Softer schedule pleases Pelicans; KU meets winless Crater Friday at Modoc Field
A softer schedule hasn't spawned a major revival in the Klamath Union High football program.
The Pelicans, who went to an independent schedule this season to avoid playing the Southern Oregon Conference heavyweights, have only 43 players in uniform for their varsity and junior varsity teams, or about the same number as a year ago.
And their record through six games ' two victories and four defeats ' is only slightly better than the 1-5 mark they had at this time in 2002.
But seventh-year head coach Wayne Amos, whose team meets Crater (0-6, 0-4 SOC) in a nonleague game Friday night at Modoc Field in Klamath Falls, has no regrets about leaving the SOC.
— In SOC games Friday, Ashland (2-4, 0-4) is host to South Medford (3-3, 2-1), North Medford (5-1, 3-0) entertains Eagle Point (4-2, 2-2) and Roseburg (5-1, 3-0) is at home against Grants Pass (3-3, 2-1).
I sure don't miss those nights against Roseburg and the Medford schools when we're behind 40-0 at halftime with a bunch of kids hurt, Amos says. It was tough going into games like that, knowing you realistically had no chance at winning.
Because they no longer play in a conference, the Pelicans are ineligible for the state playoffs. But they were a huge long shot anyway ' KU's last postseason appearance came in 1989 ' and with the new schedule has come a more even playing field.
The Pels' 2-4 record is no reason to celebrate, but three of their four losses have come by a touchdown or less, including three-point setbacks to Mazama and Mount Shasta, Calif.
We could easily be 4-2 or 5-1, but the toughest hurdle we face is getting our kids to believe in themselves, Amos says. One of these days we're going to get a group to come through here that knows how to win.
That day might not be too far off. The Pelicans' JV team is 5-1 ' albeit against weaker competition than in past years ' and the eighth-grade squad is unbeaten.
The challenge will be to keep all those younger kids out, Amos says. If we can do that, we might be pretty good in a year or two.
The original plan was for KU to play an independent schedule for two or three years and then return to the SOC.
But with the school's enrollment hovering between 900 and 950, KU is less than half the size of Roseburg and the Medford schools and isn't far above the Class 3A enrollment cap of 900 students.
If Klamath's enrollment declines, or if the enrollment cap slides upward ' which it has several times since the 1960s ' then the school would drop to 3A.
I'm sure our track and cross country runners wouldn't like that, but the other sports probably would, says Amos, noting that the school's basketball and baseball teams have made the playoffs just once each since he came to Klamath Falls eight years ago.
Amos' football team closes its season with SOC members Crater, Ashland and Eagle Point.
The Comets enter Friday's contest against KU with an 0-6 record, but Amos expects a close battle.
They're a lot bigger than us, and I'm sure they'll try to jam the ball down our throats, he says. That's definitely a concern.
The Pelicans will counter with their fine group of skill-position players, led by quarterback Daniel Bennett, running back Sean Anderson and wide receivers Corey Spires, Chris Anderson and Jacob Wynn.
Sean Anderson, who was a first-team all-conference linebacker in the SOC last season, is one of the toughest players Amos has coached.
He broke his finger last week against North Valley, and it was sticking out about 75 degrees, Amos says. The trainer straightened it out, taped it and he was back in the game in a few plays.
Anderson then caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the Pelicans' 14-12 victory.
Crater coach Rich Cable, meanwhile, is hoping his team can notch a victory Friday and finish the season strong. The Comets' final two games are against Grants Pass and Ashland.
We're looking to have some success in these last few games and use that as a springboard into next year, Cable says. We've started to play more sophomores and juniors, and that's going to help us down the road.
SOUTH MEDFORD AT ASHLAND '
South Medford coach Bill Singler was pleased with his team's defensive effort during last Friday's 13-6 overtime win over Grants Pass.
After watching the film, he's even more impressed.
I was especially encouraged by the play of our linebackers, Singler says in pointing to juniors Justin Meyer and Jon Lang and sophomore Ben Koziol. Those kids made some good hits.
Singler also singled out sophomore defensive end Rick Imhausen for his strong play against the Cavemen.
The South Medford mentor is hoping for a duplicate effort against Ashland, which rang up 311 yards passing in a 32-27 loss to Eagle Point last Friday.
The Grizzlies have lost four straight since starting the season 2-0, but they've got Singler's attention.
They've got some good skill kids who can make big plays, he says.
Ashland starting quarterback Logan Bishop, who has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, has thrown in practice this week, but Grizzly coach David Coldiron still wasn't sure of his status Wednesday.
We're going to evaluate him closely and then make a decision, Coldiron says. If he's close to 100 percent he'll be our guy.
Junior Beau Lewis filled in admirably for Bishop last Friday, completing 18 of 35 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns.
A victory would push the Panthers a step closer to their third state-playoff berth in the last four years.
GRANTS PASS AT ROSEBURG '
Roseburg coach Thurman Bell will welcome back starting center Craig Malone and starting linebacker Brian Benson for Friday's game against the Cavemen.
Malone suffered a dislocated elbow and Benson a broken leg during the Indians' 35-7 loss to Canby on Sept. 12.
Roseburg has won three straight without the pair, but Grants Pass represents its toughest opponent since the Canby game.
The Cavemen, on the heels of last Friday's 13-6 overtime loss to South Medford, need a victory to spring themselves back into the playoff race.
I told our guys we need to win two of the last three, says GP coach Jeff Weiss, whose team closes against Crater and North Medford. And we could make that proposition a lot more doable if we could win Friday.
To pull off a victory, the Cavemen will need to slow down Roseburg tailback Austin Shoptaw, the SOC's leading rusher with 751 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail