Philomath High football hopes to turn the corner with its next season — even if it’s abbreviated and there are no playoffs.
The Warriors finished 1-7 in the fall of 2019 with the lone victory coming in the opener against Junction City, 15-13. Games against Siuslaw, McLoughlin and even Sisters — despite a 16-point loss to the Outlaws — could’ve gone the other way with a few breaks here and there, a few less injuries, a little bit better execution. You turn those around and Philomath could’ve been looking at a 4-4 season, which just looks and feels a whole lot better.
But Philomath will put that in the past and forge ahead. It’s unknown what athletes will be back to put on uniforms. Key players that could be back include linebacker/running back Issiah Blackburn, tight end Matt Workman, quarterback/defensive back Michael Lundy, wideout Carson Gerding, lineman Austin Murphree, lineman Connar Kohn, lineman Joseph Choi, linebacker Josiah Gunn — all of those players made the 2019 Oregon West all-league list.
Philomath was placed in Class 3A’s Special District 1-South league. Other teams in the league include Amity, Dayton, Scio, Taft and Willamina.
The Warriors are one of nine 4A schools playing down in 3A, the others being Corbett, Junction City, Sisters, Siuslaw, Baker, La Grande, McLoughlin and Ontario.
Amity appears as though it would be the preseason favorite in this SD1-South league. The team had an 8-3 season in 2019 with advancement past the first round of the 3A playoffs. It appears that Amity lost a good number of its players to graduation off that squad, but top returnees could include tight end/linebacker Josh Wart and quarterback/defensive back Keenan Graham.
Scio had a decent team that finished 5-5 overall after a first-round state playoff loss to Burns. But the Loggers were competitive with two of their losses coming by one score.
Beyond Amity and Scio, the rest of the teams in the league struggled in 2019. Dayton and Taft both finished 3-6 and Willamina really struggled at 0-9.
Knowing nothing about returning players, I’d go with Amity as the preseason favorite to win the league with Philomath and Scio battling for the No. 2 spot. But really, any one of those three teams could come out on top.
Dayton and Taft would need to make up a lot of ground to get into the same category as the top three teams. Willamina appears to be a program that would want to just get a few wins and be competitive in their games.