Hard Facts: Trips to win

By Paul Harder, The Observer October 01, 2008 02:39 pm

Joseph realized it had a decent hand to start the 2008 football season — even if others didn’t.

After losing three seniors that saw time, the Eagles were loaded with returners.

Sure, the loss of a Division I linebacker — Ben Garnett — hurt.  

But little did people know, or even Joseph, they had an ace up their sleeve.

“Headed into the spring, the coaching staff was pretty excited about the group we had coming back,” Eagles head coach Rusty Eschler said. “We thought it was a good team.

Then rumors started coming, as they do in small towns.

A transfer from Class 4A Baker.

“We heard about it,” Eschler said. “But you can’t do anything about it. As a team you have to keep going forward.”

Soon the rumors grew louder. The name of Baker’s Grant Marcum filled downtown Joseph.

His mother took a job at the hospital in February.

But it took until a week before practice until the Eagles’ coaching staff knew Marcum would in fact wear blue and gold.

 “He helps the community. Not only is he a great athlete, but he’s a great student and citizen,” Eschler said.

“(Grant) will help out all the sports programs he takes part in. He’s a great baseball player and wrestler.”

And wrestling is exactly what the Eagles’ football team depends on.

Since Eschler took over, only once has his team not been led in tackles by a player who didn’t wrestle.

It feeds right into the philosophy of the team — hit hard.

“We want teams to know nothing is going to come easy,” Eschler said. “Our kids are going to hit hard. That’s just our mentality.”

So far it’s working.

The Eagles have allowed 48 points this season — that’s third in Class 1A football behind Sietz and Camas Valley.

But it hasn’t come easy — especially of late.

Eschler attributes some of that to his son Randal, who coaches the defense.

“The kids feed off him,” Eschler said. “All the kids saw him play a few years ago. They know what he’s saying actually works. It’s hard for them to believe me, that (Randy) Garnett ever played the game. At least without leather helmets.

“This is a competitive league. Every game you have to play well or you’re going to go home with a loss.”

Max Prep Sports ranks Cove No. 13.

Joseph owns the No. 4 ranking.

Two other teams in the district hold a top-10 ranking — No. 5 Imbler and No. 6 Powder Valley.

To make matters worse, only two teams advance to the state tournament this season.

That means one of the top-10 teams in the state might not make the 16-team field.

“It’s tremendous pressure every week,” Eschler said. “One loss hurts, and two could end the season.”

The pressure will be intense Friday when the Eagles travel to Imbler.

“We’re worried about the multiple formations Imbler is going to use,” Eschler said.

One thing is for sure. When the Panthers, 3-1 overall and 1-0 in district, meet Joseph Friday it’s going to be a battle.

“It’s always a tough game with them,” Eschler said. “There are those years when one of the schools is down. But both schools have really good teams. It’s going to be a drag-out fight.”

 

Paul Harder is the sports editor for The Observer. Reach him by e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .