The Philomath High School football program sent athletes through four days of 90-minute workouts last week and will next transition into summer conditioning.
Second-year coach Tony Matta didn’t have that week of workouts last season. He said it’s an opportunity for experienced players to get in extra work and newcomers to try out the sport.
“It’s just a chance to get in some new installs and get kids thinking football for the summer,” Matta said. “Really, the numbers aren’t what we need and it’s a good recruiting tool. It doesn’t cost them anything, they can come out and see what it’s about and make an informed decision whether they want to play or not.”
The Oregon School Activities Association’s official end of the year was May 26.
“You can do anything after that, any sort of practice as long as it’s not padded,” Matta said when asked about OSAA restrictions. “If you’re going to go to contact camp or have a contact camp, you have a 10-day window to get those five days in. It’s the same as in the fall — you have a day in helmets, a day in helmets and shoulder pads, and that kind of stuff.”
Philomath High’s summer lifting officially begins June 24 with Monday through Thursday sessions from 7-9 p.m.
“We actually lift from 7 to 8 and do other stuff from 8 to 9 — run, jump and agility stuff,” Matta said. “We’ll designate some days where it’s like, ‘hey, offensive linemen, at 8, you’re going to go work’ or on Wednesdays, it’s going to be wide receivers and quarterbacks after the weightlifting sessions.”
The summer program doesn’t meet Fourth of July week (July 1-5). Then after lifting the next three weeks of July, the OSAA’s moratorium week arrives July 28-Aug. 3. Lifting returns the first week of August. Matta said the program will host a youth camp Aug. 12-15 with one-hour sessions each of those days. The camps are open to students who will be in the third through eighth grades.
“It’s about getting those kids in before they start their season, just getting them to use our terminology and getting them out there catching and running and that sort of stuff,” Matta said. “It’s a good opportunity for younger kids ... to get to know us and see what we do.”
The timing of the youth camp is later than past years.
“I wanted to try to do it around the time right before they’re going to start what they do, so we don’t get them in the middle of July and then it’s six, eight more weeks for them,” Matta said. “I like it to correspond and be around the same time we’re out there. They’ll go 5 to 6 and we’ll go 6 to 8 and get a little bit of conditioning in and again, we’ll start to talk about what we’re going to do offensively, defensively.”
The first official practices for fall sports arrive Aug. 19.
“It’s changed so much over the years with the amount of time you can practice, so you can’t have (full-contact) doubles every day anymore,” Matta said. “On a doubles day now, one of the two practices has to be light contact, if any, and more teaching than physical.”
With Matta in his second year, players should have more of a comfort level with what’s going on around them. But coaches will be trying their best to identify player strengths and then use those in a way to produce positive results on the field.
“We’re adjusting what we’re doing on both sides of the ball based on our kids,” Matta said. “Last year, we were pretty big, pretty physical. We’re going to be younger up front this year and we’re not as physical yet, those kids haven’t matured.”
The Warriors finished 2-6 overall, 0-5 in the Oregon West Conference last year.
“We’re replacing some pretty good kids who graduated and some young kids are going to have to step into some roles,” Matta said. “There’s a difference between varsity and JV football ... almost every kid got snaps with the varsity team last year so they have an idea of what it is, but that intensity level is different for an entire game as opposed to getting into the fourth quarter of a Junction City game or something.”
And back to those weights. Matta said it can make all the difference. But in addition, he will organize a plan of attack based on skills.
“We're going to adjust what we do a little bit as we would every year based on our personnel,” Matta said. “I think we have some great skill kids and we’re going to be young up front and we recognize that so we’ve got to put ourselves in a position to be successful with what we do as opposed to forcing a round peg into a square hole.”
So with that peek at the lineup, will Philomath need a little more finesse when it comes to offense?
“Offensively, we still want to run the football obviously,” Matta said. “We’re a year more mature in the passing game and we’ll try to set up a passing game that’s successful for us so teams don’t put eight guys in the box like they did at the end of last year. We still ran the ball fairly effectively but we’ve got to be able to throw it better and that’s one of the things we’re working on this summer.”
The quarterback situation appears solid with Michael Lundy returning for his junior season. Last year’s JV quarterback, Caleb Jensen, will be in the mix as well.
“Mike’s going to have to play a lot of ‘D’ as well and one of the goals as the numbers grow will be to get relief for guys, which we couldn’t do as well last year,” Matta said. “You would really see that drop-off in the second half when kids are tired; there’s not another body like them to get out there.”
Elsewhere, Colby Roe, a co-captain last season, is expected to return to the backfield for his senior year.
Matta would be pleased if he can get 50 players on the roster.
“The bigger teams in our league had about 60 kids and you can tell those are the more successful teams,” Matta said. “It helps in practice to have those numbers.”
The Warriors will host a jamboree on Aug. 30. Matta said schools confirmed to be participating with Philomath include Crescent Valley, South Albany and Regis. He added that Seton Catholic may possibly return this year but final decisions on their end hadn’t been determined.
The regular season opens Sept. 6 at Junction City, which has been the Warriors’ first opponent for three straight years now. The home opener will be Sept. 13 against Siuslaw. The conference opener would be Sept. 27 at home at Newport.
The final game on the actual schedule is Oct. 25 at Cascade but Matta said Philomath will play a ninth game with an opponent to be determined. If the Warriors qualify for a play-in game, that would be the ninth game.
If Philomath doesn’t qualify, the team would just schedule an additional opponent. There is also the possibility that Philomath would schedule a tune-up game if the Warriors get an automatic berth in the state playoffs.