Lions football faces early test

The Lions football program played only one game last year, losing to Philomath, but the Lions did not wait too long to welcome some formidable opponents to Cottage Grove.

Conference rival Marist Catholic and 5A North Bend were the opponents slated for the Lions this past Friday. Marist has been a very tough team the past couple of years, playing in the 4A state championship last year against Mazama and only being two years removed from finishing as the fifth-ranked team in 4A and losing to Banks in the state semi-final tournament.

North Bend has also seen some recent success. In 2019 they finished ranked number nine in 5A and made it to the state playoffs two years in a row in the 18 and 19 seasons.

The junior varsity (JV) teams were able to get some plays in, too, as the jamboree was scheduled for a typical format of 10 plays for each team on offense and defense.

The JV team for Cottage Grove gave up only a couple of scores against both North Bend and Marist showing aggressive effort on the defensive side of the ball.

As for the offense, it was clear that the brief amount of practices the football team had together left them with some limitations as they had some positive plays but did not score once in their second series against Marist.

Cottage Grove’s varsity team stepped up against the Bulldogs from North Bend first and, similar to the JV team, offense was a struggle at times. On defense, the Lions forced a turnover recovering a fumble, and showed some signs of improvement.

Next, Cottage Grove got ready for a showdown with the Spartans from Marist, who showed why they have been a strong force in football since returning to the 4A division in 2018. They put up three scores on the Lions and forced two more turnovers on defense.

“We have a really young team and we got plenty to work on, no doubt, but I love the kids’ effort,” said Cottage Grove head coach Polamalu on the jamboree. “I think the team has something to measure themselves on and so we need to keep moving forward, but I think we need to go back a little bit and shore up some things.

“I think it’s crucial for our guys to get out there and to line up against two great programs. I honestly think we have to challenge ourselves whether it be players or staff to play against programs like that and get a real assessment of where we’re at and where we need to be.”

For Cottage Grove, they will build on the positive signs they showed over their two series against North Bend and Marist to gear up for their first game coming up on Friday, Sept. 3 as they take a long trip north to clash against the Fighting Fisherman of Astoria at 5:30 p.m.

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