War Eagles going to battle for playoffs

The War Eagles football team is no doubt in an interesting position this season. The team consists of players from both North Douglas and Yoncalla high school and is led with co-head coaches JJ Mast and Matt Bragg. While it may be an interesting position, it’s not entirely unique. It’s a model adopted by other schools around the OSAA. During the shortened COVID-19 season in 2021, these two schools joined forces and went 5-1 in an eight-man league venue. The two schools considered combining again last season, but a few details could not be ironed out.

This year in the 2A Special District 3 League, the War Eagles are looking to make the playoffs. The team started its season with a tough 8-27 loss to Taft but then was able to bounce back with a 20-12 win over Central Linn. They then would lose to Gold Beach and have to forfeit the game after that, putting them at a difficult 1-3 record start to the season.

But the Eagles have bounced back in a big way, earning a 62-42 win over Rogue River and a 50-29 win at Illinois Valley. They then would fall to Oakland, but third place in the league and a playoff spot could still be on the line if they could earn wins over Reedsport and Bandon/Pacific. The War Eagles needed to take a big step in doing so when they hosted the Reedsport Brave on Homecoming night on Oct. 20.

Reedsport started the game with the ball but quickly turned it over on downs. Then, freshman running back Hunter Vaughn took a pitch out 35 yards for a War Eagles Touchdown, putting them up 8-0 after a two-point conversion.

North Douglas/Yoncalla would be aggressive from there, kicking an onside kick and recovering, giving the offense the ball back at their own 47-yard line.

“You’ve only got nine guys that can cover the ball on the field,” Mast said. “It’s a lot harder when you kick deep. We’ve got a guy who kicks really good on sides, so we like our chances there a little bit better depending on the scenario.”

Junior quarterback Caden Reigard connected with senior tight end Trenton Rabuck for a 27-yard completion that would put the ball on the Brave 37-yard line. A few plays later the War Eagles found the end zone on a rush up the middle, making the score 13-0 in favor of North Douglas/Yoncalla.

The Brave were able to recover another onside kick attempt by the War Eagles at the 50-yard line, appearing to give Reedsport great field position. But the Brave fumbled the ball away and it was recovered at the 39-yard line by the War Eagles. After sophomore Wyatt Reed had a big 20-yard rush, senior Ashton Hardy put the War Eagles up 21-0 with a touchdown run to conclude the first quarter.

The War Eagles defense, who played arguably their strongest game of the season, would continue to give Reedsport trouble and Vaughn found the end zone for another touchdown on a 25-yard rush that put the War Eagles up 28-0. It looked like the Brave offense would have a chance to do something midway through the second quarter, getting the ball down to the War Eagle 30-yard line, but Brave senior quarterback Gabe Foster threw an interception that was picked off by War Eagle freshman Ian Holmes.

Ashton Hardy then scored on a 49-yard touchdown run that put the War Eagles up 36-0 with 5:23 left in the first half. After Reedsport turned it over on downs, Vaughn took his third touchdown of the day to the house on an 84-yard rush, giving the War Eagles an insurmountable 43-0 lead going into the locker room at halftime.

The War Eagles were able to get another knock in when senior Hugh Sannes returned the second half opening kick off for a touchdown, building the score to a 50-0 lead. With a running clock against them, Reedsport was finally able to get on the board with 3:00 left in the third quarter when Foster rushed in on a quarterback keeper for the touchdown.

Foster again found the end zone early in the fourth quarter using his legs, making the game 50-16. However, it was North Douglas/Yoncalla that would get the final punch as sophomore Wyatt Reed found space for a 50-yard touchdown run, giving the War Eagles a 56-16 win over the Brave.

North Douglas/Yoncalla heads on the road tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 28, to face off with Bandon/Pacific. It will be the final regular season game of the season. The two schools will be battling for playoff spots and positioning as a third place finish is needed to continue on for the Warriors after Bandon beat Rogue River 61-6 last Friday night.

“We told them this is something to build off of. Next week is a chance for these two little 1A schools to go to the playoffs in a 2A league. I know it’s something people from around the state didn’t expect us to do, so it’s a chance to prove ourselves,” Bragg said.

Mast added, “Bandon is a tough team. Going into a 50-50 game with some playoff implications on the line, you couldn’t ask for anything more going into your last game of the season — having it all out there still for you.”