Kevin Swift

Gold Beach coach Kevin Swift talks with his players during a preseason practice. Swift and the players had to work to get enough players to ensure the school would have a team this fall. 

Legacy is a word that’s often used in sports.

It can mean so many different things.

In the pages of this section, you can find a story about the halls of fame for four different South Coast Schools, each this year honoring numerous athletes, teams and students who left legacies of one type or another.

Some teams were state champions. Some individuals won titles or set school records. One North Bend graduate went on to become a consultant for a bunch of government agencies.

Also in the pages, you can read about eight high school teams that are looking to leave their own stamp this fall (unfortunately, Powers does not have its own team because the school's enrollment has dropped to around 15 and only a few wanted to play).

North Bend is trying to adjust to Class 5A and find the success the Bulldogs had for years at or near the top of the Class 4A ranks.

Coquille is looking to extend a long run of trips to the playoffs, and to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke when the Red Devils failed to win a playoff game for the first time in recent years and, even worse, lost at home in the postseason.

Marshfield is trying to prove it can be one of the Class 4A best with hardly any of its main contributors back.

Bandon seeks a home playoff game, not just this year but in years to come. Siuslaw and Myrtle Point both are trying to build back up to levels of past success and roster size so they can return to their regular classifications for football.

Players at all those schools discussed the challenges and goals their teams have.

But legacy probably means more to the players at Gold Beach this year.

You can read about the Panthers on Page 12.

Gold Beach doesn’t have realistic expectations of reaching the postseason. But as close as Gold Beach came to not having a team — it wasn’t clear even on the first day or practice they would have enough kids — they are understandably happy just to know they will be playing on Fridays this fall.

“I’m definitely excited to have a team,” said senior Landen Timeus.

A number of the returning players desperately wanted to play, but they also wanted to keep the team going for the football-hungry town of Gold Beach.

“We were begging people to come out,” senior Cameron Hagood said. “We wanted to keep the program alive.

“It’s very important for the community. It’s a lot of spirit people have on Friday night. I don’t think anyone in town wants that spirit to die.”

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It’s hard for the players to fathom the impact of no football on the city.

“We didn’t want to be the group that lost football,” sophomore quarterback Trenton Storns said. “What else are people to do on Friday night? When the lights are on, there’s a feeling to it.”

“The community would have probably flipped if we didn’t have football,” added senior center Ethan Carpenter.

While the players have their perspective, I found the thoughts of coach Kevin Swift particularly significant.

Swift has seen the lows and highs of Gold Beach football. His first year on the South Coast, back in the 1990s, was a struggle.

The Panthers didn’t win any games that year, but it was a different time for football. There were nearly 300 students in the school and he had 52 players out for football on his varsity and junior varsity teams.

Now the school is about half its size and too many kids are not interested in football or sports in general.

Swift talked about how kids today don’t know football — they don’t watch on the weekends and just don’t understand the game as well. But more than that, kids are too attached to the screens of their phones and to computer gaming and don’t have the commitment to participate in any sports or activities.

Swift is in the second year of his second tenure as coach of the Panthers. In his first stretch, Gold Beach reached the title game five ties and won twice.

Swift loves to win as much as any coach and hates to lose, but he sees the bigger picture.

“I am just really trying to keep a program alive for a community that lives and dies with the football program,” he said. “Quite frankly, having a football team is a bigger victory than any state title you can win.

“There’s nothing bigger for me to say than that Gold Beach has a football team this year. We’re going to play and our community is going to come down and watch us and they are going to be supportive no matter what.”

Swift’s time at Gold Beach has included the state titles and bunches of league titles, but he said this year will be special, too.

“My two proudest years as a coach were my two (winless) seasons when nobody quit on me,” he said.

“We are going to line up and play games and have fun and hopefully continue to get better … continue to have a football program that started in 1956 in Gold Beach.”

That will be a huge legacy for the Gold Beach players, something they will look back on fondly at reunions years in the future.

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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.