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The numbers need to get better. And although final scores, season records and statistics might come to mind, it’s participation numbers on the mind of first-year coach Alex Firth. Meeting with players for the first time last week, he called it the most important piece of the puzzle in the effort to establish a successful program.

“It obviously starts with the kids being able to tell their friends,” Firth said in an interview after the meeting. “It’s also going to start with me getting down to that middle school level and building the clases coming up so we don’t have number issues going forward.”

Part of the challenge involves what comes first.

“I think it’s that catch-22 — you have to have numbers to win and typically, you have to win to get those numbers,” Firth said. “We’ve just got to get those kids to come that are maybe on the borderline, just to get them to come out and have enough kids to practice and play.”

Coach Alex Firth talking to PHS players
PHS football coach Alex Firth talks to players during last week’s meet-and-greet. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Eighteen players were in attendance at the June 9 after-school meeting in the PHS community conference room to eat free pizza and get to know Firth and his staff of assistants. Retained from Tony Matta’s staff are Shane Stueve, Aaron Schermerhorn and Justin Marshall. Firth’s assistants that will wear Warrior colors for the first time include Will Love, DJ Jones, Brock Love, Carlos Nuno and Cameron Sanders.

“Coach Love and I, when I got hired, immediately started watching film and there’s a lot of talent here guys,” Firth told the players. “Our numbers are a little low but there’s a lot of talent, there’s a lot of stuff we can do. We can have fun doing it, OK, but it’s going to be a reciprocal process. We’re going to ask you to do things, we’re going to ask you to learn things.”

Firth said he’s going to assume for now that teams will not be able to get on the football field until after the OSAA moratorium week, which is typically the last week of July. That gives the Warriors about three weeks to learn new offensive and defensive systems before an Aug. 26 jamboree and four weeks before the season opener on Sept. 3 at Valley Catholic.

“I think there’s a ton of potential here,” Firth told players. “Your hair’s going to be blowing back a little bit when you get into the defense and the offense, but we’ll try to taper it back a little bit so there’s a lot of learning happening those first couple of weeks.”

Firth will implement a multi-formation offense.

“It’s a form of spread, but it’s not always a spread … It’s multi-formation, some read offense, a lot of quick passing, lot of screens,” he said. “So just basically trying to get defense misaligned and taking advantage of that.”

Will Love, defensive coordinator, said PHS will run a 3-5-3 attack defense.

“It’s very aggressive, it’s a three-man front, five linebackers, we run multiple coverages,” Love said. “But the beauty about what I like about this defense is it’s fun. … I’ve always had a perspective that we don’t just play defense to stop offense, we play defense to score. … There’s a lot of aggressive style of play involved with that — sometimes a little high risk, sometimes conservative depending on the opponent.”

PHS basketball, wrestling and swimming will not wrap up until late this month and Firth is not yet clear on what the Oregon School Activities Association will allow for workouts.

“We’ve got to see what the OSAA rules are in terms of when we can and can’t meet with the kids,” he said. “We’ll definitely start with the weight training, some conditioning, and we’ll try to figure out what we can do from there.”

In addition to the Valley Catholic game in the opener, the rest of the schedule as currently published includes Sept. 10 at Blanchet Catholic, Sept. 17 at home vs. Woodburn, Sept. 24 at South Umpqua, Oct. 1 at home vs. Scio, Oct. 8 at Willamina, Oct. 15 at Amity, Oct. 22 at home vs. Dayton and Oct. 29 at home vs. Taft.

Philomath went 4-2 in its final season under Tony Matta with wins over Glide, Dayton, Cottage Grove JV and Stayton and losses to Amity and Sisters. The Warriors will compete in 3A to complete a two-year contract of playing down from 4A. OSAA realignment will be decided this coming academic year.

PHS cheerleaders with award
PHS cheerleaders pose for a photo with their third-place traditional building award and hold up OCCA pins that they received. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Cheerleading award

The PHS cheer squad recently earned a third-place award from the Oregon Cheerleading Coaches Association in the traditional building, all-girl category. Coach Kathy Kohler said the team received its highest score of the season at the OCCA championships.

(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).