EUGENE — In the 2014 Friday Night Blitz preview special, the KEZI 9 Sports team looks ahead to the upcoming high school football season. We take you to 12 different Western Oregon high schools, get perspective from the Register-Guard’s Ben Schorzman, and reveal our Friday Night Blitz game of the week live broadcast schedule.
The Willamette Wolverines (2-2) bounced back from last week’s trouncing with a 63-21 win over the North Eugene Highlanders Football (0-4) on Friday night.
All photos by Gary Breedlove are available for purchase.
The Springfield Millers’ (2-1, 1-0) high-powered offense overcame some sloppy play and dominated conference opponent Willamette Wolverines (1-2, 0-1) in every quarter. There was 2:39 left on the clock when Springfield’s backup fullback Mike Dougherty plowed into the end zone to set the final score at 54-6, but the decision felt certain much earlier.
The Millers racked up nine personal five penalties and 14 penalties in total. A couple of the bigger hits riled up the Willamette sidelines as the Springfield hits kept coming.
“The win means we’re 1-0 in league, that’s really all it means,” Springfield head coach Dave Heuberger said. “We’ve got another game next week, but it’s good to see us score a lot of points with that amount of penalties.”
Springfield ran out to a lead early when sophomore quarterback Trever Watson kept and scampered his way 30 yards for the first score. Despite two late hits on the Wolverines’ ensuing offensive possession, Springfield forced a punt and, on the very next play, Watson lobbed a good ball over the middle to wideout Taylor Travess. Travess outran the entire Wolverine defense to score an 80-yard catch-and-go touchdown that put them up 13-0.
Willamette QB Kosey Mitchell marched his troops down after that and got his team on the board with a 20 yard strike to tight end Donnie York. It was 13-6 and the Wolverines still had a shot, but it was all Millers after that point. Travess tacked on a 16-yard dash with 10 minutes in the second half and the Springfield defense held strong on two consecutive goal-line stands that kept the Wolverines out of the end zone.
“It’ll take the momentum and the hope if the players allow it to… Each one took a big chunk away from us,” Willamette head coach Adam Kennybrew said.
Heuberger agreed that the plays near the end zone gave his players a large amount of momentum.
“Giving the ball to them a couple times down there, and then stopping them,” he said, “that’s a big motivational lift.
Watson got the ball back with less than three minutes until the half and it took him three plays to drive 92 yards and pitch a 27-yard touchdown strike. Willamette got within the red zone one more time, but was late with the spike and the first-half clock went to zero.
It was 27-6 at the half, and Springfield scored four more times.
The Millers dominated the rushing game and the final box score showed it. Travess added one more rushing touchdown in the second half and Springfield had three more ground scores in the last two frames. And their defense was able to load the box more when Mitchell’s passes started hitting the ground.
Senior Jordan Haas was huge in stuffing the Wolverine attack and stifling movement in the red zone. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound nose tackle made a huge contribution and the second-half drives by Willamette were filled with drops and overthrows.
“I think that sometimes we feel pressure or that things are breaking down and that we have to force something to happen as opposed to trusting the system,” Kennybrew said about his junior quarterback. “I just reminded him to be discipled and work through our own progressions.”
Springfield returns home to play Eagle Point next Friday.
“We don’t take a game-by-game approach. We gotta make sure we’re progressing offensively and defensively. We need to be able to run the ball and be able to throw the ball,” Heuberger said.
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.”
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.”
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).
“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
Adam Kennybrew had played football. Played fullback and special teams for the Oregon Ducks, in fact. You make the team, you get a helmet. That was his thinking. And it made sense until the newly hired Willamette High School football coach learned the Wolverines’ football helmet supply was down to 37. Not a good number when you’re aiming for more than 100 kids to join the program.
“When I got hired, there were some assumptions made on my part,” Kennybrew said. “I just assumed the (school) would supply and have helmets and shoulder pads.”
The immediate need for helmets transpired for a couple of reasons. First, about 30 helmets had exceeded their 10-year lifespan. Also contributing to the helmet dearth was the preceding coaching staff’s policy of having players either buy or lease their helmets. It’s not uncommon, and the savings frees coaches up to use the funds in other ways. Kennybrew saw the $225 price-tag and begged to differ.
“I feel the equipment, the helmet and shoulder pads are bare necessities, and it should be part of the contribution the program makes to the players,” Kennybrew said.
“We’re looking at families having to pay up to $500 to play, and that’s without sending them to developmental camps over the summer. The community we live in doesn’t have those kinds of funds. It’s a hard-working, blue-collar community. We have a lot of families with single-income and single-parent homes. And it’s unrealistic to expect them to afford that.”
So Kennybrew and his team of coaches and parents initiated a sponsor-a-helmet program a month ago to raise money for 100 new helmets, each costing about $225. Those interested can donate as much as they’re able and sponsor a specific player or pick a number from 1 to 100 they want to sponsor. Each helmet will have a decal that corresponds with the sponsored number. Through direct requests to friends, families, local businesses and through a car wash, a drive to collect recyclable cans and bottles in local neighborhoods, the Wolverines network has rallied enough support for 66 helmets. Its very likely they’ll need every one.
Since spring and through summer strength and conditioning training, about 107 different kids have worked out and expressed the desire to play on the team. About 45 to 50 of them have consistently made the summer strength workouts.
“I see that as a number that’s not enough,” Kennybrew said. “But those are much greater than they have been in the past. The type of work-ethic we need to have has not existed, and kids are starting to respond to it. We’re attempting to change a culture, not just a person but a program. That takes quite a bit of time and quite a bit of proving.”
For the former Thurston High School assistant coach, the helmet program is part of the proving. After he was hired in February to take over team that finished 2-7 last year and replace Dan Fritz, Kennybrew surveyed kids at the school to establish what deterred some from joining the football team. He often heard the same thing: “I heard kids say they couldn’t play because they didn’t have the money. So I feel its the program’s responsibility to make sure that whatever number of players come out we supply them with helmets.”
So what’s the worst-case scenario? What if 100-helmet goal falls short? Kennybrew says he’ll go before the school board to request funding if he must, and if that doesn’t accomplish anything, he said he’ll pay for the helmets with the coaching stipend the school pays him.
“I don’t see the worst-case scenario,” he said. “I don’t anticipate there being failure in the helmet drive or in our investment in the program.”
Interest in investment has even reached outside of the Bethel School District. Kennybrew says he’s received donations from people as far away as Roseburg.
“That was awesome to see people care about kids and do whatever it takes,” he said. “It’s been awesome to see the community at-large rally behind this. At the end of the day, they see it’s about kids and not just a specific (school).”
For Jane Kammerzelt, it was about supporting her son, John, a first-year freshmen team coach. She sponsored helmet No. 23 in honor of her son’s age.
“(Kennybrew) really understands the value of this,” Kammerzelt said. “We are going to build young men. It’s more than just football. He’s resurrecting a football program, and he sees how kids could benefit from this…We want to sponsor each helmet so every kid knows someone cares.”
Note: In their final push to reach 100 helmets, the team will hold a yard sale at the north parking lot of Willamette High School on Aug. 9 and 10. Anyone interested in sponsoring a helmet or making a tax-deductible donation can contact Casey Ferguson by phone at (541) 844-8356 or e-mail at [email protected] or Jane Kammerzelt by phone at (541) 954-1453 or e-mail at [email protected]. Make checks payable to Willamette High School, “Sponsor a Helmet 540”, 1801 Echo Hollow Road, Eugene, OR 97402.
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)
- 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
- 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)
- 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)
- 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
- 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
Defense was the name of the game on Thursday when the girls basketball programs from Willamette and Sheldon met at Sheldon high School for a non-league game.
Overcoming the loss of two of their starters, the Willamette Wolverines used a stout defensive front to hold back the Sheldon Irish as they came away with a 37-35 victory. Both teams were rather unimpressive in shooting the ball on Thursday, Sheldon converting just 28.6 percent of their shots while Willamette was held to a 24.4 shooting percentage.
Lexi Bando proved the hero for the Wolverines as she converted two late free throws that came after the Irish managed to hit a three to tie the game at 35 with just 25 seconds left. Though it was Bando’s points that put Willamette ahead just before the end of regulation, the Wolverines’ defense would step up once again as they kept the Irish from converting of their last-second opportunities.
Willamette now stands at 15-3 on the season while Sheldon fell to 14-5.
— Alex Shoemaker, EDN Sports
Lancers Take The Rematch Against Irish
Last Friday’s game definitely lived up to the hype. As was to be expected, this Churchill-Sheldon rematch shared all the excitement of their buzzer-beater match a month ago. Unlike the last time, however, it was the Lancers celebrating at the end with a 75-73 win over the Irish in overtime.
The 17-7 (14-2) Irish and 20-4 (13-3) Lancers have been the best two teams in the Midwestern League, and their two contests have been decided by a total of three points.
Sheldon came away victorious in the first contest, a 62-61 Dillon Miller deep half-court buzzer-beater, but with the Lancers riding the emotions of the home crowd and would not be denied. The Irish had a final possession where they could have tied the game and forced a second overtime, but it wasn’t to be.
“It was a great defensive stand,” said Churchill guard Aaron Ingram about his game-clinching steal. “I saw the ball and grabbed it. Then I just dribbled out the clock. A great team win.”
Ingram finished the contest with 10 points, with most of his contributions coming on assists and defense.
Churchill extended their lead to 15 in the third quarter, and the game appeared to be all but out of reach. However, a 10-0 run by the Irish to start the fourth quarter decimated the Lancers’ lead and the game was suddenly tied 55-55.
“We don’t pay attention to the scoreboard,” said Churchill head coach Kelly Bokn about the shifts in momentum. “Whether we’re up or down, we keep with our game plan. We lost our lead pretty quickly, and the credit goes to Sheldon. But we were able to keep the game close and come out with a W in OT.”
Churchill was led by David Shedrick who had 18 points, as well as 16 from Emmanuel Morgan. Sheldon was led by the 18 points from point guard Dillon Miller and the 16 points from forward Dale Baker.
With the regular season now finished, both the Irish (6A) and Lancers (5A) can work on preparing for the OSAA playoffs, hopefully bringing a state championship back to Eugene.
The Irish graduate eight players after this season including three starters (Miller, guard Joe Bando, and Baker). Churchill only loses two seniors after this year (Ingram and backup Andrew Tupper).
Both teams have legitimate shots of making a deep run in the playoffs.
“I think we can go far,” said Ingram. “Obviously it’s just one day at a time, one practice at a time. We believe in each other. We can go far. We just need to keep practicing and not slow down.”
The coaching staff shares Ingram’s confidence and wants to make sure the team keeps focused on the task at hand.
“We don’t want to look to far ahead of ourselves,” said Bokn. “One game at a time. Anything can happen in any game. We don’t want to be caught off guard. There are a lot of good teams, and we think we can compete with the best.”
Around The Rest Of The League:
Marist Spartans: 13-10
The Spartans have finished their up-and-down season with maybe their most frustrating loss of the season. They lost three of their last four games and suffered a 45-26 blowout loss at Thurston in the finale.
North Eugene Highlanders: 9-14
North’s season is officially over, and the can rest their hats on a nice 59-51 victory over Willamette last Friday. It appeared the Highlanders would push for a playoff spot, but a 3-8 finish to the season put a damper on that.
South Eugene Axemen: 4-20
South’s horrific season is finally over. A 1-5 record over their past six games was actually an improvement on average for the season as a whole. The Axemen fell 81-47 last Friday in their season finale at Grant.
Willamette Wolverines: 8-16
The theme of the Wolverines’ season has been playing where you’re comfortable makes all the difference. Their home record of 4-6 is respectable, while their road record of 2-9 killed their postseason chances. With a young roster, the Wolverines can look to next year.
— Alex Shoemaker, EDN Sports
Generals Conquer Irish At Home, Snapping Sheldon’s Eight Game Streak
After a colossal 15-2 deficit against Grant, Sheldon mounted a huge comeback spanning the rest of the game. Unfortunately for the Irish, it wasn’t enough as they fell just short the 6A powerhouse Generals 59-55 last Friday night.
The Irish started the game incredibly shaky, especially point guard Dillon Miller who scored just three points in the first three quarters. Shots weren’t falling, and careless turnovers led to easy fast break points for Grant. That’s why it looked like the Generals were going to run away with it early.
The game changed midway through the first quarter when Sheldon trailed by 13. Big man Dale Baker (11 points) converted an old-fashioned three point play, and Grant senior Tre Battle was called for a technical foul. Sheldon’s Jordan Alexander then nailed both free throws to cut the deficit to just eight.
Sheldon’s Connor Strahm did not put up his normally stellar numbers. He scored just 11 points, and was off on several shots.
“It was an off night,” said Strahm. “I think everybody was off. We weren’t playing good basketball. We can play better than this.”
The Irish could not stop Grant forward Chris Wells who finished the game with a team high 22 points. He scored the majority of his points in the key, as well as shooting 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
“We can’t get into foul trouble like that,” said Lampe. “They were making their shots and made us pay for putting them on the line. Those are free points.”
Sheldon bounced back on Tuesday with a 76-56 win at home against South Eugene. The Grant defeat was the first and only home loss of the 2011-12 season for the Irish, who finished with a home record of 9-1.
At 17-6, the Irish play their final game at Churchill on Friday night. Look for coverage of that game next Wednesday at Eugene Daily News.
Around The Rim: What’s Up With The Rest Of The Schools
At 19-4, the Lancers are one of the most exciting prep teams in the Eugene area. Churchill has a prefect 8-0 home record this season, with just one game remaining. Churchill won both of their games this past week, blowing out North Eugene 94-54 and Springfield 68-44. They’ll end the regular season with a big playoff test when Sheldon visits on Friday.
The 13-9 Spartans had an up-and-down week, losing 53-49 at Marshfield on Friday but bouncing back with a 61-58 victory over Willamette on Tuesday. Marist’s final game before the postseason is at Thurston on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 PM.
North Eugene Highlanders:
The Highlanders’ record has fallen to 8-14 after back-to-back losses to Churchill and Marshfield this past week. North’s final game is Friday night at Willamette with only pride on the line.
South Eugene Axemen:
With a 4-19 record, it’s safe to say that the Axemen have been the worst prep team in the Eugene area. This year, 14 of the Axemen’s 19 losses have been by double digits. Their season comes to a close on Friday at Grant. A win is almost out of the question, but keeping the game close could be a moral victory.
Willamette needed to come away with two wins over the past week, and unfortunately they came up short in both contests. Following a 58-50 loss at Thurston, the Wolverines lost their next game at Marist as well. The Wolverines now sit at 8-15 with their final game at home against North Eugene on Friday.
Miller finished the game with 23 points, and contributed in all facets of the game.At his vital point guard position, essentially deciding the tempo of the entire offense, Miller has been instrumental in the huge surge of the Irish this season.Head coach Ron Lampe is very happy with the play of his senior captain.“Miller has been great,” said Lampe after the game. “He does everything I ask and more. He’s a great team player and we’re lucky to have him.”
The game was close through a quarter and a half when senior guard Sean Bellotti came up with a big block that completely changed the momentum of the game. Bellotti, son of former Oregon head football coach Mike Bellotti, has been a great contributor coming off of the bench.
For the Spartans, their 12-8 record has them in the 5A tournament, but not at a very high seed. With two games this week against Marshfield (Friday) and Willamette (Tuesday), Marist could make a serious push with two likely victories.
Around the Rest of the League:
Churchill bounced back from a disappointing loss to Marshfield and swept their next three games in blowout fashion (margin of 30 points per game). They cruised to winsover Willamette, Thurston, and Marist. The 17-4 Lancers are playoff bound and can rest for the next two weeks before the playoffs. Churchill ranks No. 3 in 5A, and will play North Eugene and Springfield this week.North Eugene Highlanders:
This was another bad week for South as they lost all three of their games. Their 3-18 record and weak strength of schedule has them ranked 38th out of 43 teams in the 6A league.The Axemen will face Springfield and Sheldon this week, and they would do well to win one more game this season for momentum going into the 2012-13 campaign.Willamette Wolverines:
The 8-13 Wolverines are in a similar position as North Eugene. Willamette ranks a disappointing 26th in the 5A rankings, due to their poor OWP (opponent winning percentage).After an 86-41 blowout loss to Churchill on Thursday, the Wolverines bounced back with a much needed win over Marshfield. The Wolverines play at Thurston on Friday and at Marist on Tuesday. They need to win both for playoff hopes and overall pride.Prep Game Of The Week:EDN will be live-blogging again. This time, we’ll be at Sheldon on Friday night, when the Irish face the visting Grant Generals. The game is a potential playoff preview of sorts, so stop by the website around 7pm to catch all the action.