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Football Previews | Pioneers trying to get healthy before Baker City

East Oregonian

Published on October 3, 2018 12:01AM

Last changed on October 3, 2018 11:17PM

The Mac-Hi Pioneers have two enemies to overcome this Friday: the Baker Bulldogs, and the flu.

Mac-Hi has struggled maintaining a consistent athlete turnout for their practices throughout the week, with at least four players out sick each day.

“It’s had a huge effect on us. It’s been tough practicing 11-on-11,” said coach Gary Robertson. “When you have the numbers that our team does, you rely on everyone.”

Robertson says that most of the players should be able to recover in time to travel to Baker (2-3, 1-2) on Friday night.

“They match up with us pretty well,” Robertson said. “They have good experience, put the pressure on, and blitz aggressively.”

Echo at McKenzie: Up until Tuesday, Echo thought they were going to play Burnt River.

A last-minute schedule change now has them driving to McKenzie, just east of Eugene.

“We’re not quite sure why (Burnt River) canceled,” said Cougars coach Rich Thew. “We knew that they only had six or seven guys going into the season, so we weren’t surprised.”

Thew says the new opponents have the team “drastically” changing their expectations — while Burnt River has yet to win a game this season, McKenzie is 5-0, and the top of Special District 4’s 1A division.

“We know we’re gonna play a good team that’ll challenge us,” Thew said. “But we’re cautiously confident. We’ve been running the ball really well. We just need to up our mindset and our intensity.”

Echo is coming off a three-game winning streak, including last week’s 72-0 shutout against Prairie City. They’re currently 3-1 for the league.

Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii at Union: Pilot Rock may be meeting its match on Friday night.

Ranked at No. 10 in the OSAA, the Rockets will face Union, the No. 15 team. Pilot Rock is currently undefeated, and Union has only had two losses so far this season. They’re coming off a big win against Imbler last week, scoring a 28-14 home victory.

“We’re looking good. Everyone’s healthy and ready to go,” said coach Mike Baleztena. “We have a good momentum going in. This week has been a lot of fundamental work — tackling drills, protecting our middle — individual stuff. Union has a big back — they’ll run right at us. We’re working on our running to stop that.”

Irrigon at Heppner: It’s a non-league game for these teams, which are just 47 miles apart.

“They have good athletes and they play hard,” Heppner coach Greg Grant said of Irrigon. “They are a team that seems to get better every week. They have a mobile quarterback, good defense and they will be a great challenge.”

The host Mustangs (3-2), ranked No. 11 in the latest 2A poll, have won three in a row, including a 44-6 win over Riverside last week.

The Knights, ranked 12th in the 3A poll, are also 3-2 on the season. They are coming off a 44-0 loss to Burns last week.

“It’s good to get these non-league contests,” Grant said. “I’m glad were are able to play them. We get to play a good football team, and it’s a good week to see if we have taken a step forward.”

Burns at Umatilla: The No. 3-ranked Hilanders invade Umatilla for a 3A Special District 3 matchup.

Burns (5-0, 1-0), behind quarterback Mick Winn and running back Josh Reagle, has outscored opponents 178-23.

The Vikings (1-4, 0-1), who opened league play last week with a 55-6 loss at Nyssa, will need to shore up their defense, which has given up 228 points this season.

Grant Union at Stanfield: The Tigers still are looking for their first win, and the Prospectors are next up on the schedule in 2A Special District 6 play.

It will be the league opener for Grant Union (2-3), while Stanfield (0-5, 0-1) opened up last weekend with a 34-28 loss to Weston-McEwen.


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