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Pelicans look forward to reclassification

Klamath Union has had success as a football independent, but joining a new league would allow it to compete for a state playoff berth

Playing an independent football schedule has ratcheted up the number of players on the team and led to more victories on the field for Klamath Union High School.

The Pelicans, who meet Crater at 7 tonight at Modoc Field in Klamath Falls, have posted a 6-1 record this season and are 16-9 since dropping out of the Southern Oregon Conference at the start of the 2003 season.

But ninth-year Pelicans head coach Wayne Amos admits he and his players are looking forward to a probable reclassification of Oregon high schools that will pit the team against schools its own size.

The Oregon School Activities Association is expected to authorize the reclassification plan at a meeting Monday in Wilsonville. Under the plan, the state will change from its current four-classification format to six classes in an effort to reduce enrollment gaps and balance competitive play.

Klamath Union would move into a 5A district with Ashland, Eagle Point, Crater and Mazama. And for the first time in four years, the football team would be eligible to compete for a state playoff berth.

— That (a possible state playoff berth) would be a nice carrot for our kids, says Amos. I think it would be a situation where I could work them harder in the off-season.

Getting some wins and stabilizing the program has been a very positive thing, but playing schools our own size in a new league and having an honest chance to make the playoffs is something we're really looking forward to.

With an enrollment of a little over 900, Klamath Union would still be the smallest school in the new league, Amos says. But the gap between KU and the largest school ' Crater ' would be about 500, as compared to a gap of 800 to 1,200 between the Pelicans and former SOC rivals Roseburg, Grants Pass and the two Medford schools.

We can deal with a couple hundred difference, says Amos.

Amos' latest team might be his best since he took over the program in 1997.

The Pelicans are loaded with quick, talented skill position players. Senior slotback Matt Porter, the team's leading rusher with nearly 600 yards, is a former 100-meter district champion in the SOC. Halfback Jon Saxton, who has more than 500 yards on the ground, and wide receiver Mark Brooks are also sprinters on the KU track team.

Amos takes advantage of his speedy skill players by running a fly offense. The scheme involves a back going in motion at full speed. The quarterback can hand that back the ball on a sweep, fake it and hand off to someone else or fake it again and throw. There are other variations.

The offense fits our personnel, says Amos. We're not real big or physical up front, and this offense allows us to get to the perimeter.

Junior quarterback Tory Snyder has upgraded the Pels' passing attack since returning to the lineup two weeks ago following a shoulder injury.

Klamath Union is coming off a 7-6 win over Phoenix, the state's No. 9-ranked Class 3A team. Snyder hit sophomore wide receiver Aaron Foster on a fade pattern for a touchdown with 2&

189; minutes remaining and Foster added the PAT to put the Pels over the top.

The win clinched KU's second winning season in as many years, but Amos knows his team will be challenged tonight. Crater is the biggest, most physical team on KU's schedule, and the Comets have their own set of fast skill players.

I'm sure they'll try to run the ball down our throat, says Amos. The best way to avoid that is for our offense to control the ball, move the chains and score some points.

At 3-4, Crater has a chance to post its first winning season since 1994 if it can win its final three contests. The Comets meet Grants Pass and Ashland to close out the season.

We're going to make every attempt to win out, says Crater coach John Beck. We still have some goals out there and a winning season is one of them.

The Comets' forte is a defense that allows 263.1 yards per game, stingiest in the SOC.

In other SOC games tonight, Eagle Point (4-3, 1-3 SOC) meets North Medford (3-3, 2-1) at Spiegelberg Stadium, South Medford (2-4, 2-1) travels to Ashland (4-3, 1-3) and Grants Pass (3-4, 2-1) journeys to Roseburg (5-1, 3-0).

SOUTH MEDFORD AT ASHLAND ' South Medford can take another step toward a state playoff berth with a victory over the reeling Grizzlies, who have lost three straight games following a 4-0 start.

Ashland's struggles can be traced in large part to injuries to starting quarterback Sam Littleton and starting tailback Dylon Steeves.

Littleton, who suffered a medial collateral knee ligament sprain on Oct. 7 when a pile of Grants Pass players fell on his leg, will play in some capacity, says Ashland coach Charlie Hall.

He's in amazing shape, and that's allowed him to come back faster, says Hall.

Littleton is the SOC's second-ranked quarterback with 964 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He's also a starting safety on defense but won't be on that side of the ball tonight, says Hall.

Steeves, meanwhile, has torn knee cartilage but will make a comeback attempt tonight and have surgery after the season is over.

It's a matter of how much pain he can endure, says Hall.

The Panthers have also had a slew of injuries, but their superior depth has allowed them to remain in the SOC playoff hunt. Junior quarterback Kyle Singler is finally healthy following a knee injury suffered in summer basketball.

He passed for 125 yards and two touchdowns in last week's 17-15 win over Grants Pass and also intercepted two passes on defense.

Two other injured Panthers ' tailback/linebacker Ryan Odell and fullback/linebacker Ken Licea ' have practiced this week and may be available for limited duty, says South Medford coach Bill Singler.

GRANTS PASS AT ROSEBURG ' Grants Pass senior tailback Craig Dolmage, the SOC's leading rusher with 821 yards and seven touchdowns, took a helmet to the ribs against South Medford last Friday and isn't expected to play tonight.

Senior Matt Deivert, a 145-pound speedster who has run for 98 yards and three touchdowns the past two games, gets the start if Dolmage can't play.

Roseburg has rolled to four straight wins since a 21-18 loss to No. 2-ranked Clackamas. The Indians' air-tight defense has yielded a total of 13 points the past three games and is giving up just 10.2 points per game overall.

Kyle Dever, a 6-1, 171-pound outside linebacker, leads the way for the Roseburg 'D.'

He's a very smart player and he gets great breaks to the ball, says Roseburg coach Thurman Bell of Dever. Our defense has some quickness. We've got a lot of kids who can run around.

Offensively, the Indians have gone back to their power running game and veer option attack, but in last week's 29-0 win over Crater, senior quarterback Brett Stephens passed for 158 yards and two touchdowns.

We spent a lot of time during our bye week (prior to the Crater game) throwing the ball in practice, says Bell. We've got all new receivers, and the timing just hasn't been there. But Brett is finally getting comfortable with the guys he's throwing to.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail Pelicans look forward to reclassification"dhunt@mailtribune.com.