By Charles Martindale
SPRINGFIELD, OR.: About 10 minutes on highway 126 separate the Thurston Colts from Springfield High School, and Friday night, both of Springfield’s high school football teams will converge on Silke field for their first meeting since last year.
Background: Things got off to a rocky start for the Colts in 2023, with 20+ point losses spoiling their season and home opener. While the Springfield Millers jumped out to 4-0, the Colts have had to play catch up, entering Friday as winners of back to back games against North Eugene and Crater. The victory in Central Point against Crater saw the Colts put 64 on the board. Springfield also holds a win over Crater, and have averaged over 38 points per game to this point in the season. It’s a big game for the local rivalry, but also for a Thurston team looking to get above .500 for the first time on the young season.
Rushing: Arguably the biggest draw to the game is Springfield running back Connor Dye. The 5’10” senior has already matched his junior year tally for touchdowns with 10, doing it in just four games. He’s been the motor of a very effective Millers offense, averaging over 160 yards a game and seven per carry. Thurston’s attack on the ground is much more economic, with senior Ethan Burkhead averaging nearly six yards a carry and junior Ashden Weiler splitting the duties, rushing for 185 yards and a touchdown himself so far this year. The game will be determined by how well Thurston can implement their dual threat attack, while also likely gameplanning all week for Dye.
Passing: Thurston quarterback Noah Blair has had a lot of pressure on his shoulders as a junior, but he’s played solid for the Colts so far, completing 72% of his passes and throwing for 13 touchdowns to his 3 interceptions. The target of choice for Blair is senior Walker Bonar, who leads the team in catches and yards despite only playing in two games. Lombel Doreen, who also plays lacrosse for Thurston, has been another target for Thurston. At just 5’8”, Doreen has nearly 200 yards. Burkhead has been a weapon in the passing game as well as the rushing attack, averaging four catches for 20 yards weekly for Blair. For Springfield, Zackary Sherman will be under center. The senior is completing just 61% of his passes, and has a poor TD/INT ratio of 3-4. The lack of a dominant quarterback could be a focus of Thurston’s defense. As a receiver though, Sherman leads the team with a pair of touchdowns. The leading pass catcher for the Millers is junior Jaevon Spencer, who leads the team in yards and in catches.
Defense: Thurston’s defense is allowing 31 points per game in 2023, while the undefeated Millers are allowing just 17.
Overall, tonight’s game in Springfield will be a learning experience for both sides, with the Colts looking to make a statement around town, and the Millers attempting to start the year 5-0.