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Hidden Valley off to fast start

Column by GREG STILES

Hidden Valley's football team has quietly gotten off to the best startin the school's 21-year history.

The Mustangs are 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the Skyline Conference and figureto make it five straight against Illinois Valley Friday night.

We're doing pretty well right now, concedes Jim Figoni, whohas been with the program since 1983 and is in his second stint as headcoach.

Last year was a freak. We only had nine seniors and nine juniors-- 18 kids in the top two grades. We knew last year was going to be difficultbecause of the numbers issue.

But the lessons learned in last year's 3-6 campaign have paid off andthe turnout is growing.

We're cycling out of the low numbers and next year we should bein the mid-60s -- good numbers for a 3A school -- and it will be higherthe next year.

Hidden Valley made the Class 3A playoffs in 1978, 1994 and 1995 and theClass 4A playoffs in 1979.

But past playoff teams never got off to 4-0 starts.

Back in 1978, when the Mustangs were the Class 3A state runner-up, theybegan the season 1-3. They were 0-2 in the Skyline Conference before reelingoff seven straight wins.

Moving up to the Southern Oregon Conference in 1979, the Mustangs wontheir first three games before losing to Medford, 13-7, en route to a 6-4record.

The Mustangs never had another winning season in the SOC, returning tothe Skyline Conference in 1989 and posting a 6-3 record.

But the following season, Illinois Valley, Lakeview and Rogue River playedindependent schedules, leaving the remaining Skyline members to play a double-round-robinschedule. That proved almost as detrimental to the Mustangs, who went 6-10in 1991 and 1992.

Figoni, who headed the program from 1984-86, returned in 1994 to catcha wave of talent that produced back-to-back playoff teams.

He sees playoff potential again.

They put in a lot of time in the weight room, and they understandthe value of that, Figoni says of his players. Plus, they'rea pretty good group of athletes.

ADD FIGONI: The veteran Hidden Valley coach empathizes with Mazama, whichis contemplating asking the Oregon School Activities Association to dropfrom the SOC to the Skyline.

We played Grants Pass 10 times and beat them once, Figonisays. We played Roseburg 10 times and beat them once. That's not equity.

What kids want is a chance to compete and have a chance to win.

ASHLAND GETS $1,000 GRANT: Heather Roberts made a lot of right movesin coaching the Ashland girls basketball team to the state playoffs forthe first time in 12 years last season.

She made another one in the months since.

When an application for a grant from the Women's Sports Foundation arrived,she promptly filled it out and the Grizzlies now possess new Reebok warm-ups.

I filled out a form and wrote two pages about our team, Robertssays. Then I got a message from the foundation.

Although Reebok is better known for shoes than warm-ups, Roberts figuredthe Grizzlies would be better off with the latter.

Warm-ups will last five years and shoes would be worn one yearand then be done, says Roberts, who ordered 13 tops and bottoms for$994.

We had ordered warm-up tops (for about $400), but couldn't affordpants. Now we'll pass those to the JV kids.

The reason we needed new ones is that we have some big kids andthe old ones were a little tight. I'm very thrilled with the grant.

The Team Sports Program was created in 1995 and has made 80 awards inthe past two years.

GETTING A JUMP: Ashland basketball center Djuna Wilhelm plans visitsto Portland State and the University of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.,before the season. Both hope to sign Wilhelm during the early signing periodthe second week of November.

POWERS BEATS MEDFORD: As noted here last week, defending Oregon 8-manfootball champion Powers traveled to Medford, Okla., to play the state'sthree-time Class C runner-up and No. 1-ranked team on Saturday.

Medford entered ranked No. — nationally and Powers No. 12. After fallingbehind 6-0 in the early moments, Powers scored three straight touchdownsand held on for an 18-14 win.

The kids were pretty tired the whole time we were there, but theycame to play football -- and it showed, Powers coach Tim France toldthe Coos Bay World after returning home at — a.m. Monday morning.

TOUGH KID: Willamette quarterback Matt Morrison suffered a broken nosefive minutes into the Wolverines' 46-0 victory over South Eugene Fridaynight.

The Midwestern League's top passer, who entered throwing for 266 yardsper game, was replaced by junior Dan Osterkamp, who completed 13 of 24 passesfor 242 yards.

Morrison returned in the second half and threw for 212 yards and Willamettefinished with 465 yards in the air.

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