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Eagle girls soccer team endures uncommon challenges

Column by Don Hunt

Mail Tribune

This fall has been a trying time for Eagle Point High girls soccer coach Tim Sweeney.

Like virtually everyone connected with the high school and middle school, Sweeney has been inconvenienced by the burning down of the middle school on Aug. 29 that forced students from both age groups to share the high school.

The older kids hit the books from 6 a.m. to noon, the younger ones from noon to 6 p.m.

But Sweeney's situation is more discombobulated and distracting than most.

As a middle school social studies and language arts teacher, Sweeney is in the classroom all afternoon and into the early evening.

He and assistant coaches Keith Holcombe and Lee Shupe can't make it to soccer practice until 6:15 p.m., more than six hours after the players have been released from school.

It really makes it tough because some of those kids have to get up at 4:30 in the morning to catch a bus to school, Sweeney says. Their parents want them home at a reasonable time, and so we don't practice beyond 7:15 or 7:30 (in the evening).

Sweeney's other assistant, cousin Don Sweeney, runs practice from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15, or until the other coaches can make it to the workouts.

The challenging scenario has had a ripple effect in that three of Sweeney's players transferred to other schools.

Summer Adams, who would have competed for the starting goalie job, transferred to Crater. Sophomore identical twins Elaina and Stephanie Graham, who were both in the Eagles' starting lineup a year ago, are now enrolled at North Medford.

To make matters worse, midfielder Ali Rotar ' Eagle Point's lone player who gained all-conference recognition last year ' tore up her knee in the Eagles' opening game of the season, and promising freshman Kaitlin Vait broke her foot a couple weeks later.

Needless to say, we're feeling a little snake-bitten, Sweeney says.

Not surprisingly, the short-handed Eagles have struggled to an 0-4 record in the Southern Oregon Conference and stand 1-7-3 overall.

But the good-natured, always optimistic Sweeney hasn't lost hope. With nine freshmen on his roster, he believes the future is bright.

Those freshmen have had a soccer ball at their feet since they were first- and second-graders, says Sweeney. When I took this job seven years ago, we went into their classrooms and got them started, and now they've reached the high school level.

In the past, we put kids on the field if they were fast and athletic. Now we've got some good athletes out there who know the fundamentals of the game.

If we can get through this nightmare we're dealing with now, I think we're going to be pretty competitive over the next decade.

BOOMER MARSHALL isn't known for his scrambling ability, but the South Medford quarterback displayed some nifty running during the Panthers' 35-28 victory over Roseburg Friday night.

The 6-foot-3, 222-pound senior rumbled 19 yards up the sideline for an apparent touchdown in the third period ' barreling over a couple of Roseburg defenders along the way ' only to have it nullified by a holding penalty.

Late in the game, Marshall sidestepped two Roseburg pass rushers, rolled to his left and hit Andres Reed for a 20-yard gain on a third-and 11 play that kept alive a South Medford drive.

The Panthers failed to score on the drive but ate up valuable minutes while clinging to their 35-28 lead.

The Indians drove from their own 20 to the South Medford 39 in the closing seconds, but ran out of time.

We never took into account Boomer's scrambling, Roseburg coach Thurman Bell said after the game. It definitely had an impact.

NORTH MEDFORD HIGH sophomore Mike Barry and Ashland High sophomore Stephanie Johns both fared well at the Oregon Golf Association Tournament of Champions at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Course in North Plains over the weekend.

Johns shot a 6-over-par 77 to win the girls division (15-17), while Barry carded a 3-over-par 74 to finish second in the boys division (15-17).

The tournament was the final one of the year on the OGA junior circuit.