Nyssa and Burns scrimmage at the football jamboree hosted at Nyssa High School. The regular season for most teams kicks off Friday as the Bulldogs travel to Baker City and Ontario faces Mazama High School. (The Enterprise/Jayme Fraser)

NYSSA – The 2018 high school football season unofficially began in Malheur County on Friday with Nyssa, Ontario and Burns coming together for a jamboree. 

This year, the jamboree served its conventional purpose, giving players a taste of competition with no real repercussions. 

Each team had a chance to show off 18 plays from offense and defense against every other team. Meanwhile, coaches used the scrimmages as an opportunity to evaluate their players’ performances.

Ontario and Nyssa coaches talked about the benefits of playing good competition early in the year.

“The kids did really well. They came out and performed very hard,” said Jamie Moreno, offensive coordinator for Nyssa. “They played against some competitive teams, which is always really nice to do before you get a real game in.”

Moreno is a fan of the scrimmage format of the jamboree, which serves as final dress rehearsal before the opening act.

“We can work on a lot of things, in terms of the technique and we have time to improve,” Moreno said. “So it’s really nice to get this in now.”

Moreno praised the leadership displayed by the defensive linebacking corps on Friday night. He said “the offensive line is coming together” and that he’s “very optimistic” about the season ahead.

“The kids came out and executed what we wanted to do in terms of the game plan for the day,” Moreno said. “Optimism is high.”

As offensive coordinator for the Bulldogs, Moreno thinks the offensive line “blocked very well” but “had a couple mistakes” during the scrimmages. Moving forward, Moreno said the team would review a film of the jamboree so that each player can work on correcting mistakes for the future.

“When you have opportunity to observe yourself on film and look back at what your specific assignment was and what you may or may not have done right, that’s when you have your opportunity to improve on your fundamentals,” said Moreno, who has worked with the Nyssa team since 2012.

Ontario wasn’t perfect either. But the Tigers will have the jamboree to look back on and improve, too.

“We saw some things that surprised us and we’re heading in the right direction,” said Ontario Coach Erik Johnson about his team’s performance at the Friday jamboree. “In every scrimmage, you’re gonna find things you’re gonna have to work on. So we’re just gonna keep practicing the basics and go from there.”

Johnson said he’d rather have his players make their mistakes during a jamboree. 

“One thing I noticed on both sides of the ball was that as the scrimmage went on, we got better,” said Johnson. “We got the nerves out and we started playing a lot better. So, moving the ball on offense and stopping it on defense.”

Looking ahead, Johnson said the team is going to “take it one day, one game at a time.” He pointed out that the team has a rough week ahead. 

“We start off with a huge test next Friday against Mazama,” said Johnson. “They’re gonna be one of the favorites in the state and they’re pretty good. So we’re gonna start off with a bang.”

Given last week’s invasion of smoky air from western wildfires, Johnson said his team was grateful that the air quality index was good enough for the teams to come out Friday night. 

“Jamborees are really hard to find. So finding a good jamboree like this with good teams is nice,” Johnson said. “You get the game-type atmosphere and you get to see how the players, especially the ones that are inexperienced, come out and handle it. 

“And that’s one thing we want to see.”

Reporter Kristine de Leon: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.