The Dayville/Monument Tigers, led by head coach Kyle Hand, hit the ground running with their first game of the season, a 64-0 loss to the Joseph Eagles on Friday in Dayville.
Joseph was undefeated last season.
Hand, who is in his second year as head coach, assisted by Heather Bowlus, said they’re confident about what this year holds.
“Our upperclassmen, mainly juniors, are bringing a lot of experience,” Hand said. “The boys are up-tempo. It’s a good group of kids.”
Several key players are back this season, including four junior starters, quarterback JT Hand; snap receiver Donovan Schafer, who is the second-string quarterback; tailback Mark Thomas; and tight end Tell Cox. Rounding out the starting lineup are senior Wesley Adams, a 5-foot-9, 232-pound offensive guard, and junior DJ Powell, a 5-foot-6, 213-pound center.
This year’s roster also includes three freshmen, four sophomores and another junior.
The team lost two seniors to graduation, Cade Milton, known for his size, and Gabe Walker-Hopkins, known for his speed. Both were also known to be tough players.
Coach Hand said he’s seen JT Hand and Thomas stepping into leadership roles this season.
“They’re very vocal, helping the next person below them with reading the ball, reading defense and where your feet should be,” he said. “They’re my field generals. They stay positive, even on an off day.”
Howell is another leader for the team, the coach said.
“His work ethic has been tremendous,” he added. “He’s dominate on the offensive and defensive line.”
Coach Hand added that Howell also is an example in how he “plays through the aches and pains.”
JT Hand said he’s optimistic this year.
“As a team, our goal is to have a winning season,” he said. “I want to become a better leader and lead my brothers to victory.”
Thomas said, “I’m seeing that our team is coming together, and I’m excited to see where we can take that.”
Adams said he’ll miss his teammates — “my brothers” — when the season is over.
“It’s been a great three years,” he said. “These guys are by far the best.”
In the 1A Special District 5 (six-man), Dayville/Monument will face: Prairie City/Burnt River, Echo, Huntington/Harper, Joseph, Mitchell/Spray/Wheeler, Sherman/Condon and South Wasco.
“These are teams we faced last year,” coach Hand said.
He expects Joseph and South Wasco to be tough again this season.
Joseph was undefeated last year, beating most of their opponents by several dozen points.
This is the second year of a two-year pilot program for six-man football.
Hand agrees with other coaches that having playoffs and an unofficial champion crowned this year “gives players an incentive — something to look forward to.”
He said he’s confident the team will be ready to face South Wasco Friday, Sept. 13, on the road in Maupin. Game time is at 4 p.m.
Dayville/Monument’s sole win last season was over cross-county rival Prairie City with a score of 27-12. Prairie City has combined with Burnt River this season.
The Tigers are scheduled to face the Panthers at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 in Prairie City for Dayville/Monument’s final regular-season game.
Coach Hand said his team has a goal to have more wins than losses and improve their overall game.
He tells them, “Give 100 percent, even on your off days.”
“We learned from last year: Don’t make it complicated,” he said. “Sticking to the basics is essential — and we’ve restructured our tackling scheme. They’re really positive this year and hungry to win.”
Dayville/Monument football schedule
Sept. 13: @ South Wasco in Maupin, 4 p.m.
Oct. 4: vs. Mitchell/Spray/Wheeler in Monument, 1 p.m. (homecoming)
Oct. 11: @ Huntington/Harper in Huntington, 1 p.m.
Oct. 18: @ Prairie City/Burnt River in Prairie City, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25-26: Six-Man Showcase at Sherman High School in Moro, TBD
Nov. 1: Six-Man Final Crossovers at Madras High School, TBD