Although the team lost its first game after eating at Subway, the Warriors bounced back to win their next two games for a fourth-place trophy. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

It’s official — the Subway jinx for the Philomath High girls basketball team just might be a real thing.

Leading up to the team’s first game on March 9 in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state basketball tournament in Forest Grove, the girls basketball team stopped at a Subway for breakfast. It sparked a flashback for a group of the team’s seniors.

“My freshman year right before the game, we went to Subway and we were eating and then we drove to the school and the coaches told us, ‘we are not having the tournament,’” PHS senior Abigail Brown recalled. “So all of the seniors, we were like, ‘we’re not going to Subway before the game … we’re not doing that.”

Brown was on the varsity roster as a freshman and in case you don’t remember, the Warriors had a 24-1 record (the loss coming to a 5A school in a playoff tuneup game) and were the No. 1 seed. In other words, the Warriors had dominated 4A and were the team to beat.

Philomath defeated Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs and was scheduled to face Cottage Grove in the quarterfinals at the tournament in Forest Grove. In case you haven’t made the connection yet — yes, that’s when COVID started shutting everything down.

Philomath never got the chance to play for the state title.

The Warriors returned to Forest Grove for the first time since that experience (the 2021 showcase and 2022 tournament were staged at Marshfield in Coos Bay). Besides Brown, other freshmen in the program that season that were a part of that team this year as seniors were Mia Bennett, Hailie Couture, Ingrid Hellesto and Ally Todd. I believe Coach Ben Silva told me three of them were there with the team that morning in 2020.

“I was super paranoid, like for the last couple of weeks,” Brown said about the return to Forest Grove. “There were some nerves and it was just weird. It was kinda hard, trusting that there wasn’t going to be something that was going to mess it all up. Crazy, crazy.”

The team did end up eating at Subway last Thursday morning. The same evening, the team lost to Gladstone, 59-38.

PHS coach Blake Ecker has a chat with one of the game officials during Saturday’s championship game against Cascade. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Ecker’s status as coach

It’s a question that I’ll often throw out at coaches when the season comes to an end — “Do you plan to return next season as head coach?”

In the moment, most coaches will tell you “yes.” But every once in a while, coaches will admit that they’re not 100% sure, especially the ones who have been doing this every year for most of their lives.

So, after the Warriors lost to Cascade in the championship game of the 4A state tournament on Saturday night in Forest Grove, I had to throw out that question to Blake Ecker, who’s been the PHS head coach since 2002.

“I’d like to reflect for the next couple of weeks and see where my life is and really what I want to do,” the 54-year-old Ecker said. “I haven’t made that decision yet. Every year as I get older, it seems like it’s getting closer and closer for sure.”

Coaching is a tough racket. It consumes the majority of a person’s life for several months a year and these days depending on the sport, it can be a year-round commitment. The requirements related to coaching high school athletes have also changed over the years. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but it’s an extra layer that wasn’t there so much in the distant past.

While on the subject of longtime basketball coaches, Eddie Van Vlack coached his final game as Ecker’s varsity assistant. In case you missed it, I wrote a story about Van Vlack’s long and successful run as the Warriors JV coach.

Ecker’s been one of the most successful coaches in Oregon basketball during his two decades courtside. If he decides to step aside, the man will definitely be missed.

Philomath High’s baseball team is tied for No. 5 in the OSAAtoday preseason coaches poll. (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Baseball team in top 10

The OSAAToday coaches preseason poll came out earlier this week and Philomath High is among the top 10. The Warriors checked in at No. 5 with 51 poll points behind La Grande (115), North Marion (77), Pendleton (62) and Mazama (61). Philomath and Marist Catholic actually were tied for fifth. The rest of the top 10 includes Hidden Valley (40), Gladstone (36), Henley (36) and Scappoose (23).

Marshfield (21), Junction City (17) and Newport (16) were just outside the top 10.

I was hoping to get a look at the Warriors Wednesday with the season opener scheduled to be played against Taft. But the spring weather has done a number of the team’s home field and it wasn’t playable so the game got canceled. The athletic director was trying to reschedule it for today (Thursday) but I believe there were issues with bus transportation.

As far as playing preseason-ranked teams, 10 of Philomath’s 24 games are against those schools: Gladstone (March 23), Marshfield (March 27), Mazama (April 7), Henley (April 8), La Grande (May 6), North Marion (May 8, 9, 11) and  Newport (May 1, 3, 4).

(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.

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