Pine-Eagle happy at home
By GERRY STEELE
Of the Baker City Herald
The last time Pine-Eagle hosted a state football playoff game Spartans' coach Blake Dennis was a player in the red-white-and-blue uniforms.
That was 29 years when the Spartans hosted Heppner in the quarterfinals. Pine-Eagle will end that home-game drought Saturday when the Spartans host Ione in the opening round of the OSAA/U.S. Bank/Les Schwab Tires Class 1A playoffs in Halfway.
"The last time we hosted a playoff game was against Heppner in 1975, and I was a player on that team," Dennis said. "We also hosted the championship game against Regis in 1974."
Dennis noted that the Spartans have reached the playoffs five times since the 1970s, but every time they had to play on the road.
Panhandle residents are looking forward to the home game, he said.
"We had some people ask why we didn't play the game in Baker on the bigger field," he said. "These kids don't want to. We've played our entire season on our own field, so we want to play our playoff games there too."
Pine-Eagle (6-3 overall) enters the game winners of five of its last six games its only loss during that span to Idaho power Cambridge.
In their final three Old Oregon League game, the Spartans averaged 60-plus points a game while allowing just 26 points a game.
During that time the Spartans defeated Cove (38-12), Joseph (74-32) and Adrian (70-32). Brad Casch has accounted for nine touchdowns in those three games, Jeff Chamberlin four, Corby Wickham four, Dusty Traw two and Brad Lindsey two.
Casch, the team's quarterback, was 17 of 29 for 377 yards passing in those three games. Chamberlin, the team's fullback, has run for 357 yards in that time. Wickham has made seven receptions, and Traw, who missed two of the games due to a leg injury, four catches.
"We're pretty healthy going into the weekend," Dennis said. "We'll see about Dusty, but we're just about at full strength."
The Spartan coach said his team is playing well in recent weeks.
"We've had a tough schedule, and we've been tested every week," Dennis said. "I feel good about that. We've had to play ball to get here.
"Against Joseph and Cove these kids played the best football they've played all season. And, it's nice to be at home to open the playoffs."
Dennis said he is somewhat familiar with Ione, having played them a year ago, and watching them play Powder Valley in the playoffs.
"We know they can run and throw," he said. "They have good quickness in the backfield, and they'll try to run. If we can stop that they'll throw the ball.
"We just need to keep doing the things we've been doing the past few games," Dennis said.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.