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A trip to Sweet Home for football, an observation while driving into town and a big event at Philomath City Park are included in this month’s drive.

First off, that football facility in Sweet Home is, well, sweet. I slammed a little bit earlier this fall on Junction City’s visitor sidelines at its football field (and a few folks from that fine town took the time to contact me and disagree) so I thought I’d point out a nice one. I’m fairly certain that Philomath High folks would love to have a playing surface like Sweet Home.

The synthetic turf field was installed in 2015. According to an Albany Democrat-Herald story published at the time, Sweet Home coach Dustin Nichol said the cost of the project exceeded $725,000, but local companies had donated about $300,000 of in-kind services and anonymous donors contributed around $110,000.

The crosswalk lights have been installed and a digital speed sign is in place as you drive west heading into Philomath. It’s a topic that I’ve brought up before and an update is in order.

I watched a lot of running Saturday with Lilly’s Lope for Hope in the morning at Philomath City Park and the Paul Mariman Invitational in the afternoon over on the high school grounds. I focus this space on the Lope with a special piece of artwork that was introduced to the crowd.

Let’s get on with the drive:

First stop — Sweet Home High School

Philomath High football coach Tony Matta obviously cares about his players. Following each game, the players and coaches huddle in one of the end zones for a postgame talk. This time, Matta emerged from the talk wiping tears from his eyes.

You see, Philomath has been eliminated from playoff consideration following the 42-3 loss to Sweet Home. Matta wanted the team to experience the postseason.

“I feel bad for the seniors because I know the effort they put in since they’ve been here,” Matta said. “One of the goals, obviously, was to make the playoffs and this eliminates us pretty much from that.”

The Warriors have 10 seniors on the roster, including running back Colby Roe, receivers Logan Hannigan-Downs and Dylan Bennett, tight end Brennan Provance, lineman Brody Hiner and defensive back Luc Barnes.

“I know that some of those guys just busted their tail and we just can’t get them there,” Matta said. “We just need the supporting cast around them that needs more experience. We knew going into the season we were going to have some young bodies up front with only one senior. Those guys are playing their tails off; they’re just learning under fire.”

Matta is forever positive on Philomath’s chances from week to week. He hopes to see the Warriors come out big this coming Friday with the home finale against Sisters. It’ll be Senior Night and a victory for those guys would be memorable.

But the playoffs won’t happen for Philomath this season.

“I love this group of guys and I know they’re going to be successful,” Matta said. “I just wish we could’ve fulfilled that goal for them.”

Side trip — Main Street on eastern edge of Philomath

In this column about one month ago, I wrote about the potentially dangerous situation at the crosswalk across Highway 20/34, which actually is still Main Street because it’s in the city limits. The crosswalk connects the Boulevard Apartments vicinity with the walking path on the other side.

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The crosswalk has been discussed more than a few times at City Council meetings, back when the Boulevard Apartments development process was ongoing and again recently when Councilor Marion Dark brought it up with fears that someone is going to get killed.

Since then, the flashing lights appear to have been installed at the crosswalk. I saw contractors working on it and the task is apparently completed. I haven’t seen anyone using the crosswalk yet to see if the lights go off and I haven’t taken the time to stop and check them myself.

An addition that I’m really glad to see in place — although it’s temporary — is a digital speed sign that reminds drivers how fast they’re going. The speed limit through that stretch is 40 mph and my guess would be that most drivers seem to be going a little faster. But it’s noticeable — so far I’ve noticed that when you hit that digital speed sign, drivers slow down a bit. Hopefully, they realize that there’s a crosswalk ahead.

As I mentioned, the digital sign isn’t permanent for that location and will be moved to other spots in town.

“We will leave it in areas of concern for about a week at a time,” Philomath Chief of Police Ken Rueben said. “We will also use it during events like the Frolic.”

Rueben said the digital speed sign may also show up in certain areas if the police department receives citizen complaints and so on.

Final stop — Philomath City Park

The sixth annual Lilly’s Lope for Hope on Saturday morning attracted a good crowd, including 12-year-old Josiah Velez, a student from Franklin Elementary in Corvallis. Velez took first place in what he said was his first-ever 5-kilometer race.

“I don’t want to brag but I just did 4-1/2 miles at the Jog-A-Thon,” he said while trying to catch his breath after the race.

Organizer Paula May talked to the crowd before the start of the race and shared an interesting piece of art from Caitlyn Crowe (with framing by Dennis Bowman) that provides an organizational perspective on Lilly’s Lope for Hope.

The artwork displays a tree and here’s how Paula described it:

• “The roots down here show who’s donated in the past, the businesses that have been involved, the community that’s been involved, the church that’s been involved and it’s got all of their names written down here.”

• "The branches have really incredible businesses that out out there ... people that have been involved and want to stay involved in mental health in our community.”

• "The little leaves have the things that the Lilly’s Lope has been able to fund — counseling needs, the HERO challenge, Inspired Day.”

The artwork includes a representation of Lilly Stagner and a horse under the tree. Lilly loved horses.

Pretty cool piece. It was set up inside Randy Kugler Community Hall but was not part of the silent auction. It’ll stay with the Lope.

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Brad Fuqua is editor of the Philomath Express. He can be reached at brad.fuqua@lee.net or 503-480-6919.