The 2020 Tillamook Cheesemaker Football team made the most of its summer and fall campaign, safely completing 50 training sessions and participating in a weekend 7-on-7 flag football league with athletes from various schools in the northwest part of the state.
Monday and Tuesday nights during the summer are non-padded training nights for the Mooks. Those training sessions extended well into the fall this year with the absence of an OSAA fall football season, due to school turning online. A few “Friday night lights” events added into the mix brought the total number of practices to about one full season worth of training.
Sophomore Garrison Gunder valued the time. “It was important to spend the summer and fall out on the field working with our teammates and coaches,” he said. “Football kept things normal and gave us something to lean on through these tough times. For a lot of us, football is a big part of our lives.”
“There was something obviously missing from our lives this fall” added Coach Kye Johnson. “You could see it on the faces of our players and our coaches. It’s been a really trying year and that’s been true with football as well. But I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish. We sort of embodied what football is all about – accepting adversity and finding a way to turn it into a win; and supporting each other like family.”
TSD9 and the THS Athletic Department came up with a plan to keep students engaged in sport activities so long as programs could safely accomplish it. Johnson added, “I thought Mr. Shelley and Mr. Eggert did our students a huge favor advocating for programs to use the facility with safety guidelines. So much of the time on the field was meant for social and emotional well-being. We had smiles under our masks just being a football team on a field together.”
Other students saw the time with teammates as valuable too. “To be able to come together a couple times a week and drill out plays and get our guys reps was a great way to build as a team and also get our minds away from everything that is going on in the world,” said Junior and returning All-Cowapa League linemen Aiden Johnson.
Junior Quarterback Trent Buchler echoed those thoughts. “With school being online, football was an awesome way to get out of the house and be around friends again.”
The Mooks saw 58 students on the field at one point or another during the season. “We expect to be around 55 or 60 players in 2021 which is a healthy number for us,” Coach Johnson said. “We had a lot of football going on with our youth and junior high age groups as well. It takes a lot of people in the community to safely make as much football happen as we did this year.”
OSAA’s condensed football season for this school year is currently slated to run in March and April. The OSAA is also expected to provide more guidance on this school year's sports calendar early next week.
For Tillamook’s 13-player senior class, the spring will be a last chance at salvaging a senior football season.
Senior end Keeding Lewis said about the fall, “It was fun to get out with the boys and play like it’s our last time ever that we get to do it. There’s nothing like Friday night lights.”