PROVING GROUND

October 11, 2006 11:00 pm
 (The Observer/PAUL HARDER).
(The Observer/PAUL HARDER).

- Paul Harder

- The Observer

The road to the playoffs continues to get tougher, and the conference schedule has not started.

The La Grande Tigers' nonconference schedule climaxes this Saturday against 1A No. 1 Connell (6-0) of Wash. The Eagles, despite being two classifications behind 3A Auburn ranked first in the state, are ranked fourth overall in the state, according to Max prep sports.

Tigers head coach Lance Lovit said the tough schedule is exactly what his team needed.

"We put the schedule together the way we needed to," Lovit said. "We needed to have a great non-league schedule because of the short conference schedule. Last year we didn't face a true pass-oriented team until the playoffs, and we saw two. Now we'll be better prepared."

The road to 5-0 this season has not been easy with three games against teams ranked in the top-10 in their respective classifications. Fruitland was ranked second when they played, Weiser was ranked fourth when they played and Vale was ranked fourth when they played.

The Tigers are currently ranked seventh in their 4A classification, and not currently ranked in the top-25 in the state.

Lovit said he understands that his team is up for a battle.

The Eagles will test the Tigers' defense with a spread formation, putting three to four wide recievers on the field with a single running back.

Defensively, Connell lines up in a 4-3. They like to bring a safety up to the line to take away running lanes.

"That scares us a little with our option that we like to run," Lovit said. "We've added a few wrinkles into the plan for this week based on that. We'll mix it up a little bit."

Not only is La Grande measuring itself against its opponents, but against the Tiger tradition.

This season La Grande has the opportunity to do something special. Already the Tigers are off to their best start since 1990. No team has gone 6-0 since 1985. La Grande has never won back-to-back league titles.

However, senior quarterback Landon Weaver thinks this may be the season to do it.

"We have a great team this year," Weaver said. "There's a lot of talent at the skill positions. This is going to be a big test for us this week. Connell is a tough team, but I think we match up well with them. It would be nice to be in the same class as other football teams that have come through here."

The La Grande game will be broadcast on 99.9 FM KWRL.