Midwestern League

Prep Football Rally: Springfield Millers Overcome Churchill, 27-10

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Word was it would be a blood-letting. With Churchill High doing both the bleeding and the letting against Class 5A football’s fourth-ranked Springfield. At least this was one sentiment cast within earshot of the public address announcer’s table at Churchill’s Halverson Field prior to the Midwestern League game. But through three quarters on Friday night, the Churchill Lancers neglected any unbelievers and quarantined a Millers’ offense to just 13 points while scoring 10 of their own. The Lancers were taming an offense that had averaged 51 points a game in its last three games. The problem was that Springfield’s defense proved more stubborn, and the Miller’s offensive weapons found their footing to score two fourth quarter touchdowns, closing out the regular season with a 27-10 win. 

Churchill's defense put pressure on Springfield quarterback Trever Watson. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)
Churchill’s defense put pressure on Springfield quarterback Trever Watson. | image Gary Breedlove/EDN

“Both teams were getting after each other,” Springfield coach Dave Heuberger said. “Not fun to watch, but like (one of my player said) that’s a wrap…In the second half, we held onto the ball and were able to establish drives. In the first half it was hard to get a rhythm going.”

Leading the Springfield (7-2 overall, 6-1 MWL) cause was wide receiver Taylor Travess, who finished with 108 yards of total offense and three touchdowns (one receiving and two rushing). The senior also had an interception in the end zone with the Lancers (3-5, 3-3) on the 9-yard line with just 1:11 before halftime.

Following the interception with SpringfieId leading 13-3, the Millers drove the ball 79 yards to the Churchill 1-yard line. Then two seconds before halftime the Millers fumbled, and Churchill linebacker Mitch Hindrum took the ball 100 yards for the Lancers’ lone TD of the night. “It was time for us to make a stand,” Hindrum said. “We did and the ball popped out…I was in disbelief. I think we worked really hard this week. Sometimes this season we underachieved, but I think tonight we made a pretty good statement.”

The teams went into the halftime with Springfield ahead 13-10. The Millers had a total of 222 yards in that first half to Churchill’s 127, but the half-ending fumble return by Hindrum changed the game’s tone. “It put us right in the heart of the game. We just had a hard time sustaining anything,” Churchill coach Darrell Mehl said.

Churchill linebacker Mitch Hindrum returned a fumble recovery 100 yards for a touchdown. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)
Churchill linebacker Mitch Hindrum returned a fumble recovery 100 yards for a touchdown. | Gary Breedlove/EDN

Offensively, Churchill stumbled often and was only able to produce three points, a 32-yard field goal by kicker Giovanni Brigola in the second quarter. Springfield’s two scores in the first half were a 14-yard pass from quarterback Trever Watson to Travess and a 46-yard TD run by Watson. Springfield’s quarterback completed 13 of 24 passes for 135 yards a touchdown and ran 14 times for 87 yards.

Neither team scored in the third quarter. In fact the first five possessions of the second half ended in punts. The Millers finally broke through with a 17-play, 80 yard drive that ended when Travess ran it in from five yards. That put the score at 20-10. And on its second play of its following possession, Churchill fumbled it over to Springfield with 5:12 left in the game.

The Millers drove it 58 yards on eight plays and scored on a Travess 2-yard run. “Tonight we came out flat,” Travess said. “They came out with nothing to lose.

“Normally we’re a big-play team, but we didn’t click tonight…They fought. They had a little bit of life after the 100-yard fumble recovery and run, but we had the last punch.”

Springfield ends the season second in the Midwestern League standings behind Ashland (9-0, 6-0), and Churchill finished fourth in league play.

As one of the top eight teams, Springfield will have a week off before the first round of the Class 5A playoffs. Churchill is hoping to earn an opportunity to play into the playoffs in a game this coming Friday. Entering their game against Springfield, the Lancers were ranked No. 24. If that ranking stands, they will face the No. 9 team. More definitive post-season schedules will be known once the Oregon School Activities Association finalizes the rankings.

 

Prep Football Rally: Marist’s Jumbo Effort Stalls Willamette, 46-0

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The call came in for the “jumbo” play, and Korey Thompson-Falconer knew just what to do. It was time for the big boys to carry the football and plow into the end zone from one yard away. Marist’s 6-foot, 281-pound offensive guard dropped back from his offensive line position into the backfield, real estate generally occupied by smaller, lighter runners.

Marist Football
Marist’s defense played big by shutting out Willamette on Friday night, 46-0. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

“My mind just went blank. I just wanted to score,” Thompson-Falconer said. “All I did was get the ball and run straight.” That’s exactly what the Marist Spartans needed to start the second half of their Class 5A Midwestern League game. Thompson-Falconer’s first touchdown as a high school player was the first of four TDs the Spartans scored in the third quarter on their way to a 46-0 win over the Wolverines.

For the second-straight week, the Spartans (3-2 overall, 1-1 MWL) held their opponents scoreless. In those two games, Marist has outscored its opposition 101-0. The offense sputtered some in the first half against Willamette (2-3, 1-2), but the Spartans still lead 12-0 at halftime. “We know we could do better. Twelve to nothing at half time? We did’t feel that was out top level,” Thompson-Falconer said. “We just turned it up more.”

Marist finished the game with 467 yards of total offense, including 229 running the ball. The Spartans scored on all four of its possessions in the second half. Sophomore quarterback Brody Cooper completed 11-of-19 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper also ran in Marist’s first TD from the one-yard line. His first TD pass of the night came on a third down and 31 in the second quarter. Cooper hit sophomore receiver Matt Haney on a 60-yard scoring pass. Cooper caught five passes for 135 yards. In the second half, Cooper threw a 39-yard TD pass to Clark Morton.

“We came out stronger in the second half and came out and got the job done,” Cooper said. “I passed a little better than I have in the past. I’m just trying to open up the offense a little bit more.”

Marist Football
Marist quarterback Brody Cooper threw two TD passes and ran for one against Willamette. (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

Running backs Justin Enseki-Frank and Kashi Hall spearheaded the Spartan running game. They combined for 152 yards rushing and one touchdown, a 28-yard burst by Hall that made the score 39-0.

“The running backs lit their tails on fire a little bit more and the young quarterback keeps getting better,” Marist coach Frank Geske said. “…We’re not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination, but we keep getting better. I didn’t think our defense could get any better. (Willamette) ran all over other teams in the first half of their other games, and they didn’t tonight. I’m really proud of that.”

Willamette finished the game with just 74 yards of offense, all of which were running yards. Playing without their starting quarterback Kosey Mitchell, who injured his knee in last week’s game, the Wolverines turned to Darius Jackson. Normally a wide receiver, Jackson never threw a pass in the game and then was injured while punting the ball in the second quarter. He never returned to the game, and Willamette moved tight end Geoff Kastel to quarterback. Jackson had 35 yards on 12 carries and Kastel had six carries for 27 yards.

Though he only had two carries, Marist’s Thompson-Falconer scored twice against his former school. The senior attended Willamette before transferring to Marist as a sophomore. Geske said his staff had been working to have Thompson-Falconer carry the ball on short-yardage situations since the season began. “It was nice to let him score a couple of times,” Geske said. “And he’s a phenomenal football player on both sides of the ball. We were getting it a little from the (Willamette) coaches for letting him do it, but this was the perfect time for him to do it.”

SCOREBOARD:

In other 5A Midwestern League action:

  • Ashland took possession of first place in the league with a 34-28 win over the Springfield Millers.
  • The Grizzlies remain undefeated at 5-0 and 3-0 in league play. Springfield is 3-2 overall and 2-1 in league.
  • The North Eugene Highlanders lost at Eagle Point, 32-12. The Highlanders are 0-5 overall and 0-2 in league.

In the 6A Southwest Conference:

  • Sheldon defeated South Medford, 49-14, to improve to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in conference.
  • Thurston went to Grants Pass and lost 45-21 to fall to 1-4 overall and 1-2 in conference.
  • South Eugene played at Roseburg and lost 34-21 to drop to 2-3 overall and 0-3 in conference.

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Prep Football: Willamette-Marist Duel in Important League Game Friday

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All eyes will be on Willamette’s match-up with Marist in the only high school football game among Eugene-Springfield area schools on Friday. Since moving into the Class 5A Midwestern League in 2010, Marist has dominated and won the conference each year. However, this year has been different. Ashland dropped the Spartans 21-7 two weeks ago, handing Marist its first loss to a Midwestern League opponent since entering the league.

The loss put the Spartans (2-2 overall) in fifth place in the league with an 0-1 record. Last week, Marist rebounded with a hardy 55-0 win over Bend. Meanwhile Willamette (2-2 overall) picked up its first league win last week in a 63-21 blow-out of North Eugene, this after losing big, 54-6, to Springfield. The Wolverines stand at third place in the league behind Ashland and Springfield.

Willamette Football
Willamette may have to do without quarterback Kosey Mitchell on Friday. Mitchell injured a knee last week (Gary Breedlove/EDN)

In their game against North Eugene, the Wolverines lost quarterback Kosey Mitchell to a knee injury and had to turn to junior Darius Jackson as the backup. Leading up to that game, Jackson had limited practice time at quarterback and had been playing receiver.

When Jackson replaced Mitchell, Willamette turned exclusively to the run game. That meant Jackson and running back Sam Aguirre carried the load offensively. Willamette coach Adam Kennybrew says Mitchell was awaiting medical clearance on Thursday, but, if Mitchell remains out tonight, Marist’s defense may force Jackson to throw his first pass of the season. If he does, Jackson will have to play smart against a Marist team that has an interception in each of its games and a total of six. Senior linebacker Cameron Jack leads Marist with three interceptions.

Willamette wasn’t the only team that had success running the football. Marist used a powerful rushing attack against Bend last week for season-high 357 yards. The Spartans scored eight total touchdowns, seven were rushing scores.

A win for Willamette could move the Wolverines up to second place in the league and end a three-game losing streak to the Spartans, who have outscored Willamette 183-26 the last three years. If Marist wins, the Spartans could move up in the league standings for a third-place tie with Churchill, which has a bye week and is 1-1 in league play.

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High School Football Preview: Mehl, Churchill Lancers Accept 2013 Challenge

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Difficult as it might be to lose a highly talented offensive player, Darrell Mehl has had to move on. You could say the Churchill High School head football coach has reached the fifth stage of grief: acceptance. It was about two weeks ago that Mehl learned that his team would once again play on without running back Tyler Reid. As a junior in 2012, Reid tore through the Lancer’s first two opponents, scoring seven rushing touchdowns on 27 carries and 419 yards. But that was before he suffered a season-ending injury to his left knee after just eight carries in the second game. This summer while playing a 7-on-7 football game, Reid injured his other knee and will be out for his senior season. “It was a killer for us,” Mehl said. “We’re trying to move on. I’ve already done my crying and am trying to move on…We are going to run the same stuff without Tyler as we would with him. Obviously, we would be a little more explosive with him than without him.”

Churchill head football coach Darrell Mehl
Churchill head football coach Darrell Mehl

A year ago, the Lancers went on to finish 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the 5A Midwestern League. Without Reid, who Mehl said was offered preferred walk-on status at Oregon, Mehl must find a way to adjust with the players he has. And while he says this team may not have the amount of talent last year’s group had, Mehl likes what he sees. “Nobody expects us to do anything, certainly without Tyler,” he said. “We might not, but yet, we might surprise some people.”

The Lancers return 14 players who started last season at one time or another and 17 with varsity experience. Mehl said his team lost 23 seniors from last year. “We’re young (and) inexperienced, but we are a serious try-hard team,” he said. “This is one of the best practicing teams since I’ve been here. They work hard, are smart, and do a good job of flying around. Whether that translates into wins, who knows.”

Last year, Churchill turned to several running backs to compensate for the loss of Reid. The one returning player with significant experience at the position is tailback J.C. Moran. One of eight juniors on the team this year, Moran is back after finishing 2012 with four touchdowns on 104 carries and 439 yards. Senior Mike Monroy ran the ball 31 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns, but he will play inside receiver. In that position, Monroy caught 27 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Churchill High football players practice in preparation for the 2013 season opener. (David Saez/EDN)
Churchill High football players practice in preparation for the 2013 season opener. (David Saez/EDN)

At quarterback, Mehl will use two players to manage the team’s read-option offense: senior Brenden Nesbitt and sophomore Justin Kearney. Both saw limited action last year behind  senior Mitch Reese, who threw for nearly 2,000 yards. Combined, they completed 2-of-5 passes for five yards. “(Nesbitt) is knowledgeable, throws the ball a little bit better and has a grasp of what we’re doing,” Mehl said. “(Kearney) is faster and athletic, but not as strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t play them both all year.”

Nesbitt and Kearney will target two particular wide receivers on the deeper passes, senior Spenser Schmidt and sophomore Junior Perez. Both are fast and tall, Schmidt is 6-foot-1 and Perez is 6-feet. “Those two outside guys are going to be our explosive-type players,” Mehl said. “Both are going to be good and can go the distance.”

Other returning players with experience as starters include offensive linemen junior Zach Bernardo and seniors Daulton Hankins, Josh Higashi, Mitch Hindrum, and Wyatt Imhoff.

Defensively, Churchill is lead by senior linebacker Trevor Johnson, second in tackles last year with 69 total and 36 solo, and senior defensive lineman Darren Kime, who had 37 tackles in eight games, and senior safety Alex Perez, who had nine tackles. Johnson, Monroy, Nesbitt and Hindrum make up the Lancers’ linebacker corp. “We have a nucleus of linebackers that are experienced and then we have athletic guys in the defensive backfield,” Mehl said. “We’re going to be fast and all of us will run to the football. Hopefully, we’ll have success that way on defense.”

Churchill High head football coach Darrell Mehl watches on as  players run defensive drill. (David Saez/EDN)
Churchill High head football coach Darrell Mehl watches on as players run defensive drill. (David Saez/EDN)

“This group is playing hard like I want them to, and that excites me,” Mehl said. “But with all of our youth and inexperience, we are going to make a ton of mistakes. Hopefully those mistakes don’t cost us ball games…It will be interesting. I feel like if we don’t get hammered by a few (teams) early, lose our confidence, I think we’re going to be OK. I think we might be fragile. If (players) stop practicing as hard as they can, that will be a great disappointment. But I kind of have high hopes that these guys will get it done.”

Assistant coaches: Aaron Steigeler (offensive coordinator); Todd Kaanapu (offensive line); Don Bell (running backs); Gabriel LeMay (wide receivers); Les Duman (defensive line); Keith Lewis (safeties); and Aaron Crawford (cornerbacks).

Churchill Lancers 2013 Football Schedule:

  • Aug. 30 – at South Eugene
  • Sept. 6 – at Liberty
  • Sept. 13  – at Eagle Point
  • Sept. 20 – Ashland
  • Oct. 4 – Willamette
  • Oct. 11 – Marist
  • Oct. 18 – at North Eugene
  • Oct. 25 – Springfield

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High School Football Preview: Rivera Building on Yourh, Speed at North Eugene

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On one occasion a year ago, North Eugene head football coach Edmund Rivera scanned the practice field and counted just 15 varsity players. When coaches talk about low numbers and being short-handed, this was it. The situation required the promotion of freshmen players to practice with varsity. This season, Rivera hints that a number of those 2012 freshmen will see varsity game time as sophomore in 2013. “The numbers are good,” Rivera said. “…A lot of (the varsity team) are first and second year players, so the learning curve is huge.”

North Eugene football coach Edmund Rivera instructs his players during practice. (David Saez/EDN)
North Eugene football coach Edmund Rivera instructs his players during practice. (David Saez/EDN)

A little more than 30 players make up the Highlander roster, and eight starters return this year. North Eugene finished 2-7 overall last year and 2-5 in the 5A Midwestern League. A total of eight sophomores will join 12 seniors and 12 juniors as the Highlanders begin the season with Summit on Friday. “We’re young, but we have some seniors at positions that demand some leadership we’re looking for,” Rivera said. “A lot of kids will play (both offense and defense). I’m hoping we’re a little quicker (than Summit).”

“We’re not very bog overall, but we have a little speed,” he said. “So we’re going to try and get some good matchups in the perimeter. Try to get some guys outside with some speed and go one-on-one.”

Running a spread offense that uses motion, misdirection and bunch formations to hide the football, the Highlanders will have senior Joey Butterfield playing quarterback. Butterfield started as a linebacker last year, but this will be his first season as the starting quarterback. Returning on offense are senior offensive linemen Ryan Hodges, Chad Gilliam, and Andrew Brown; junior offensive lineman Brandon Rasmussen and sophomore running back Zach Haxby. As a freshman, Haxby carried the ball 50 times for 208 yards (4.7 yards per carry). “He’s tough, and he’s a slasher,” Rivera said. “The lineman really enjoy (Haxby) because they don’t have to hold their blocks as long.”

Scoring was a major challenge for North Eugene last year. The Highlanders totaled just seven touchdowns (three rushing and four passing). Junior Dane Stapley is the only returning player with a touchdown to his credit. As a quarterback, Stapley threw a touchdown pass and caught two touchdown passes. This season he will be the No. 2 quarterback and play inside receiver. Also splitting time as inside receivers will be sophomores Brett Snyder and Aaron Thompson. On passing plays to the outside, Butterfield will throw to two 6-foot-2 receivers, junior Drew Gerth and senior Isaiah Alder.

North Eugene Highlanders prepare for the first game of the 2013 season. (David Saez/EDN)
North Eugene Highlanders prepare for the first game of the 2013 season. (David Saez/EDN)

A total of seven defensive starters return for 2013: senior Austin Berg-Ketch (defensive end); Butterfield (linebacker); Brown (linebacker); Gilliam (linebacker); Hodges (defensive tackle), Rasmussen (defensive end); and Stapley (defensive back). North Eugene adds two new senior linebackers: Christian Johnson (who played football as a freshman and sophomore) and Chandler Sand (a first-time football player).

In his team’s first game, Rivera anticipates Summit to pass more than run, and he hopes the Highlanders’ speed will counter the oppositions’ size advantage. “(Defensively), I think our foot-speed is pretty good,” he said. “We like to play man. We like to blitz a lot. We’re going to try to put pressure on the quarterback. We’ve been defending the pass a lot this week (in practice).”

“Now we just have to see if the chemistry is there working together. So far it’s been good. They’ve helped each other, encouraged each other. Now we need to see how they respond to somebody else.”

Assistant Coaches: Aaron Schermerhorn (offensive coordinator); Bryant Engstrom (offensive and defensive line); Kurt Nelson (defensive scout); Derek Bridges (offensive scout); John Scott (special teams).

North Eugene Highlanders 2013 Schedule:

  • Aug. 30 – Summit
  • Sept. 6 – South Albany
  • Sept. 13 – at Hidden Valley
  • Sept. 20 – Willamette
  • Sept. 27 – at Eagle Point
  • Oct. 4 – Ashland
  • Oct. 11 – at Springfield
  • Oct. 18 – Churchill
  • Oct. 25 – at Marist

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High School Football Preview: Willamette Begins Anew with Adam Kennybrew

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When Adam Kennybrew discusses results on the football field, he uses the term by-product. Not fall-out. Not consequence. Not outgrowth. Not wins. At least not yet. For the first-year head coach at Willamette High School, the positive results he foresees for his Wolverines will represent a by-product of the cumulative efforts of his players and coaches. “Our goal each day is to be the absolute best and to operate at the most efficient level as we can individually as well as collectively,” Kennybrew said. “If we are able to do those things, I believe the by-product of that will be overall success.”

Willamette football coach Adam Kennybrew (right) watches his players run a play during practice this week. (David Saez/EDN)
Willamette football coach Adam Kennybrew (right) watches his players run a play during practice this week. (David Saez/EDN)

A former Oregon Duck fullback and special teams player, Kennybrew takes over a Willamette team that finished 2-7 overall last year and 1-6 in the 5A Midwestern League. A total of eight starting players return this season, four each on offense and defense: Samuel Aguirre (junior, running back); Taylor Brown (jr., outside linebacker); Cam Fergusson (senior, wide receiver); Darius Jackson (jr., safety); Kosey Mitchell (jr., quarterback); Nicholas Swanson (sr., offensive lineman); and Donnie York (jr., linebacker).

“The kids have been working hard,” Kennybrew said earlier this week during practice. “They come out with a good mind-set. Our first couple of days is about mental toughness. That’s our focus. We did a lot of conditioning on the front end before we started practice just so they could get used to pushing through when they get tired. They responded really well to that. We’ve had some guys step up and start to separate themselves.”

Adam Kennybrew.
Adam Kennybrew.

Kennybrew says he’s excited about the number of talented juniors on this team and the simple, yet complex defensive framework his coaches have structured. “We are complex, but it is simple for our players,” he said. “Any time you can put kids in a position where they can think less and execute at a faster, higher level of confidence (it) should be a winning equation.”

Offensively, the Wolverines will run a spread offense with intentions of serving defensive teams an up-tempo game. “Our goals are really to just play at a fast tempo and display great mental toughness,” Kennybrew said. “No excuses. There is some evidence of players not having been pushed or challenged regularly. So we’re trying to get them to not settle for who they have been and really be open to who they can become..It’s been awesome to see the kids start to trust: trust in a system that is unfamiliar to them, trust in coaches who are unfamiliar to them.”

All but one coach is new to the team. Kennybrew has brought on two former Oregon Ducks to his coaching staff: former UO linebacker Dietrich Moore holds defensive coordinator and linebacker coaching duties, and former Duck receiver Marshaun Tucker coaches wide receivers. Others on the staff include Tobey Hay (defensive secondary coach); Chase Beach (wide receiver coach); Brett Thorton (wide receiver/defensive back coach); Josh Wolfram (offensive line coach); Scott Boyter (offensive line coach); Kevin Lee (offensive coach); Dainean Nelson (defensive line coach); Curtis Mitchell (defensive line coach); and Darren Hatefi (linebacker coach).

Willamette High football players run their offense during practice. (David Saez/EDN)
Willamette High football players run their offense during practice. (David Saez/EDN)

“I’ve empowered my coaches to invest in the program in such a manner that I have the title of head coach, but really this is our program,” Kennybrew said. “I had the opportunity of hiring people who I’ve admired, look up to and view to be brothers of mine to take on this journey with me. This is our program. It isn’t a my program type of deal. Because I’ve structured it as such, I don’t have that anxiety or the pressure that it’s all about me on the line. I feel we’re in a position to do some amazing things here, and if we’re putting in the work and the kids are putting in the work and learning what we are teaching, then the by-product is success.”

Willamette High School Football Schedule (games start at 7 p.m.)

  • Aug. 30 – at Corvallis
  • Sept. 6 – South Eugene
  • Sept. 13 – Springfield
  • Sept. 20 – at North Eugene
  • Sept. 26 – Marist
  • Oct. 4 – at Churchill
  • Oct. 10 – Eagle Point
  • Oct. 18 – at Ashland

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OSAA 5A High School Football Season Schedules

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We’ve got three weeks until high school football teams can begin practicing on Aug. 19 and a week later the season opens on Aug. 30. Nevertheless, football is on the horizon and followers of the local teams in the 5A Midwestern League will want to know what the schedule looks like for the five teams from the Eugene-Springfield area in the eight-team conference.

Complete Local OSAA 5A High School Football Season Schedules:

 

Churchill Lancers (7-4 overall, 4-3 in league)

Churchill_logo

  • Aug. 30 – at South Eugene
  • Sept. 6 – at Liberty
  • Sept. 13  – at Eagle Point
  • Sept. 20 – Ashland
  • Oct. 4 – Willamette
  • Oct. 11 – Marist
  • Oct. 18 – at North Eugene
  • Oct. 25 – Springfield

Marist_logoMarist Spartans (11-2, 7-0)

  • Aug. 30 – at West Albany
  • Sept. 6 – at Grant
  • Sept. 13 – Ashland
  • Sept. 20 – Bend
  • Sept. 26 – at Willamette
  • Oct. 4 – Eagle Point
  • Oct. 11 – at Churchill
  • Oct. 18 – Springfield
  • Oct. 25 – North Eugene

North Eugene Highlanders (2-7, 2-5)

NorthEugene_logo

  • Aug. 30 – Summit
  • Sept. 6 – South Albany
  • Sept. 13 – at Hidden Valley
  • Sept. 20 – Willamette
  • Sept. 27 – at Eagle Point
  • Oct. 4 – Ashland
  • Oct. 11 – at Springfield
  • Oct. 18 – Churchill
  • Oct. 25 – at Marist

Springfield Millers (8-3, 6-1)

Springfield

  • Aug. 30 – at Silverton
  • Sept. 6 – Corvallis
  • Sept. 13 – at Willamette
  • Sept. 20 – Eagle Point
  • Sept. 27 – at Ashland
  • Oct. 4 – Hermiston
  • Oct. 11 – North Eugene
  • Oct. 18 – at Marist
  • Oct. 25 – at Churchill

The Wolverines occupy the seventh spot in the current rankings. (Willamette High School)Willamette Wolverines (2-7, 1-6)

  • Aug. 30 – at Corvallis
  • Sept. 6 – South Eugene
  • Sept. 13 – Springfield
  • Sept. 20 – at North Eugene
  • Sept. 26 – Marist
  • Oct. 4 – at Churchill
  • Oct. 10 – Eagle Point
  • Oct. 18 – at Ashland

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A New Chapter Begins….

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— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

We knew it was likely, and now a new chapter begins for Oregon football.  Mere days after the Ducks’ Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin, star running back LaMichael James made it official on Friday by announcing that he would forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.

LaMichael James is taking his talents to the next level. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

“It really was a difficult decision,” said James. “Especially after winning the big game and sharing that moment with my teammates. It was kind of like that you don’t want to go out another way.”

The 2010 Doak Walker Award winner rewrote the record books during his three years as a Duck. He’s scored the most points with 348, and his 58 touchdowns are the most overall. For that matter, his career 5,082 rushing yards rank second all-time in Pac-12 Conference history. Still, with all he’s accomplished, James said it was a tough choice to walk away from people he now considers family.

“I love my (running backs) coach (Gary Campbell) to the end and I’ll always be a part of his life,” he explained. “That, and not being in the locker room with my teammates will be very difficult for me.”

LaMichael James will finish as Oregon's all-time leading scorer and rusher. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

In the end, however, he believes there’s not much more he can accomplish playing in college. That, and he’s only a couple courses away from graduating.

“Ultimately, it came down to almost having my degree,” James stated. “I’ve also achieved just about everything that I possibly can at this level. I could win the Heisman or the BCS Title, but that’s just not likely. I feel like I’m going out with a bang.”

Now that he’s officially decided to go pro, James is excited to be able to have a chance at doing something only so many can consider a legitimate possibility.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve thought about playing in the NFL all my life. Who wouldn’t? I’m glad I can come a step closer to accomplishing those goals.”

James considers the chance to play on Sundays a dream come true. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

He’ll soon hire an agent, and will begin training for the February scouting combine in Indianapolis.  With any luck, the 5’9, 195 pounder hopes he can defy the logic of where he’ll finish in the draft.

“The draft advisory board told me I could be picked as high as the third round,” he clamied. “Right now, I’m hoping to go in the second round depending on how I perform at the combine.”

With all the stuff he’s preparing for in the next phase, James hasn’t had much time to look back at the standard he’s set at Oregon. Unquestionably, though, he’s raised the bar for future Ducks and is proud to have played in Eugene.

“It’s probably the best time I’ve ever had in my life, he explained. “It has taught me a lot of different lessons, and I think the credit has to go to head coach Chip Kelly as well as coach Campbell. I’ve never really been on a resilient team where everybody puts the team before each other and there are no independent superstars. This year’s team that won the Rose Bowl was the best by far where teammates are concerned.”

LaMichael hasn't had the chance to look back at his many accomplishments at Oregon. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Now the guy who is, arguably, greatest running back in Oregon history is ready to take on the challenges of the NFL as easily as he dodged so many opposing defensive players at Autzen Stadium.

“I feel like I can be successful at the next level,” James said. “After that, I feel like I’ll be successful at whatever career path I choose.”

For the record, I think LaMichael could surprise some people in the pros. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll be an every down back, but could definitely make an impact as a situational player or on special teams.

The Oregon running game will also move along fine with Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, and Tra Carson still in the stable.  By the same token, there will never be another guy moved the way James did. There may also not be another one who could stay so humble no matter how brightly his star shined in the Willamette Valley.

From a reporter’s standpoint, he was always willing to answer my questions in a respectful manner.  I wish him the best and hope I can get a word in with him from time to time wherever he winds up.

Now then, let’s move onto a few other items. First off, it is still very hard to get a good read on the Oregon men’s basketball team. The Ducks looked ready to take on the upper tier of the Pac-12 conference on Thursday with a solid 78-67 win against Stanford.

Dana Altman needs his Ducks to be a little more consistent if they're going to make the postseason. (Photo Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Unfortunately, Oregon didn’t follow up on that performance on Sunday in a deflating 77-60 loss to Cal.  Head coach Dana Altman didn’t hesitate listing the reasons for the defeat.

“There were a number of things we needed to work on,” he said. “We had the opportunities, but we gave up easy baskets. The tempo favored Cal in the second half and they had it going for them.”

No question about it.  The Ducks battled the Bears for 20 minutes, and only trailed 30-27 at halftime.  Then Allen Crabbe got hot for Cal, scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.  At the same time, Oregon simply couldn’t match them shot for shot.

But perhaps the real reason the Ducks dropped a tough one at Matt Knight Arena was the inconsistent play of Devoe Joseph.  The 6’4 guard could do no wrong against the Cardinal when he led all scorers with 30 points.

Yet on Sunday, Joseph had trouble getting it going early and only had five points in the first half (and a total of 14 on the night).

If this talented, but young, Oregon team is going to find its way into postseason, they’ll need to get some more consistency from Joseph as well as get a little tougher on defense.  This coming week will be a challenge for them as they head on the road to play the Arizona schools.

Should they get a split on that trip, they might just keep themselves in the race for a very reachable Pac-12 title.  I certainly like the potential of this team. If they can play like they did against Stanford, then they’ve got a very decent shot at getting Oregon’s first NCAA bid since 2008. But they’ve got to clean up their mistakes sooner than later.

When it comes to the Oregon women’s basketball team, however, I’m not as sold. Sure, those Ducks have an overall 9-7 record, but are 1-3 in Pac-12 play. Moreover, they games they’ve lost haven’t been close.  They got pasted 90-67 on Saturday against Cal, and were walloped 93-70 two night prior at Stanford. (Though, in fairness, almost everyone loses badly to the Cardinal these days).

For Oregon to have any chance to be successful on a given evening, they’ll need to have both Nia Jackson and Amanda Johnson healthy. They recently got back Jackson, but Johnson is still out with an injured thumb.

Thus, for an otherwise very young squad, wins are going to be very hard to come by. If anyone can eventually turn this program around, head coach Paul Westhead is more than capable. But it looks like season number three of the rebuilding project is going to be a very long one indeed.

Switching to the prep level, the Sheldon boys seem to be putting things together. On Thursday, the Irish prevailed over Marist 66-64.  They’re now 3-1 in the Midwestern League play, and it looks like head coach Ron Lampe has another solid squad on his hands.  Time will tell as the season goes on, but with Connor Strahm and Dillon Miller as spectacular on the court as they are on the gridiron, you’ve got to like their chances down the stretch.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.

Sheldon lightyears ahead of Crater…

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Sheldon 42, Crater 0

The Sheldon Irish had no problem kicking the Crater Comets into another solar system.  Putting up 464 yards of total offense, the Irish cruised to a 42-0 victory on Friday night.

Quarterback Dillion Miller led the attack with 216 passing yards and two touchdowns.  Senior running back Ryan Land also did his part with 127 yards and two scores of his own.

The Irish defense was equally tough, holding the Comets’ to a paltry 28 yards of total offense.

The victory kept Sheldon’s undefeated season intact with an overall 6-0 record.  More importantly, with their 4-0 Southwest conference record, they kept pace at the top of the standings with South Medford.

South Medford 45, Thurston 32

The South Medford Panthers remained tied for first place in the SWC with a 45-32 victory over the visting Thurston Colts on Friday.  Panthers quarterback Jack Singler had a solid evening, throwing for 256 yards and three touchdowns.

Thurston’s Chad Olson also had a decent outing with three touchdown passes.  But the Colts simply could not keep pace with the Panthers late in the game.

Roseburg 61, South Eugene 7

Those poor Axemen just can’t even catch a break at home. South Eugene fell again on Friday, this time to Roseburg in a 61-7 blowout.  The loss dropped the Axemen’s overall record to 0-6, and their demise was relatively quick against the Indians.

Roseburg catapulted to a 28-7 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. The Indians’ record is now an overall 5-1, and they remain a game behind Sheldon and South Medford in the SWC standings.

Willamette 55, Marshfield 13

The Wolverines’ octane was in full force on Friday against the Pirates.  Willamette showed little mercy, crushing Marshfield 55-13.

Willamette running back Jordan Visarraga ran for 183 yards and four touchdowns.  Quarterback Dustin Leber also had a hot hand, throwing for 222 yards and two scores on the night.

The Wolverines extended their Midwestern League record to 3-1, and have a pivotal matchup in a few days.  They’ll visit top ranked Marist in a game that could very well decide the winner of the MWL title.

Marist 49, Churchill 19

The top-ranked Spartans got it going early and often against the Lancers.  Marist scored 35 points before halftime in a 49-19 laugher over visting Churchill.

Spartans’ running back Greg Park ran for 171 yards on the night.  Quarterback Kamerun Smith went 12-for-27, throwing for 156 yards and four touchdowns.

Marist’s overall record is now 6-0, and they’ll host Willamette this coming Friday.

Springfield 35, Eagle Point 34 (OT)

It was a crazy affair at Silke Field on Friday night, as the Springfield Millers squeaked by the Eagle Point Eagles 35-34 in overtime.

The Millers trailed 28-21 with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter, before quarterback Britton Auxier tied it up with a touchdown pass to Dylan Piquette.

Eagle Point scored a touchdown on their possession in overtime, taking a 34-28 lead. (They missed an ensuing two-point conversion attempt).

Springfield answered with a three yard keeper by Auxier, and kicker Ashton Summers hit the extra point that turned out to be the difference of the ballgame.

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