Football practice
Jared Gerding, from left, Isaac Workman and Joseph Choi work on a lineman’s drill during practice on Wednesday at Clemens Field. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Game on, game off, game moved, game tentative.

It’s been an interesting stretch for Tony Matta, athletic director, and Amanda Bauer, athletics/activities administrative assistant, when it comes to putting together Philomath High’s sports schedules for seasons that are about to begin next week.

As of Thursday, the football team’s schedule had been reduced to just two games while the volleyball team faces the possibility of playing all of its matches on the road. Soccer games are being moved to Crescent Valley’s artificial turf field and cross-country continues to finalize its meets.

Although more changes could be coming, current schedules reveal that the PHS cross-country team will be the first Warriors squad to be involved in an athletic competition in 362 days. Joe Fulton’s runners will compete at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 4, in the Florence Golf Links. That same day at 7 p.m., the Philomath girls soccer team will square off at Crescent Valley against the 5A Raiders.

The last Philomath teams to compete were the boys and girls basketball teams on March 7, 2020, in the first round of the state playoffs.

Volleyball has been an up-and-down experience for all involved, especially with news earlier this week that Benton County remains in the extreme risk level for two more weeks. Under those restrictions, Philomath can’t host volleyball matches in the gym.

“Right now, we’re anticipating playing all of them on the road,” Matta said. “We can adjust that if we need to as we move forward. Right now, we’re in the process of making sure that we’re OK transportation-wise.”

Obviously, if Benton County’s COVID-19 risk level ever drops, the Warriors can then look at hosting some volleyball matches. For now, nine matches are on the slate in the opponent’s gym. The day started with 10 matches but the planned March 3 opener against Cascade was cancelled because of state guidelines.

“We can’t practice fully as a team but it’s about the opportunity to at least get something in for those girls,” Matta said while the volleyball team practiced outside on the tennis courts.

The football schedule has gone through several recent changes that leaves Matta looking for opponents. The season opener was supposed to be March 5 at Scio but the Loggers opted out.

“Scio has 18 kids, 11 freshmen, and so they opted not to play us, which in a normal year you couldn’t do,” Matta said, adding that there are no league scheduling requirements during these abbreviated seasons. “We only have 26 kids when everybody’s here and so I get that they’re worried about the safety.”

Matta said there are no opportunities to fill the March 5 date (Editor’s note: Since this story was published, Philomath added Glide to the schedule for March 6). On the following Monday, the Warriors will play the Sweet Home junior varsity. Then Philomath heads up to Dayton on March 12 and the only current varsity home game is March 19 against Amity.

Willamina had been on an earlier schedule but also opted out of playing the Warriors for the same reasons as Scio. Taft is also off the schedule with that school not wanting to play an opponent from a county that’s at a higher COVID-19 risk level.

Matta’s put out feelers to try to arrange games to fill in those vacant dates.

“I want to get to the five — counting the culminating week,” he said. “I think we have a shot to get there.”

The March 26 date falls during spring break week and Matta said the game wouldn’t necessarily need to be on a Friday. Then comes a potential fourth game on April 2 followed by whatever can be set up for culminating week.

The PHS soccer teams have seen various changes as well, most notably that the Warriors’ home field will actually be at Crescent Valley. On Thursday, the girls’ game mentioned earlier against the Raiders will be played and then two days later on Saturday, Philomath faces Sisters at high noon.

The boys soccer team will be a little late to the dance with its current scheduled opener not occurring until March 11 at Stayton.

The cross-country team has made adjustments as well. The most recent was a decision to withdraw from a March 24 meet at Cottage Grove and instead compete on March 26 in the Cascade Invitational.

A common phrase that really needs to be taken seriously this year: All schedules are subject to change.

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