the grandstands at Caldera may have been bigger and the field may have been a lot flatter than they are used to. But with a 1:00 p.m. kickoff, the game was still played under God’s light — just like at home.
The first play of the game set the tone — a bomb down the sideline that set up a score.
The Rattlers never looked back, dominating on both sides of the ball and controlling the game from start to finish.
As the final seconds ticked away, the celebration was on. Final score: Wheeler County 32, Triangle Lake 13. 
Wheeler County Rattlers locker room
It’s a season three towns from Wheeler County will never forget.
Below are some video extras Eric grabbed from his trip to Wheeler County a couple weeks ago

▶️ Wheeler County Rattlers: 3 tiny Oregon towns for one 6-man HS football team

In the tiniest of the tiny Oregon towns, high school football is still very much a part of the fabric of the community.

It may not be traditional 11-man football. It’s not 8-man — that’s reserved for the “big” little towns.

It’s 6-man football. And in three tiny towns in Eastern Oregon, they’re combining their schools and athletes to field one 6-man team. 

Head east from Central Oregon — way east — and eventually you’ll find yourself in Wheeler County. It’s the least populated county in the state.

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Way more cows than people. The entire county only has a population of 1,300 people — give or take. But what they do have is a high school football team that happens to be the reigning 1-A Oregon state champions.

The Wheeler County Rattlers.

The Rattlers aren’t the only team playing 6-man football across the state, but they are the only team that has to combine three towns with three different high schools to field just one 6-man football team.

The towns of Mitchell, Spray and Fossil combine their schools, their resources and their athletes to make up the Wheeler County Rattlers.

There are all kinds of unique challenges. Practices rotate from school to school, forcing players to be bussed to and fro up to an hour each way.

Home games rotate fields. Friday night lights literally don’t exist — games start at 2 p.m. and are played under God’s light.

And teammates might never attend the same school.

RELATED: Sibling football rivalry: 3 Bend brothers play for different high schools

This is cowboy country. The football field in Spray is part of the rodeo grounds. Cattle shoots line the edge of the field. The rodeo arena flows right into the grass and there’s all kinds of home field advantages.

The Rattlers are chasing another state title after going undefeated in 2021 — quite the turnaround for a team that had gone a combined 2-14 the previous two seasons.

Deschutes, Multnomah, Clackamas — those counties might have the people. But in Wheeler County, they’ve got the cows and they’ve got the horses on the field — figuratively and literally.

Wheeler faces Powers Saturday. The winner heads to the state title game.


▶️ Sibling football rivalry: 3 Bend brothers play for different high schools

It’s something you rarely see in high school sports, but it happened this season in Bend. Brothers at separate rival high schools faced off against one another on the football field.

Jack, Chase, and Ben Sorenson grew up playing football together.

“I think our family’s just super competitive,” said Ben.

“I like to bring intensity and just play as hard as I can no matter what,” said Chase.

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But when Caldera High School opened last year, younger brothers and twins Chase and Ben started high school there while older brother Jack stayed at Bend High School.

It set up an October 14 date on the football schedule where the brothers would be back on the gridiron together, but this time as opponents.

“It’s a pretty cool opportunity to play against my siblings,” said Jack.

“We’ve played the metaphorical game with Mountain View where it’s brother against brother, cross-town rival,” said Bend head coach Matt Craven. “But we’ve never had a situation where we’ve actually competed against a house divided.”

Chase and Ben are sophomores. Jack is a senior.


Sibling rivalry? As much as we tried to pull it out of them, the brothers had nothing but nice things to say about each other.

“I think we all have our unique attributes. I don’t think it’s fair to say any of us are really the best. I have the experience advantage but they’re both amazing athletes,” said Jack.

“Jack is more of the nice guy. Chase likes to win a lot,” said Ben.

“He’s pretty nice,” said Chase. “He doesn’t really have the aggression that I’m hoping to bring.”

Chase, Ben and the Caldera Wolfpack made the short trip down the road to face Jack and the 3rd-ranked team in the state — the Bend Lava Bears.

“Our expectations are realistic. They have 33 seniors, we have zero so that’s going to be a little bit of a problem in the game,” said Caldera head coach Mike Mitchell before the game.


It was all Lava Bears. Jack had multiple big runs and a touchdown.

Ben was sidelined due to a foot injury and could only watch from the sidelines in street clothes.

And Chase finally got to do what all little brothers dream of — stick big brother just one time and saved a touchdown.

In the end, Jack and the Lava Bears were victorious — 41 to 0.

Jack now has bragging rights for the rest of his life. Thankfully for Chase and Ben he won’t use them. He’s too nice to hold it over their heads.

Chase, Jack and Ben Sorenson

▶️’If there’s not horses, what’s the point?’ Meet Terrebonne barrel racing teen

She can shoe, train, jump, race and breed horses and she’s just 16 years old.

“I could literally ride before I could walk.”

For Josie Lauman, horses are just a way of life. Growing up in Terrebonne on her family’s horse ranch, Josie has lived and breathed horses since the day she was born. 

Ask this teen what she does for fun, and you’ll get some quick perspective.

“If there’s not horses, what’s the point?” Josie asks.

And she doesn’t just do one thing or ride one way. She does it all. 

“I do all my own shoeing. I have started a breeding program for my jumpers,” said Josie. “I love the speed.”


She even crosses over from the Western world to the English world, barrel racing one day and jumping thoroughbreds the next.

“The jumping is definitely more expensive, so finance-wise it would be smarter to go with barrel racing. But I love them both.”

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Two worlds that rarely collide.

“The English and Western world really have never gotten along. They don’t like each other.”

And she’s not just a participant. She goes out and wins events, putting together quite the resume over the past few years.

“This year I was able to go to regionals in Washington for OSET and did really well. Was 0.05 seconds off the record for barrel racing and I won barrel racing. It was cool. It was a really neat experience. We got to go up there as a team as well.”


She got started competing in 4H before she’d even hit double digits.

“When I was nine years old, the quickest I could get into 4H. My brother had done it three years prior to me and as soon as I was old enough, I got into it.”

Take one look at her older brother and it’s pretty clear cowboying and horses are in the blood.

Josie Brother


Josie’s days are spent on the ranch where hard work, chores and fun go hand in hand.

“You don’t get a day off. There’s no such thing on a ranch. No matter how hard you try, there’s always something that has to be done.”

And where her horse Red gets trained, prepped and sprayed down after a good day’s work. 

“He’s my main competition horse.”

Josie’s already accomplished a ton. And this year, she’ll look to add a couple more challenges — competing in high school rodeo and also becoming a horse mama.

“We actually have three foals this year. This will be my first year having my own, so super excited for that.”

After high school, Josie says she wants to continue training and breeding horses and competing in barrel racing and jumping competitions.

▶️ Central Oregon high school football participation up, bucking national trend

High school football participation numbers have been on the decline nationwide and statewide for more than a decade. But here in Central Oregon, multiple football programs are seeing record participation numbers this season. 
Almost 1 million high school boys played 11-man football in the 2021-2022 season. That nearly equaled the totals of basketball and baseball combined. 
But the sport has faced multiple challenges over the past decade, including safety concerns, vocal critics speaking out against the game and declining participation numbers nationwide. 
“A lot of frustration from a lot of guys because it is going the other direction for most. I think part of it is, you know, we have a big concussion scare the last five, ten years,” said Ridgeview High School coach Patrick Pileggi.
Statistics show that participation numbers have been falling since 2010: 11-man football is down 9.6%. But coaches, programs and the game are pushing back.
Equipment has never been safer.
“Riddell produced a system that actually has a five zone sensor in those helmets that we can, in real life data, get impact blows on a helmet,” said Summit Head Coach Corben Hyatt.
Practices have never been more regulated.
“We practice differently. Wearing a helmet and shoulder pads and we don’t take guys to the ground. We’re teaching proper techniques which has made the game safer and less hits on kids is better,” said Hyatt.
Protocols have been mandated.
“We have to go through hours and hours of certifications every year,” said Hyatt.
But the optics of a big and now illegal hit can still be hard to look at.
“You think about Xs and Os and trying to how do you win games? But your offseason is ‘OK, how do we increase our numbers and get kids out for football?'” said Hyatt.
Statistics paint an even grimmer picture statewide in Oregon. The decline in participation numbers since 2008 is approaching 24%.
In 2008, the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) reported 14,775 participants in football across the state. Fast forward to 2021 and that number dropped to 11,260.
But the trend isn’t a hard and fast rule. In Central Oregon, many schools are seeing an increase in their numbers and even breaking school records.
“So this year we have 125 kids participating. The highest ever at Summit was 94. So we’ve blown the doors off,” said Hyatt.
Hyatt’s numbers are so high, he ran out of lockers.
“I came home after handing out gear. The first day of practice and I came home and told my wife to get on Amazon and we had to Amazon Prime gear in the next day because we just didn’t have enough of certain things,” said Hyatt.
And at Ridgeview High in Redmond, it’s the first time in the school’s history that they’ve been able to field three teams.
“They fielded a freshman team in the past, but there’s no JV team,” said Pileggi. “This year, we have all three. I think we’re up to 34 freshmen at the moment. Got a solid sized JV team and obviously a varsity team. So we’re looking about 95 kids in the program currently.”
Pileggi chalks it up to multiple factors, including a willingness to adapt his program to a new generation of kids.
“It’s finding ways to connect with kids and get them interested. Putting out game day publicity, you know, putting their cool graphics, things like that. Player of the Week. Kids like that, they live on social media. And so, again, it’s one of the things that they see that might be kind of cool to try this football thing out,” said Pileggi.
A social media presence, making practices more fun, success on the field, academic success and building relationships with parents are all factors that both coaches point to for their increased numbers. But investing in youth programs is where they believe the true difference is made.
“We had eighth grade recruit night and so just like what the colleges do, you bring the kids in and they do the photo shoots and they dress up in the uniforms and have these big elaborate photo shoots,” said Hyatt.
“Meeting those kids, getting to know those kids, get them involved as much as we possibly can early,” said Pileggi.
There’s no doubt the game is evolving and successful coaches and high school programs are evolving with it.
“Teach differently. We practice differently,” said Hyatt. 
Can you get teenagers with unlimited options for entertainment and activities excited to play football?
Can you prove to mom and dad that safety is being practiced and not just preached?
Can you get it done on the field and in the classroom?
And can you make the little kids excited to one day wear that high school jersey?
Answer yes to the majority of those questions and your numbers are probably doing just fine.
“We have a fun program and we build relationships and we care about kids,” said Hyatt.
Participation numbers for football across the state in the 2022 season won’t be reported to the OSAA until November.
It’s also worth noting that although 11-man football participation numbers declined three percent over the last three years nationwide, six, eight and nine-man football participation numbers increased 12% over that same time frame. 

▶️ Central Oregon dog trainer has 4.7 million fans on TikTok

He’s a dog trainer based in Culver that breeds and trains elite protection dogs and now he’s amassed an online following in the millions thanks to his TikTok videos. 
His name is Matt Folsom, and breeding and training Malinois protection dogs is his passion. And when you watch Matt and his dogs work, it’s pretty clear this is a little different level than training old fido how to fetch or sit.
And over the last three years, it’s become crystal clear that people enjoy watching him work. As in the 4.7 million people following him on TikTok.

▶️ ‘Be More Like Millie Walk’ honors Larkspur Community Center fixture

She was a fixture at Larkspur Community Center. On Monday, she was honored on what would have been her 100th birthday.

The inspirational 99-year life of Millie McGillivary was celebrated with an event appropriately titled the “Be More Like Mille Walk.”

RELATED: 99-year-old Bend woman inspires Larkspur Community Center lap after lap

RELATED: Remembering Millie

▶️ Fiddles. Fun. Free-Admission – Now That’s Music to My Ears!

Are you looking for something to do this weekend?

Well, here’s something.

The Oregon Old Time Fiddlers are hosting The Central Oregon Acoustic Music Gathering at the Crook County Fairgrounds.

We sent Eric Lindstrom out to Prineville to see what it’s all about.

▶️ Bend 18-year-old is the in-demand photographer of social media influencers

He’s just 18 years old and he’s already been a professional photographer for four years.

Joshua Mannila now splits his time photographing his peers in Bend and social media influencers in Los Angeles.

“When I was a freshman, I got a girl asking me to do her senior photos, and I was kind of like, Whoa, that’s kind of crazy,” Joshua says. “And so I did my friend’s senior photos. And I guess from there, I just kind of spiraled. I started setting prices, started doing photoshoots for people. People started seeing my stuff all over Instagram.”

But the photography spark was lit much earlier.

“When I was in fourth grade, I got an iPad Mini from for Christmas and it was my first real electronic that had a camera on it and I just instantly fell in love with taking photos.”

Joshua Manilla
Joshua Mannila

From an iPad Mini, to a point-and-shoot digital camera, to a Polaroid and on and on. The camera bag grew, and Joshua’s passion grew right along with it.

Fast forward to today and business is booming for the 18-year-old who just graduated from high school.

“Today, I am a senior photographer in Bend, so I do pretty much senior photos every single night. Last year I was doing them every single day for all of my friends. This year, pretty much same thing.”

And it’s not just Central Oregon calling for sessions. Los Angeles and social media influencers has opened their arms and is asking Joshua to take their photos, too. 

“I love going to L.A. and I feel so creative when I’m down there because being around people who are creative makes me creative, too.”

Joshua Manilla photos
(PHOTOS: Joshua Mannila)

It all started with an influencer liking a photo Joshua had posted on Instagram. They then reached out to see if Joshua would be up for shooting photos for them.

“This is crazy. I’m shooting with you in Los Angeles, and I just thought it was the most surreal moment because it was kind of like my dream is starting to become true.”

All of sudden, the doors started opening. Next thing you know, Joshua was flying to L.A. every other weekend to shoot.

“I am shooting for influencers, creators, people with anywhere from 5,000 followers to over a million, and they’re all verified on Instagram.”

For friend and model Andie Taylor, who has done multiple shoots over the years with Joshua, there’s a comfort level working with a peer that makes the experience more enjoyable. 

“To have it be someone younger and someone I can relate to more and someone who knows more what I feel like younger people are wanting from their photos. So I feel like he’s able to offer something that someone who’s older maybe wouldn’t understand as much,” Andie says.

Joshua Manilla and Andie Taylor
Joshua Mannila taking photo of Andie Taylor.

“I think my age has really helped my success because when when I do a senior photo shoot, the model doesn’t really feel awkward because I’m their age to pretty much,” Joshua adds. “And so we can relate a lot versus someone who’s 20, 30 years older.”

Joshua plans to attend the University of Oregon this fall as a freshman, but ultimately plans to make the move to Los Angeles and pursue photography full-time in the near future.