Sophomore CD Nuno scored two touchdowns in the first half and senior Kaden Muir had two touchdowns in the second half to lead the Philomath High School football team to a 30-8 victory Friday night at Klamath Union.
Muir also tackled Klamath Union’s quarterback in the end zone for a safety in the second quarter.
“The defense played really, really well,” PHS coach Alex Firth said. “Our shell played really well, we shut down their passing game and we frustrated their quarterback.”
On offense, Firth described a lack of rhythm with fits and spurts. Philomath appeared to be its own worst enemy at times with three turnovers — losing the ball twice on fumbles and once on an interception in the end zone. The Warriors also had a long punt return called back on an illegal blindside block.
Nuno scored the first touchdown of the evening on a 65-yard pass play and the second one on a 40-yard option pitch. The Warriors led 16-0 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Philomath went up 30-0 on Muir’s TD runs of 50 and 7 yards. Muir’s first touchdown involved a fortunate bounce. On the play, the ball hit the ground on a quarterback-running back collision but ended up bouncing back up into Muir’s hands.
Muir, Nuno and sophomore Rocco De La Rosa were standouts. And special teams played a role in the contest with Hudson Raab returning to action and nailing four extra points and Muir putting on a show punting.
“Kaden punted the living crud out of the football, oh my goodness,” he said. “He flipped the field like three times, pinned them deep.”
On one of those punts, Muir’s punt was downed at the 1-yard line. On the next play, Muir rang up the QB in the end zone for two points.
The game allowed the Warriors to get in a lot of young players, the coach pointed out, such as freshman Jamin Peters on the O-line and D-line and freshman linebacker Kaden Howard. Plus, sophomore Josiah Peters went the distance at outside linebacker.
The 221-mile road trip to Klamath Falls, which is close to five hours on a school bus, takes a toll on the players in terms of mental preparation, Firth said.
“This was the classic trap game,” Firth said. “I mean, you’re playing an opponent that’s 1-6 and it’s a five-hour bus ride, it’s hot and a lot of them slept. You can tell them as much as you want to try to maintain their focus but I mean, they drift in and out.”
In such situations against an overmatched team, things out on the field can get sloppy.
“It does lead to some mistakes and stuff and I think part of it, too, is the youth and trying to do too much,” Firth added. “It is what it is and I can deal with that but yeah, I think the length of these road trips is hard on kids. Hopefully we don’t do these anymore.”
Firth believes the team still has an outside chance to qualify for the 4A playoffs.
“I think there’s still a playoff possibility; it comes down to rankings at the end of the year,” Firth said. “Those rankings swing wildly in the last couple of weeks, so I mean, we still have a playoff opportunity.”
Philomath, which is now 4-4 overall, will play a winless Sweet Home team in the regular-season finale next week. If the Warriors pull out a victory, it will be the team’s first winning season at the 4A level since 2015.
Firth said the program needs to take the next step.
“The kids are doing what we’re asking to do and we’re winning some games and we’ve just got to continue doing that,” Firth said. “We need to get that signature win against one of the better teams in our conference — we’ve got to beat a Marist, we’ve got to beat a Cascade, we’ve got to beat a Junction City.”
No matter what happens after the final week, Firth believes the program is moving forward.
“Next year, we’ll be better and we’ll get almost everybody back,” Firth added. “We’re going to miss Kaden and Mason (Stearns) and kids like all of those seniors we lose every year but we also are pretty young comparatively.”
The regular-season finale is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 27 at Clemens Field. The seniors will be recognized before the game.