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Coquille Football Vs. Bandon

Coquille's Gunner Yates sprints up field with an interception during the Red Devils' homecoming game against Bandon in September. 

COQUILLE — The Coquille football team got an unexpected day off Monday.

With the Red Devils’ playoff game against Lost River this week scheduled for Saturday instead of Friday at the request of the Raiders, Coquille coach David Thomason opted not to practice so his team could keep its same weekly schedule, just pushed back a day.

“I gave them the day off to get healthy and get caught up on grades,” Thomason said.

Lost River was the runner-up in the Southern Cascade League. The Raiders had two common opponents with the Red Devils.

Lost River suffered its lone league loss to Lakeview, a team the Red Devils beat soundly on a neutral field. But the Raiders also beat Glide by a wider margin than Coquille did.

Thomason said there is no chance the Red Devils would take the Raiders lightly, saying the players are wary of Lost River.

“We won’t overlook them,” said Ian Whidden, one of the team’s senior captains. “I will make sure we don’t overlook them.”

The coaching staff will repeat that message throughout the week.

“Everybody in the playoffs is a playoff-caliber team,” Thomason said.

Coquille enters the playoffs with momentum.

The Red Devils won their last five games after nonleague losses to Jefferson and Class 3A power Amity.

The big turning point wasn’t the losses, but a close win over Bandon in the league opener, when the Tigers won the line of scrimmage against the more experienced Coquille group up front.

“They had a really good defensive game plan against us,” Whidden said.

He added that the coaching staff gave the linemen motivation after the game.

“Coach told our offensive line that we suck and we proved him wrong,” Whidden said.

The final four games, the Red Devils dominated up front in their final four games, capped by a phenomenal rushing night in the regular-season finale against Toledo. Ean Smith rushed for more than 300 yards, Caiden Yates more than 200 and the team more than 600 as a whole.

“Last week, that front six was really good,” Thomason said.

Coquille also was solid on defense through the league season, though it gave up some chunks of yardage against Toledo and its passing attack.

“At the start of the Toledo game, we got ran over a little bit,” Coquille senior Kane Rilatos said.

Part of the reason for that was the Red Devils were keying entirely against the pass. Part of it was because Rilatos, the nose guard, was sitting out as a precaution after suffering an injury a week earlier. He will be back in the lineup this week.

“He’s so disruptive,” Thomason said.

Coquille expects its defense to be back in top form this week against a Lost River team capable of mixing things up between the pass and run.

“Defense wins games,” Whidden said.

That Coquille is in the position to host a playoff game is exciting, Thomason said.

“This team has been through more adversity than any team I’ve coached, and they’ve responded,” Thomason said.

Between injuries and players taking time off because of bad off-the-field choices, Thomason has had to shuffle the lineup a bunch.

“We’ve had tight ends playing guard, tight ends playing quarterback, linebackers moving to the defensive line, linebackers moving to play safety,” he said. “When they’ve done it, they’ve been selfless.”

The Red Devils also have been blown out by Amity, lost to Jefferson and had close wins.

“They’ve had some lessons our undefeated teams didn’t have,” Thomason said. “They’ve been good wake-up calls.”

“We are just getting better,” Rilatos said. “We’ve adapted.”

The reward of the league title is the home game Saturday, which should prove to be a big advantage.

“We’ve got the crowd,” Rilatos said. “We’ll get a lot more excited to play.”

The winner of Saturday’s game plays the winner of Friday’s contest between Bandon and Toledo. If the two South Coast teams win, Coquille will host the Tigers, who benefited from the Red Devils’ victory over Toledo, which gave Bandon second place in the Sunset Conference.

“Every one of them is pulling for Bandon,” Thomason said of his players. “Bandon was our biggest fan last week and we are theirs this week.”

Saturday’s game kicks off at 1 p.m. As with all first-round matchups, admission is $8 for adults and $5 for students.

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Sports Editor John Gunther can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 241, or by email at john.gunther@theworldlink.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jguntherworld.

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