Hey Warriors fans, today is Friday, Sept. 6.
Football season arrives tonight with a 7 p.m. kickoff at Junction City. The Warriors will be trying to defeat the Tigers for the third straight year to begin a season. Two years ago, Philomath rallied from a halftime deficit for a victory and last year, the Warriors rolled.
Junction City comes into this fall with the desire to improve upon a subpar record over the past couple of years. The top player on the team is probably Estifanos Gerdes, a senior who plays both ways at wide receiver and defensive back. Junior Bryer Moore is also a player to watch in Junction City’s line.
Philomath stressed a physical run game last year but this season’s team has different characteristics that prompted coaches to go with a revised plan.
“We’ll spread it out a little bit and hopefully provide lanes for the ground game,” PHS coach Tony Matta said. “I still believe our skills guys are as good as anybody so we’ll try to put them in spots to be successful.”
Matta believes his athletes have progressed to a higher comfort level with the head coach and most assistants back this season.
“We’ve changed some things but they know the expectations and we’re moving along really well,” Matta said.
Elsewhere around the conference, one of the most interesting games could be a showdown between Cottage Grove and Cascade — two teams ranked in the coaches’ preseason poll. Tillamook heads to Newport, Sisters goes to Burns, Stayton will travel to a fairly good North Marion squad and Sweet Home will play at highly-regarded Marist Catholic.
The volleyball team had a late night Thursday but the results were favorable with victories over 5A Crescent Valley in five sets and a sweep over Cottage Grove, a team ranked No. 4 in the preseason coaches poll (the Warriors were just outside the top 10 at No. 11).
Despite the late hour, Philomath looked like an energized squad while taking the floor at 8:53 p.m. It took the Warriors 67 minutes for a 25-15, 25-19, 25-21 win over the Lions.
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The most impressive moments of the doubleheader to me was how Philomath met the challenge of closing out victories. Against Crescent Valley, the match went to five sets. Some inconsistent play plagued Philomath early and the Raiders held their biggest lead at 6-3. Later, down 12-10, the Warriors simply took over and finished strong to win their season opener, 26-24, 20-25, 13-25, 25-16, 15-12.
Claire Skinkis was impressive with her serving, getting two aces during that match-ending run. On the first one, CV hit the ball sideways out of bounds. The Raiders didn’t make a play on the second one, watching it land inside the line for a 13-12 lead.
In the nightcap, Philomath was in control most of the match but Cottage Grove started to get some momentum in the third set and had a 20-16 lead. Philomath refocused and dominated down the stretch with big hits by Sage Kramer and Joelle Berger and nice serving by Ashlynn Barron. Philomath scored six straight points to win after trailing 21-19.
Around the conference, Sisters swept Marist Catholic but Newport, Cascade and Woodburn all lost on sweeps.
The Warriors head to a tournament at Cascade Saturday.
In boys soccer, Philomath lost a tough one by a 3-2 count. The Warriors trailed 2-0 early, fought back to tie the score and lost it on a Hidden Valley goal in the 64th minute.
Around the league, Sisters’ game was canceled, Stayton dropped a 1-0 game at Valley Catholic and as of 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Woodburn’s result against North Marion had not been reported.
Look for stories later today on the volleyball and boys soccer teams.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the next game.
— Brad Fuqua, Philomath Express