JORDAN VALLEY — In its first season as a cooperative, the Adrian/Jordan Valley football team finished 8-2 after losing to Dufur in the quarter finals. Dufur went on to win the 1A championship.
But Jordan Valley Coach Bryce Kershner said he expects the co-op team to go deeper into the playoffs this year.
“There’s no way you can’t put that expectation on the team this year,” he said.
He’s coached the team since 2014, following graduation from Pacific University in Forest Grove.
Kershner isn’t worried that the team is younger than last year. This year, the 28-player team is mostly sophomores and juniors with three seniors and 12 new players. Last year the team had eight seniors.
Kershner also expects to field four foreign exchange students: two from Germany, one from Spain, and one from Thailand. He said he’s excited to have them as a part of the team. The students are familiar with the game, although only one of the German students has played football before, according to Kershner.
He sees the team’s youth as an opportunity for players to step up into leadership roles.
“There are some kids who could have been leaders last year, but because we had so many seniors, they took a back seat,” Kershner said. “This year they’ll have their chance.”
The team chemistry this year is better now than it was last year, Kershner said. That’s because players from both schools have gotten acquainted since the teams merged.
“They go to the same fairs and the same rodeos,” Kershner said. “They’re starting to hang out more off the field.”
Residents of Jordan Valley were distraught when they found out that the school didn’t have enough players to field a full team two years ago, according to Kershner.
“After the co-op team was created, people were worried about whether or not the identity of the town’s football team would disappear,” Kershner said. “But we’ve been able to create a new and better identity since with Adrian.”
He wants to bring back the competitiveness of the team that existed when he played for the team in high school.
“I think we can do that this year,” he said.
He and Coach Bill Wortman from Adrian are looking forward to their game against rival Crane Union High School. Last year they lost to Crane and they’re itching to get another shot at them, Kershner said.
The game will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, in Crane.
The squad gets its first taste of competition on Friday at a jamboree at Wallowa High School.