Gold Beach High School football coach Kevin Swift sums up his team’s current status this way: “We’re two to five months behind schedule.”
As far as this season’s prospects: "It ain't going to be pretty, but we will field a team, work hard, have some fun while doing it, and set the stage to regrow our brand from here.”
The end result? "Hopefully, we can compete."
Handicapped by not knowing until the very last minute even if there would be enough players to field a football team this year, Swift and company now are in hurry-up mode.
Instead of having two months to practice, the Panthers have worked out for just two weeks. And come Sept 6, Division 2A Gold Beach will pay 3A Brookings-Harbor High School a visit.
Last year, Gold Beach struggled to a (1-3) 2A Special District 4 record (1-7 overall). Its lone win came against Reedsport, 34-2.
Coquille (4-0, 7-3) claimed the league crown and went on to lose to Lost River in the initial playoff round, 8-17.
In league play this year, the Panthers will face off against the same field as before: the aforementioned Red Devils, plus Bandon, Toledo and Reedsport.
Swift thinks the league "will be a three-way dogfight" among Coquille, Bandon and Toledo.
Never one to run from a fight, Swift has loaded his preseason with a mix of bigger schools and historically tough competition from across the state, so his relatively inexperienced team can cut its teeth on quality competition.
Scheduled are Brookings-Harbor, Illinois Valley, Heppner, St. Mary's and Lost River. Three of those five games will be played at home, with Brookings just up the road.
Some 45% of Gold Beach’s team returns from last year. Many of the others lack much playing time.
Swift said, "Four of my kids said they came out not because they love football - they don't, particularly - but because they didn't want to see our (football) program disappear completely.
“To me, that’s huge,” he said, “that they would put their school first and do something (that’s) out of their comfort zone."
Although players and positions are still being assigned, Swift said the quarterback role goes to sophomore Trenton Storns. He’ll run the Panthers’ traditional power-I formation.
Landen Timeus will be up against Josh Rodriquez for tailback, while Dylan Edwards and Landyn Miller will compete at running back.
There are only three returning offensive linemen - and no returners on the defensive line.
"Look, we’re back to where we were in 1997, when I came here,” said Swift. “We’re starting (football in Gold Beach) all over again."
Swift has led the Panthers to a title game five times in two league classifications, winning two outright championships.
"If the kids and community buy into our program,” he said, “then we will come back and be that team that everyone notices. Right now, we have a lot of work to do to get there."