When it comes to big games, Eagle Point's football team hasn't had many of them in recent years.

When it comes to big games, Eagle Point's football team hasn't had many of them in recent years.

That's why last week's regular season finale at Ashland was so important for the Eagles, not just for the playoff implications but for the experience overall.

And while Eagle Point fell short in the 34-14 contest and had to settle for the No. 2 spot in the Class 5A Southern Oregon Hybrid, the trial run gleaned from last week's "must-win" affair could pay dividends this Friday during the first round of play-in games.

"Since I've been head coach, that was the first real game where it felt like it was a playoff atmosphere," said Eagle Point head coach Jacob Schauffler. "The stands were packed on their side, the bleachers on our side were packed and the game was really, really loud at points. Hopefully the experience will carry some weight with us and we'll be able to use that to our advantage and move forward this week."

In the new setup put in place by the Oregon School Activities Association, Eagle Point will play at Dallas on Friday as its first step toward the Eagles' first state playoff appearance since 1997. The winner of Friday's game plays at Midwestern League champion Marist next week in the second round of the play-ins, which will determine the final 16 teams placed in the state tournament bracket.

"It's just another opportunity for us," said Schauffler. "It's another opponent that is in the same position we are. They've got a game to win and we've got a game to win if we're going to get another shot at Marist."

While not much went according to plan last week against Ashland, Schauffler said there were some positives the Eagles (4-4) can build on heading into Friday's showdown.

"We did a lot of things well, we just didn't make enough plays when we needed to," said the coach. "We got started way too late and dug ourselves too big of a hole. A lot of the stuff we did ourselves, and some of the stuff Ashland did because they're a good team."

Quarterback Shane Bluhm provided a bright spot with his balanced play. The senior completed 14 of 35 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns to Ian Morris, who had a breakout game of his own with 140 yards receiving. Bluhm's numbers might have been even better through the air but the Eagles uncharacteristically dropped a handful of his passes.

Bluhm also paced the running game with 43 yards on 13 carries.

"Shane Bluhm had a pretty good game on both sides of the ball," said Schauffler.

The Eagles will look to get senior Aaron Foster back on track after his worst showing of the season. Foster entered last Friday's game averaging 98 yards rushing and 54 yards receiving but managed only a combined 24 yards against Ashland.

"That's not something we expected going into the game and it changed everything we did," added Schauffler.

This week's task for the Eagles, as well as the Dragons (1-7), will be different than what they've seen before. While Eagle Point utilizes a spread offense, Dallas has gone from a wing-T set to more of an I-back pro set offense — almost mirror images of what each team faces week to week on their respective schedules.

"You look at them and they don't see much of our system and you look at us and we don't see much of their system," said Schauffler. "It'll be interesting how it plays out Friday night."

Dallas has managed only one win this season, a 28-21 win over South Albany, but Schauffler said the Dragons compare favorably with the likes of Springfield and Churchill from the Midwestern League slate EP faced this season.

"They've got a bunch of juniors who are probably their best players," said Schauffler. "I would really expect for them to be a surprise team next year."

Sam Orozco has been the Dragons' top scoring threat in recent weeks, with the receiver hauling in a pair of TD passes against South Albany on Oct. 15 and in a 49-28 loss to Woodburn last week.

Quarterback Kody Steele has also been increasingly efficient after a five-game league stretch that saw Dallas average only one TD per game. The Dragons' rushing attack has been spread out among Matt Goodlett, who reached 105 yards against South Albany, and Cody Moore and Trevor Miller.

Dallas was outscored by an average of 38-14 in the regular season, but Eagle Point is averaging only slightly more yards gained (382 per game) than allowed (365 per game).

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com