Coach Levi Webber hadn’t seen any of his teams play its season opener this far into March since 2014. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Don’t let one game set the tone for the season.

That might be a message coming out of Philomath High’s 10-7 loss Tuesday to Santiam Christian. Last year, the Warriors dropped their first four games and six of their first eight before turning the corner in a season that didn’t end until the semifinals of the state playoffs.

Interestingly, only three teams in all of Class 4A have played only one game — La Grande, Mazama and Philomath. Coincidentally, all three teams were ranked in the preseason top 5 coaches poll with La Grande at No. 1, Mazama and No. 4 and Philomath at No. 5 and all three lost their openers in close games.

By the way, Santiam Christian was ranked No. 3 in the 3A preseason coaches poll with two first-place votes.

Coach Levi Webber (and most other coaches) always have to deal with frustrations in the spring with wet weather getting in the way of ballgames. Philomath’s opener that had been set for March 15 against Taft got rained out and an attempt was made to reschedule it for the next day but it couldn’t be worked out. So, Webber organized an intrasquad scrimmage to try to give the kids some game situations.

If case you’re interested (I was, so I looked it up), March 21 represents Philomath’s latest season-opening date in nine years. The Warriors opened the 2014 season on March 21 with a 5-3 loss at North Marion.

Season-opening dates in the following years included March 19 (2015), March 18 (2016 and 2017), March 16 (2018 and 2022) and March 13 (2019). The pandemic wiped out the 2020 season and led to a later-than-usual schedule in 2021 with games not beginning until mid-April.

At this time last year, the Warriors had played five games by the 23rd.

So, the Warriors are scheduled to make their regular-season home debut Thursday afternoon against Gladstone, weather permitting. There is rain in the forecast but maybe it’ll let up in time to get the game in — if the field’s playable.

Gladstone comes into the game with a 3-0 record with all of those wins coming over Oregon West Conference teams — Stayton (2-1) and North Marion (12-4 and 9-1).

Philomath will then get ready for its annual appearance in the tournament at Newport. The Warriors are scheduled to play Marshfield on Monday morning and then Hillsboro and Valley Catholic on Tuesday.

Among the remaining nonleague games after the tournament — Madra, Mazama and Henley — the April 8 matchup on the Hornets’ home field will probably be the most challenging. Henley’s going to be motivated after Philomath rudely eliminated the Hornets from the playoffs last season, 12-4.

Kaili Saathoff is hitting .508 through 16 games for Linfield so far this season. (Photo by Kelly Bird/Linfield Sports Communications)

Saathoff off to hot start

Former Philomath High softball standout Kaili Saathoff is off to a great start with Linfield this spring with a .508 batting average through 16 games. Saathoff, sophomore, has 11 multi-hit games, has hit safely in 16 of 18 games and over the past five days, has gone 8 for 13 (.615 batting average).

The Wildcats are currently 14-2 on the season and riding a 10-game winning streak.

Last season, Saathoff started 17 of the team’s 33 games as a freshman and hit .310. Back when she played for the Warriors, she was the Oregon West Player of the Year during her senior season. She had a .459 career batting average in high school — and interestingly, was never caught stealing.

On her player page on the Linfield website, Saathoff had this to say about heading to the McMinnville school:

“In all honesty, Linfield wasn’t even on my list of potential colleges until Jackson (Vaughan, head coach) reached out to me and showed interest in recruiting me. I liked what I heard during our meetings, went on a visit and met a few players. I loved talking to the players and seeing the campus. Linfield felt right in terms of what I needed and wanted in a school.”

If you want to take a jaunt up to Salem, Linfield is scheduled to play doubleheaders at Willamette on both Friday and Sunday.

Stella Neville placed fourth overall in the drill down competition last week at state. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

State dance championships

Philomath High’s Shining Stars dance team competed March 17-18 at the state championships in Salem and placed fifth in jazz and seventh in hip hop.

The OSAA reported that there were 42 performances on Day 1 and 36 on Day 2 at the Oregon State Fair and Exposition Center’s Pavilion. Valley Catholic was a double winner in 4A/3A/2A/1A with first place in both the jazz and traditional categories.

Philomath’s appearance in the jazz competition was against other 4A/3A/2A/1A teams but the hip hop event on the second day included schools of all sizes. Lake Oswego won the event and the Warriors beat out two others that were competing — Southridge and Milwaukie.

The 4A/3A/2A/1A drill down competition took place on Day 1 and Philomath senior and co-captain Stella Neville placed fourth overall.

“There are many things to celebrate about this year’s state dance championship — returning to a large venue, competing multiple routines, a packed floor for grand finale, celebrating together and so much more,” Dance and Drill Coaches Association board chair Danielle Schneider was quoted as saying in an OSAA article. “It was fun and inspiring to see all the different types of routines at this year’s championship.”

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

Brad Fuqua

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.