One year ago, the Yoncalla Eagles and the North Douglas Warriors football teams battled on the gridiron. The Warriors were dominant that day, taking down the Eagles 47-13. The two local high schools are separated by about 5 miles. As normal, they each had different coaching staffs, different players and different uniforms. However, in 2022, the Warriors and Eagles football programs will become one and be known as the War Eagles.
“North Douglas and Yoncalla are cooped this year and we have moved up to play in the 2A classification. 2A has moved to a nine-man model, so there will be some adjustment for us. The higher level of competition will also be a challenge,” said JJ Mast, who is a co-head along with Matt Bragg.
North Douglas opened last season with a tough 32-44 loss to Elkton; however, the Warriors tore off five consecutive wins after that, winning by an average of 39 points per game in that stretch. But North Douglas would drop their final two games of the season, including getting blasted at Triangle Lake, 7-58.
Yoncalla had a roller coaster season and went 2-5 in 2021. The Eagles didn’t play a game until mid-September and opened up their season with a fortified win and a forfeited loss. They struggled against Powers, Elkton and North Douglas on the field before earning a big 52-0 win at Gilchrist. The Eagles then battled till the end with Prospect Charter/Butte, but fell 34-35.
The Eagles and Warriors both had just 12 players each listed on their roster a year ago. A combined six seniors are gone from those teams. This season, there are 24 players listed on the combined roster. Yet the team is still young, as 17 of those players are freshman or sophomores.
“We are optimistic with a larger pool of athletes we are able to select from. We are currently looking at 25 kids with the likelihood of adding a few more once school starts,” Mast said. “The transition has been seamless as we coped during the shortened spring ‘COVID’ season two years ago.”
During the shortened COVID-19 season in 2021, the team joined forces and went 5-1 in an eight-man league setting. The two schools considered combining again last season, but a few details could not be ironed out and both decided to play six-man football in the 1A Special District 3 South. The two schools feel confident heading into the 2022 season.
“On the field, North Douglas senior TE/DE Ray Gerrard (6' 4" 230) will look to build off a great junior year in which he was a first team selection on both sides of the ball and named the conference defensive player of the year,” Mast said.
He said Yoncalla senior Ashton Hardy (6'1", 200,) a first team all-conference pick last year, “is a very athletic and big running back who runs well inside and has speed to hurt you on the outside. We are looking for a big year from him.”
Additionally, “North Douglas senior Trenton Rabuck (5'11" 205), a second team selection last year, has looked good up front and will anchor the offensive line and line up at middle linebacker,” Mast continued. “Yoncalla senior WR Noah Leary (6'5", 210), also a second team pick last year, may be our best athlete. Incredible blend of athleticism and size. North Douglas junior, Caden Reigard will lead the team at QB.”
The War Eagles will open their season on the Oregon coast at Taft High School this Friday.