BANDON — After a couple of lopsided losses early in the season, the young Bandon football team might have seemed a longshot to still be playing football in November.
But the Tigers got into the Sunset Conference season and posted back-to-back wins over Waldport and Toledo, the latter on the road with a clutch late drive.
Even with losses to Reedsport and, last Friday to league champion Gold Beach, Bandon’s power ranking stayed high enough that the Tigers found their way into the Class 2A playoffs.
Bandon is the No. 14 seed, opening this week against Knappa at CMH Field in Astoria in a game scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday.
Given the number of freshmen and sophomores who are regular fixtures in the lineup, any opportunity to extend the season is a good one.
“I’m so excited,” Bandon coach Aaron Freitag said. “This is so good for our young guys and the eighth-graders coming in.”
The Tigers face a tough challenge against a Knappa squad that is unbeaten and has allowed just 53 points the entire season. But just getting the opportunity is big for the team.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Donavin Phommaphat, one of the three seniors on the roster. “This is real big for our seniors and real good experience for our freshmen.”
For Phommaphat it’s one more chance to lace up the cleats next to his twin brother, Darian, who made an unexpected return to Bandon’s lineup last week after injuring one of his feet a few weeks earlier.
“I’m glad he’s back,” Donavin said.
Darian didn’t do much on offense in the loss to Gold Beach last week, but he made several tackles and had two interceptions on defense.
His presence on that side of the ball is huge for the squad.
“They’re probably going to pass a lot,” Donavin said of Knappa. “Having Darian is going to be a big help.”
Darian also gives Bandon another receiving option after teams the past few weeks have been able to key on Donavin, double-teaming him and tight end Coby Smith on passing routes.
Bandon is in the playoffs for the first time since 2011 after a season of great growth.
“We’ve come real far,” Donavin Phommaphat said. “I’m proud of this group.”
The Tigers graduate the twins and Brennan Boston, but have a strong core coming back and another strong group of eighth-graders coming in.
“Hopefully we can get something started here,” Freitag said. “Increase the numbers and make this a tradition — getting to the playoffs.”
Admission Saturday is $6 for adults and $4 for students. For those who can’t make the trip, the game will air on the South Coast on KSHR (97.3 FM).