Fall sports ‘mini-season’ under way, with contests this week

Scott Swanson

After 10 days’ hiatus, Sweet Home High School athletes were back on the fields and in the gym last week, as the fall sports “mini season” got under way.

The unscheduled break came after a COVID scare shut down the spring sports just as most were about to hold their final – or in the case of track and field, their only – competition of the season.

Not everybody was idle, though.

About a dozen Sweet Home football players, in particular, participated in non-school-sponsored seven-on-seven competition this fall, which ended this past Sunday, and soccer players have been holding their own unofficial workouts since last summer.

Soccer players have some more official competitions scheduled this week, when the boys play at home Tuesday, against Western Christian of Portland at 4 p.m., and host Blanchet Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

The girls played Monday on the road at Santiam Christian and will play at Blanchet Thursday, at 5:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, the volleyball team has been holding practices in the Main Gym, though they can’t play a match there, thanks to OSAA restrictions.

Instead, the Huskies hosted a Jamboree-style competition Monday afternoon at Husky Stadium.

“We are playing on turf because it’s one of the only ways we are allowed to ‘scrimmage’ and, hopefully, it will be fun for the kids,” Head Coach Mary Hutchins said prior to the match. “I want to thank my husband and Dustin Nichol for helping me devise a net system that will work on the turf.”

“The new metrics don’t really have much of an effect on sports,” Athletic Director Nate Tyler said. “Right now, we can compete anywhere, outside. OSAA has said we can’t compete indoors until kids return to the classroom (see page 2).

“We have soccer games going. We’re just trying to keep kids engaged.”

All outdoor fall sports practices begin at Husky Field and athletes are welcome to participate.

Football is from 7 to 9 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays; cross-country practices from 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, girls soccer practices Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and boys soccer on Mondays and Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m.

Athletes must register at the Family ID on the high school’s web page. Scroll down to links, find “Athletics,” then click on the “Online Registration” tab. For more information, contact Debbie Danielson at (541) 367-7629.

Winter sports – basketball, wrestling and swimming, will begin a “mini season” on Nov. 30, which will lead directly into those sports’ shortened “regular” season on Dec. 28.

Under the current OSAA schedule, the winter sports of basketball, wrestling and swimming can begin official practices Dec. 28, with their first contests Jan. 11 and culminating week March 1-7. Basketball teams will have 14-game regular seasons.

The fall sports of football, soccer, volleyball and cross country can start practicing Feb. 22 and will play their first contests March 8. All have culminating weeks of April 26 through May 2, except for football, which extends to May 3-9. Football will have a seven-game regular season.

The spring sports of baseball, softball, track, golf and tennis will begin practices April 19, play their first contests starting May 3 and have culminating weeks June 21-27. Baseball and softball teams will have 18-game regular seasons.

The start of the fall mini-season last week picked up where football players left off after some summer practices, Head Coach Dustin Nichol said.

“We practiced two or three days a week through the end of August,” he said. “We have had 22 people who have shown up to these mini-season practices, ninth- through 12th-graders.”

He noted that normally he has 50-some athletes in the football program at this time of the year, and said he’s concerned.

“We were already taking a hit, as a sport, with numbers and now we get this COVID thing, after the officials association has made big strides to promote the sport in Oregon,” Nichol said. “I’ve got concerns about how many people will participate.”

The volleyball program has 32 girls signed up to participate in the mini-season, Hutchins said.

“We’re following all of the safety precautions – everyone is wearing masks, sanitizing equipment every day. Obviously, we have had challenges. We want to make sure to plan effective practice, while keeping spacing a priority. We are allowing for extra time for the necessary cleaning.”

Still, she said, “It’s been really fun and the kids seem to be enjoying it. The kids have been amazing and resilient. They wear the masks and work hard and have good attitudes. We play music and try to keep it fun.”

Practices have focused on “lots of individual skills” and ball control, she noted.

“I also want to thank the kids and parents for being so adaptable and accepting of the continually changing circumstances and restrictions and still showing up and working hard to continue to support the volleyball program,” Hutchins said.

Nichol said the football program has benefited from a “core” of seniors and juniors and some underclassmen who have consistently shown up for practices: seniors Austin and Kyle Marler, Cole Baxter, Aiden Tyler and Cade Gaskey; juniors Jacob Ingram, Tucker Weld, Ryan Tyndall, Russell Holly, Heath Nichol, Micah Wright and Daniel Luttrell, a transfer from West Albany; and sophomore Brady Nichols.

They, in particular, were involved in the seven-on-seven competition and have held their own workouts since the COVID pandemic struck, he said, adding that, because the players couldn’t lift at the high school due to COVID restrictions, they set up a weight room at one of their homes and have lifted there since last spring.

“They are only the running backs, defensive backs, quarterbacks and receivers, but they have gotten a lot of experience in their timing, going down the stretch or passing game,” he said, noting that “we just have to get the linemen and the others ready to go.”

Nichol encouraged anybody interested in playing, even for the two weeks remaining in the “mini-season,” to contact him right away.

“It’s not too late,” he said. “Anything we do now is just going to be money in the bank for when we get to play on the 22nd of February.”