Eugene, Ore. -- McKenzie high school had to come down to Eugene in the middle of their preseason due to air quality conditions and wildfires in close proximity. But despite that, the team is back for 2018, although not in the same class.
"It just kind of came on us, we were at a summer ball practice and Fred just kinda...Fred is our head coach...and he just kinda told us," recalls senior Daniel Quirk. "And we...it was just like that, there's not much to it but we were all pretty accepting of it."
Instead of folding their football program, McKenzie high school opted for OSAA's pilot program for 6-man football.
"They had a group of coaches, OSAA did, do some research on it and because of the dwindling numbers in 8 man and our small rural schools, they decided to go 6-man," explains Fred Heins, McKenzie head football caoch.
Which meant relearning the game a bit.
"OSAA brought in coaches from Montana and we had a coaching clinic up in Hermiston where pretty much everybody met up there," he says. "I think there was only two teams not in attendance there."
And while accepting of the change it doesn't mean McKenzie players weren't disappointed.
"I mean our team is really good this year you know," Quirk says. "And we know it and we've been working hard and so we were kind of bummed we couldn't show in 8 man and I guess 6 man is a new opportunity for us."
While not yet official, there may be a trophy to play for.
"The coaches and athletic directors are getting together and trying to get a date where we can play an unofficial state championship," Heins says excitedly.
And at the end of the day, it's still football.
"We have Triangle Lake who is gonna have a team this year," concludes Heins. "They didn't have a team they had to co-op with Monroe last season. Eddyville is gonna have their first team in many years. It's just nice to be a part of it."
So McKenzie will be playing in 2018, hoping things work out at that 6-man level.
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