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KU enjoys success with softer schedule

Prep Notebook

Some would suggest that Klamath Union's football schedule this fall has been as soft as Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

It certainly doesn't compare with the one the Pelicans played two years ago when they matched up against Roseburg, Grants Pass and the two Medford schools.

Fed up with watching his team get stomped on the scoreboard and beaten up physically by the bigger schools, coach Wayne Amos opted to drop out of the Southern Oregon Conference in 2003 and play an independent schedule.

Going against mostly 3A schools, the Pelicans went 4-5 last season and ' drum roll, please ' have gotten off to a 6-0 start this season.

Every Friday we feel like we've got a shot to win, and that's been fun for the kids, the coaches and the fans, says Amos, now in his eighth season as the Klamath Union head coach.

— The one big drawback, of course, is that by not playing a conference schedule the Pelicans aren't eligible to compete for a state playoff berth. But realistically, that was little more than a pipe dream, anyway, Amos says.

The kids understand the situation, but a lot of the seniors also remember what happened to us two years ago when we played the four big schools in the SOC in consecutive weeks, Amos says. We lost big (by an average score of 52-8) and several of the kids were knocked out with injuries.

Since the switch to a softer schedule, the team has increased its numbers from about 40 players to 55. The school also has a frosh-soph team. It, too, is unbeaten.

The other positive aspect of the schedule change is that by being so successful, the Pelicans are now packing their home stadium.

Last year we only had about 19 varsity-caliber kids, says Amos, whose team is coming off a 33-0 win over Henley. We had coaches who would practice just so we could get an 11-on-11 situation. Now we've got 30 varsity kids, and we can legitimately scrimmage.

The practices are totally different, and I think that's one of the reasons we're doing as well as we are.

The Pels have a bye this Friday before traveling to Crater on Oct. 22. Their final two games are at home against Ashland and Eagle Point.

Amos is anxious to see how his squad fares against the three 4A schools. Crater and Ashland have only one win between them, but Eagle Point is 5-0 and ranked 10th in The Associated Press 4A state poll.

We're looking at those last three games as our playoff season, Amos says.

Even though Amos will return seven starters on both sides of the ball next season, he plans on sticking with an independent schedule for at least one more year. And after that?

We're going to play it by ear, he says. At some point we'd like to get back in the (state playoff) hunt. But let's face it, if we were in the SOC this season, we'd be lucky to win three or four games.

With 950 students, Klamath Union is barely over the 4A cap of 900. Having little room to grow because of enrollment boundaries, the school will likely someday move to 3A, especially if the Oregon School Activities Association increases its enrollment cap levels, which it often does.

Something tells me the Pelicans won't ever rejoin the SOC, and that's probably just as well. The SOC lost its fourth state playoff berth with them dropping out, but it also allowed the Medford schools to schedule nonconference opponents such as Tigard, Lake Oswego and Clackamas.

Most fans would much prefer to see a couple of heavyweights slugging it out rather than a heavyweight beating up on a cruiserweight.

AS THE SOUTH MEDFORD players and fans whooped it up on the south end of Spiegelberg Stadium Friday night following its 28-21 victory over North Medford, a single Panther cut short his celebration to shake hands with the Black Tornado players as they headed toward their locker room.

It was senior fullback Logan Boyd, who counts North Medford quarterback Ben Running as one of his best friends.

We get together every Saturday, Running said at North Medford's luncheon last Wednesday. We played Little League baseball together and we both went to Hedrick.

The North-South matchup is about as intense as high school rivalries get, but it's always heartwarming to see such acts of sportsmanship.

'MEDFORD BELTS ASHLAND,'

the headline read in the Daily Press newspaper in Wisconsin.

In what sounded like a game out of the Fred Spiegelberg era, the Medford Raiders rushed for 233 yards and ran back two interceptions for touchdowns in romping to a 46-14 victory over the Ashland Oredockers Friday night on a rainy, wind-swept field in Ashland, Wis.

No word on whether the Raiders are thinking about changing their nickname to the Black Tornado.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail